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Rutgers drops 3rd consecutive match in loss to Illinois

The Rutgers wrestling team captured two individual victories from sophomore 149-pounder Nick Santos and No. 19 graduate student 197-pounder Jordan Pagano, but Illinois won eight bouts en route to a 29-6 victory. 

The No. 25 Scarlet Knights (8-6, 3-5) dropped their third consecutive Big Ten match, with their last win coming against Indiana on Jan. 24. For the Fighting Illini (8-3, 5-2), it was their third straight victory and their eighth overall win of the season. 

Illinois was receiving 23 votes last week to be ranked in the NWCA Coaches poll, but may crack the Top 25 come Tuesday. Rutgers may drop from the rankings when it is released on Tuesday in favor of the Fighting Illini.

No. 20 redshirt freshman 125-pounder Nicolas Aguilar kept it close against Justin Cardani, who was ranked No. 21 by FloWrestling coming into Piscataway. Ultimately, it was Cardani who muscled out a 3-2 win.

The loss was Aguilar's fourth straight since Jan. 24. His last win came against Penn State's Brandon Meredith in January. Aguilar has eight losses on the season.

No. 9 true freshman 133-pounder Sammy Alvarez then took the mat against Travis Piotrowski. Piotrowski pinned Alvarez 2:43 into the bout. The loss was the true freshman's seventh of the season. He came into Friday's match riding a three-bout win streak. 

"(Piotrowski) sat him back and slapped a cradle on him," said head coach Scott Goodale. "I would've liked to see that match play out a little bit, I think that's a pretty evenly contested match up, but that kid has been around for a long time. He's been winning in this conference for a long time."

Freshman 141-pounder JoJo Aragona dropped his bout to Dylan Duncan, the fourth-ranked opponent he's faced all season. Duncan worked his way to an 8-0 major decision win, handing Aragona his eighth loss of the season.

The Knights would see their first individual win when Santos muscled his way to an 8-2 win over Mousa Jodeh. For Santos, the victory was his second in a dual meet. 

Rutgers would not get another win until the second-to-last match in the 197-pound bout. Pagano held Max Wroblewski without a point. Pagano captured a 5-0 victory for his 20th win of the season.

Juniors 157-pounder Michael VanBrill and 165-pounder Brett Donner both lost by 1 point in their bouts. VanBrill dropped a 2-1 decision to Eric Barone. Barone qualified for the NCAA Championships in March 2019.

Donner dropped a tight 4-3 match to Danny Braunagel. It was Donner's 12th loss of the season. He came into Friday evening's contest against Illinois with two consecutive wins against the Hoosiers and Purdue. 

Fifth-year senior 184-pounder Willie Scott wrestled in junior 174-pounder Joseph Grello's starting spot. Grello is still recovering from a lower body injury he suffered in University Park, Pennsylvania, on Jan. 19 against the Nittany Lions. 

Scott lost 1-0 to Joey Gunther. The victory was Gunther's 13th of the season.

No. 12 redshirt freshman 184-pounder Billy Janzer lost to Zac Braunagel, the twin brother of Danny Braunagel. Zac Braunagel worked a 4-1 decision in the 184-pound bout. Janzer had previously defeated Michigan’s Jelani Embree.

Sophomore heavyweight Alex Esposito dropped an 11-3 major decision to Luke Luffman for his 12th loss of the season. Esposito has started in place of fifth-year senior heavyweight Christian Colucci, who has not wrestled since Dec. 7 against Maryland.

Junior 197-pounder Matthew Correnti has also wrestled at the heavyweight spot with Colucci out. He last wrestled on Jan. 26.

The Knights will host Northwestern on Friday for their only match of the upcoming weekend. The Wildcats (4-5, 2-4) defeated Michigan State 24-15 on Friday behind six individual wins. Northwestern brings five ranked wrestlers to the Rutgers Athletic Center, including Ryan Deakin in the 157-pound weight class.

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

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