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Lipari hopes to make postseason push for Rutgers

For any Rutgers wrestling team fan, Super Bowl Sunday this year was a memorable day. In-state rival No. 20 Princeton was at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) to take on the No. 18 Scarlet Knights (11-6, 4-4)

The match came down to the last bout of the night at heavyweight, with Rutgers trailing by 3 points. Junior heavyweight Christian Colucci came up big for the Knights, earning a 12-2 major decision over the Tigers' Kendall Elfstrum to secure 4 team points for a 19-18 win.

Fans were whipped into a frenzy when then-No. 2 graduate student 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault won a major decision against Princeton's then-No. 1 Matthew Kolodzik.

But one wrestler watched from the bench. Junior 141-pounder Peter Lipari did not wrestle against the Tigers.

Instead, sophomore 141-pounder Michael Van Brill wrestled and dropped an 8-5 decision to Princeton's Marshall Keller in a critical toss-up match. 

Lipari had wrestled the previous six Big Ten matches, going 1-5 in the stretch. Of the five losses, four came against ranked opponents, and two were by major decision. 

Van Brill was getting his first start in a dual meet since Rutgers defeated Rider on Dec. 16

“For me, it was a gut feeling for Princeton,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “(Van Brill) has won a lot of big matches for us in years past. We were hoping that we would find a little bit of that magic and that it would be a really good outing for him. It didn’t work out that way.” 

Last season, Van Brill was 15-14 as a starter in the 141-pound weight class, including a respectable 7-8 Big Ten record. But this season he is just 4-5 on the year, and has not wrestled in a Big Ten dual meet. 

Goodale said he understands that Lipari wrestled some tough opponents and pushed through them. He started Van Brill because he believed he was ready to go, but the 141-pound weight class might not be for him. 

This season, Lipari is 9-10 with a 4-6 Big Ten record. He has wrestled ranked opponents, but hasn’t been able to break through with a ranked win just yet. 

Over the weekend, Lipari lost in tie-breaker overtime fashion against Michigan's No. 6 Kanen Storr. Lipari was on the verge of upset, but couldn’t quite finish the job. 

“(Lipari) will represent Rutgers at the Big Ten Tournament. He deserves that, he has wrestled himself into that role,” Goodale said. “(Lipari) is excited right now, he has done more wrestling this year than in the three years past, so he’s in a good spot.” 

Lipari will need a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, which is just two weeks after the conference championships. He has put ranked wrestlers on "upset alert" before, but has never won yet. Look for Lipari to challenge the 141-pound class in the Big Ten Tournament and push for that ticket to Cleveland. 

“He’s starting to come on now, he’s starting to get a couple wins,” Goodale said. “He’s starting to be dangerous.” 

For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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