Rutgers gears up for meet with Princeton
Before the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, the Rutgers wrestling team had its own big match to focus on — in-state rival Princeton.
On Feb. 3, 2019, alumnus 149-pounder and national champion Anthony Ashnault, donning the No. 25 Scarlet Knights’ (10-6, 4-5) singlet, faced off against Matthew Kolodzik, the former top consensus wrestler in the 149-pound weight class. Ashnault was ranked right behind him at No. 2.
The battle of the nation’s two top wrestlers in the 149-pound weight class went to Ashnault by a longshot. He worked a 10-2 major decision over Kolodzik for one of the national champion’s statement victories last season.
Another wrestler also played an important role in that match between the two in-state rivals. Fifth-year senior heavyweight Christian Colucci downed the Tigers’ (8-4, 5-0) Kendall Elfstrum in a 12-2 major decision, just 2 more points than Ashnault’s win. Colucci’s bout was the match-clinching victory Rutgers needed to defeat Princeton in the team score, 19-18.
The Knights earned three other victories outside of Ashnault and Colucci. Olympic transfer and national champion 133-pounder Nick Suriano captured a technical fall over Jonathan Gomez. Alumnus 157-pounder John Van Brill and junior 174-pounder Joseph Grello also picked up victories.
This Rutgers team is slightly different than the one that finished ninth at the national tournament in 2019, though. For starters, Ashnault and Suriano are no longer members of the program. Both are set on pursuing their shared dream of earning a gold medal in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
One aspect of this season that head coach Scott Goodale mentioned during last October’s media day was the influx of youth in the program. No. 9 true freshman 133-pounder Sammy Alvarez and redshirt freshman 125-pounder Nicolas Aguilar are just two underclassmen who have found success in the starting 10.
Alvarez has consistently been ranked this season and has the resume to be a contender in the conference and national championships. He boasts a 22-7 record, which includes victories over seven nationally ranked wrestlers. Alvarez defeated a top five opponent in Pittsburgh’s Micky Phillippi back on Jan. 2 at the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tennessee, en route to his 133-pound title there.
Aguilar is fresh off an upset over Northwestern’s Michael DeAugustino this past Friday. The victory was Aguilar’s 20th of the season. Aguilar’s victims include Virginia Tech’s Joey Prata, who is the only other ranked opponent he has defeated.
Aguilar is no stranger to the two 125-pounders on the Tigers’ roster. At the Princeton Open last November, Aguilar defeated Sean Pierson. Pierson has a 10-9 overall record this season. He captured a major decision victory over Drexel’s Antonio Mininno.
The other option at 125 pounds is No. 3 Patrick Glory. Boasting an unblemished 17-0 overall record this season, Glory held Aguilar without a point en route to a 15-0 victory at the Princeton Open.
Glory last wrestled Cornell’s Dominic LaJoie, who Aguilar defeated 10-5 back on Jan. 17. LaJoie was an NCAA qualifier last season and became an All-American, as well.
No. 20 graduate student 197-pounder Jordan Pagano will likely face a challenging opponent in No. 4 Patrick Brucki, last year’s EIWA Champion at his weight class. Pagano hasn’t wrestled in the NCAA Championships since 2017. He battled injuries the last two seasons and did not appear in as many matches.
Brucki is 17-3 on the season and qualified at the national tournament last season. He finished in fourth place, taking an All-American accolade back to New Jersey.
For redshirt freshman 149-pounder Gerard Angelo, he will be in for a battle with No. 4 Matthew Kolodzik. Angelo, who won a major decision against the Wildcats’ (5-7, 3-6) Eric Yang, has never wrestled anyone in the top five of his weight class. He did wrestle Ohio State’s No. 6 Sammy Sasso back in January on the road. Sasso came away with a 16-7 major decision.
Six Tigers earned victories in Princeton’s win over the Dragons (7-10, 3-5) this past Saturday. Two major decisions and a technical fall powered the Tigers to bonus points in the win.
Against Penn, just 2 hours this past Saturday before Princeton wrestled Drexel, the Tigers won all but one bout en route to a 33-6 victory. In that bout, the Quakers (6-8, 5-5) had to forfeit the 133-pound matchup.
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