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Rutgers earns 23rd straight victory against Princeton in gritty fashion

After the Rutgers wrestling team only secured two individual match victories in a 22-point loss to No. 9 Nebraska last Friday evening, head coach Scott Goodale gathered his team in the locker room and did something he admitted he rarely does: address the wrestlers as a unit.

“I don’t really like to communicate after a match because I’m emotional,” Goodale said to the team Friday evening. “Some things just needed to be said. It was a bad effort.” 

A good effort would have been an understatement to describe the No. 14 Scarlet Knights’ (9-5, 2-3) 19-18 win against cross-Route 1 rival Princeton, last Sunday afternoon.

Rutgers put together its 23rd straight victory against the No. 19 Tigers (6-5, 2-0), which featured four Knights winning individual matches. But, those four bouts would ultimately determine which New Jersey school would take home the Big Ten Ivy Rivalry League trophy etched with a state outline of the universities' close proximity to each other.

Here are several takeaways from Rutgers' 1-point win against its in-state rivals:

There’s a new No. 1 in the country

In the Knights' first match of the weekend, No. 1 graduate student 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault, along with No. 4 junior 133-pounder Nick Suriano earned the only home victories at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC). 

Ashnault handily defeated the Cornhuskers’ (10-4, 4-3) Jordan Shearer in a 16-1 technical fall victory. 

But, that wouldn’t be the highlight of the three-time All-American’s weekend in Piscataway.

The anticipation of Ashnault’s scheduled match against the Tigers’ former-No. 1 Matthew Kolodzik had been building all week.

Earlier last week, Princeton’s head coach Chris Ayres mentioned that Ashnault — then-No. 2 in his weight class — wouldn’t be able to score on Kolodzik as Sunday approached. 

Not only would Ashnault earn multiple points on Kolodzik, but also he earned numerous 2-point takedowns that his opponent was unable to escape from.

After opening the third period with a 5-2 lead, the Rutgers wrestler would take a 7-2 lead in the final 2 minutes of the match. The RAC crowd roared with approval when the 149-pounder secured a takedown to take a commanding 10-2 lead with 48 seconds remaining, inching closer to dethroning Kolodzik for the No. 1 spot. 

The exclamation mark on the match came when Ashnault finished it with a strong takedown, asserting himself as the better wrestler in that bout.

With his 19th win of this season, Ashnault falls just eight victories away from taking the No. 1 spot on the Knights' all-time wins list from alumnus Mike McHugh. Ashnault is tied for No. 5 with 110 career wins in six seasons on the Banks. 

Major losses one day, major wins next day

Rutgers suffered major losses in its first match of the weekend against top-10 ranked Nebraska, last Friday evening. 

Sophomore 125-pounder Shane Metzler was defeated 11-0 by the Cornhuskers’ Zeke Moisey. He wasn’t able to avenge this loss on Sunday, as he suffered approximately 3 minutes into the match against the Tigers' Pat Glory. 

Metzler has not won a Big Ten dual match this season, while he has only seven wins overall this season.

Goodale switched up the 141-pound weight class lineup against Princeton. In the first match of the weekend, junior 141-pounder Peter Lipari earned the start but suffered a major decision at the hands of Nebraska’s No. 19 Chad Red Jr. 

On Sunday, Goodale went with sophomore 141-pounder Michael Van Brill, the younger brother of No. 14 graduate student 157-pounder John Van Brill. Michael Van Brill hasn’t wrestled since Nov. 10 against Utah Valley. He would drop a heartfelt 8-5 decision to the Tigers' Marshall Keller.

Michael Van Brill’s older brother avenged his 7-3 loss to the Cornhuskers’ No. 2 Tyler Berger on Sunday. John Van Brill earned a 9-3 decision based on riding time and several 2-point takedowns over Princeton's Quincy Monday. 

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

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