Ashnault defeats top-ranked Kolodzik as Rutgers edges out Princeton
A year removed from missing an entire season to injury, No. 2 graduate student 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault is closing his sixth and final season undefeated through 19 matches. The consensus No. 2 wrestler in the country tallied what he said is one of his best career wins against Princeton’s Matthew Kolodzik, the consensus No. 1 wrestler in the country.
“I rank this win probably in the top two. Winning a state title in my freshman year of high school was a pretty great accomplishment, and this is number two for me right now," Ashnault said. "Just the energy I felt and given the circumstances that I might not have the opportunity to ever do that again."
Ashnault’s 10-2 victory over Kolodzik headlined the Rutgers wrestling team’s 23rd consecutive victory over Princeton. The No. 18 Scarlet Knights (9-5, 2-3) defeated the No. 20 Tigers (6-5, 2-0) 19-18 to claim the Big Ten Ivy League Rivalry Trophy in front of a crowd of 5,290 at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).
In another close meet that came right down to the wire, several other Rutgers wrestlers contributed arguably their strongest performances of the season to edge out Princeton in the final match of the day.
No. 4 junior 133-pounder Nick Suriano totaled a season-high 25 points over the Tiger’s Jonathan Gomez. Suriano earned a 5-point technical fall for his third straight win, the most points the Knights would get out of a single match all day.
When Ashnault took the mat against Kolodzik, Rutgers trailed 9-5 in a RAC packed with loud wrestling fans from both sides of route 1. The featured bout between the two wrestlers at the top of the 149-pound weight class would be a key turning point in the dual.
With the opportunity to prove himself as the best midweighter in the country, Ashnault didn’t even let Kolodzik into the match with a statement win, earning a 4-point major decision to tie the meet at 9 points.
“He had no leverage in his backside, so I was really good at tilts. He was focusing on my hands, and I slipped to the side really quick. He was able to get off his back. I was able to hit that twice.” Ashnault said. “When I was up 4 to 1 in the second, I knew that match was mine. I've never heard a roar like that for me at the RAC.”
No. 14 graduate student 157-pounder John Van Brill gave the Knights a 12-9 lead by defeating Princeton's Quincy Monday, but it would only be the first in a series of swings over the final six bouts as the lead changed on every subsequent match.
By the final contest in the heavyweight slot, Rutgers would have to come back in a big way after falling behind by three when the Tigers' Patrick Brucki defeated junior 197-pounder Matthew Correnti 3-2.
Down 18-15, the Knights sent out junior heavyweight Christian Colucci. Since transferring from Lehigh, Colucci has blown a couple opportunities to claim a meet-deciding victory against Minnesota and Wisconsin back in January.
But in this meet, Colucci would give Rutgers just what it needed from him in the final bout. Colucci took the mat against Princeton’s Kendall Elfstrum and delivered a 12-2 major decision to earn 4 points and clinch a 1-point victory. This ensured that the Knights kept their dominant 23-meet win streak over the Tigers, on Super Bowl Sunday.
“I try to just have a stonewall face. (Head coach Scott) Goodale knows how nervous I can get before a match and what happens," Colucci said. "I just try to keep my composure knowing that at the end of the day my teammates and coach are still going to love me.”
Back in November, in his first appearance at Rutgers, Colucci said that there was something special about wrestling in his home state. He had his signature moment for the Knights to make the difference in a showdown between two historic Garden State rivals.
“That's one of the reasons why I came here, you can't beat a crowd like Rutgers, and I transferred here for moments just like that, to have Jersey on my back and be able to deliver,” Colucci said.
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