Rutgers starts season with 3 wins at home quad meet

Nine freshmen made their debuts in a Scarlet singlet, eight of whom captured their first wins on the Banks as the Rutgers wrestling team opened its 2019-20 campaign with three non-conference wins in front of its home fans at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).

The Scarlet Knights (3-0) handed former Division 2 school LIU 43-3 in the Sharks' (1-2) first-ever dual meet competing as a Division 1 school, while defeating local Hackettstown, New Jersey, foe Centenary 38-6. 

After the Cyclones (0-3) took an early 6-5 lead, capturing wins in the first two lightweight classes, Rutgers won its next eight weight classes en route to a team 38-6 defeat of Centenary.

The Scarlet Knights saw victories from nine of their wrestlers against LIU. True freshman 141-pounder JoJo Aragona secured his first win of his collegiate career, an 11-6 victory over Anthony Dusaj. The win was 1 of 3 for the Pope John XXIII alumnus on the day. 

Aragona started in place of fifth-year senior 141-pounder Peter Lipari, last season's starter, who did not wrestle in the quad meet on Saturday. The highly-touted recruit from Matamoras, Pennsylvania's largest margin of victory came on a 7-1 win over the Cyclones' Cameron Buffy.

"I progressively tried to get better and better every match," Aragona said. "I also want to make sure I was dominant so that everyone knows that I'm not going to make freshman mistakes."

Also making his first start and appearance donning the scarlet and white was true freshman 133-pounder Sammy Alvarez. Alvarez assumed the spot at his weight class after Olympic redshirt and national champion Nick Suriano elected to prepare for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. 

Alvarez, who was ranked as the third-best recruit by FloWrestling at 133 pounds, wrestled to an 18-2 technical fall against the Sharks' Michael Blando in his anticipated debut at the second lightest weight class. In his second varsity match, Alvarez lost 9-4 to Pitt-Johnstown's Tyler Warner, but finished the quad with a 2-1 record.

The upper weight class starting lineups have undergone changes since head coach Scott Goodale and Rutgers wrestled its last dual match in College Park, Maryland, on Feb. 22. 

In the 149-pound weight class, Goodale was without alumnus and national champion Anthony Ashnault, who was present at the RU Quad Meet mulling around the Knights' bench with alumnus 184-pounder Nick Gravina. In the four-time All-American's place were 149-pounders sophomore Nick Santos and redshirt freshman Gerard Angelo. 

Santos held LIU's Rhise Royster to 0 points in a 16-point technical fall win. A product of St. Peter's Prep, Santos redshirted last season due to injury, but made his mark at the 149-pound spot.

Angelo took over in the second match of the event against Centenary's Ryan Anderson. The two went toe-to-toe, wrestling past three periods and into extra time. 

Ultimately, it was Angelo coming out with a 4-3 win. Goodale went back to his first match starter, Santos, who lost 5-0 to top-ranked 149-pounder and Division 2 champion Chris Eddins of Pitt-Johnstown.

Taking his older brother alumnus John Van Brill's role was junior 157-pounder Michael Van Brill, at the quad. A former 141-pounder, Van Brill earned three wins in his new weight class, wrestling in a similar style to John Van Brill, who qualified for the NCAA Championships three times. 

Michael Van Brill's unblemished record on Saturday was made up of two technical falls.

Four other wrestlers also captured wins by technical falls during the entirety of the match. No. 18 junior 174-pounder Joseph Grello, who wrestled in two matches on Saturday, pinned the Sharks' James Langan 40 seconds into the match for 6 team points. Grello also defeated the Mountain Cats' (2-1) Brock Biddle in close 9-6 fashion.

"It's a lot of youth getting matches, getting quality experience with some stress and some pressure to perform here at home," Goodale said about his young lineup. "So, I'm excited for those guys. They are going to be really, really good."

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

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