The Maryland Match
The Penn State match had to have a short shelf life. Life in the Big Ten usually means two matches per weekend and the Knights were heading south to Maryland on Sunday.
A short memory was just what the doctor ordered and delivered as the Knights (10-4, 1-4 Big Ten) won their first Big Ten match with a 24-11 win over the Terps (5-10, 0-4 B1G). The win extended Rutgers' all time lead over Maryland to 7-5-1 and avenged a one point loss to them in the "Grapple at the Garden" last year.
Rutgers reeled off four wins to open the match, including a 15-0 tech fall by Ken Theobold (17-4). It was his fourth straight win and first tech of the season. Anthony Ashnault (17-3) won his third straight bout and his fourth ranked win of the season. The Knights won seven of the 10 bouts.
At 125, Sean McCabe earned a 3-1 decision, followed by Scott DelVecchio's 10-4 wins over No. 14/10/13 Goeffrey Alexander.
At 165 Nick Visicaro got his first dual win of 2014-15, 4-1 He was followed up as No. 20/15/18 Phil Bakuckas hung on for a 4-3 with over Josh Snook The match was decided at 184 as Anthony Pafumi defeated Tony Gardner with a major, 11-2.
The match ended with two RU losses. Andrew Campolattano dropped a 6-4 decision to Rob Fitzgerald at the 197 weight class. At 285, No. 10/11/NR Spencer Myers took down No. 13/13/14 Billy Smith in the second sudden victory period for a 5-3 win. It was Smith's second straight OT loss, both to ranked opponents.
This is the ninth consecutive year that the wrestling team has recorded double-digit wins.
No. 22 Rutgers 24, Maryland 11
125: Sean McCabe (RU) dec. over Josh Polacek (UMD), 3-1
133: No. NR/17/NR Scott DelVecchio (RU) dec. over No. 14/10/13 Geoffrey Alexander (UMD), 10-4
141: No. 7/8/9 Anthony Ashnault (RU) dec. over No. NR/17/NR Shyheim Brown (UMD), 3-1
149: No. NR/NR/17 Ken Theobold (RU) tech fall over Ben Dorsay (UMD), 15-0
157: Lou Mascola (UMD) tech fall over Dylan Painton (RU), 16-1
165: Nick Visicaro (RU) dec. over Tyler Manion (UMD), 4-1
174: No. 20/15/18 Phil Bakuckas (RU) dec. over Josh Snook (UMD), 4-3
184: Anthony Pafumi (RU) major dec. over Tony Gardner (UMD), 11-2
197: Rob Fitzgerald (UMD) dec. over No. NR/18/NR Andrew Campolattano (RU), 6-4
285: No. 10/11/NR Spencer Myers (UMD) dec. over No. 13/13/14 Billy Smith (RU), 5-3 (SV2)
Rankings (-/-/-): InterMat / The Open Mat / WIN Magazine (Jan. 13)
157 Pound elephant in the room
At the start of the season it seemed as if the 157-pound weight class would be a strength for the Knights. Anthony Perrotti, a returning All American at the weight, was back at the same weight. But Perrotti (7-4) lost his first two Big Ten bouts and hasn't wrestled since the Illinois match on January 9. The ensuing matches with Dylan Painton in the lineup have resulted in a loss by pin against Minnesota, a major loss to PSU, and a tech fall to Maryland. The weight class, which can be crucial leading into intermission, has been troublesome to say the least.
PSU: Looking back
Anything can happen once you step inside the circle. It comes down to toughness - physical and mental - and execution. Preparation and aggression. Anything can happen.
But sometimes, you're just beaten by a better team.
The Nittany Lions had three All-Americans on their roster: 157-pounder Dylan Alton ('12), 174-pounder Matt Brown (‘13, ‘14) and 197-pounder Morgan McIntosh (‘14). Alton finished third in 2012, while Brown was the runner-up in his weight class in 2013.
Rutgers' lone returning All American wasn't in the lineup due to injury.
Rutgers had five ranked wrestlers on the mat Friday Knight against PSU. Three of them lost. The Lions had eight. Only one lost. Penn State had two heavyweights and both of them were ranked.
That's a better team.
Rutgers has a way to go to be in the same year-in-year-out category as Penn State. Everyone knew from the outset that the Big Ten was the best wrestling in the country. The hope was for competitiveness. And for the most part, that's happened. It isn't as if the team has been embarrassed, despite the losses. Remember that two years ago when RU faced this same team, a team that was on its way to its third consecutive national title, it lost 34-0.
Yes, a shutout. And I was there to watch it. Stunned by a shutout. Until I looked further and discovered that PSU had five shutouts that year. But, you say (especially if you aren't a big wrestling buff), Rutgers only won two bouts on Friday. That's true. But the quality of wrestling, again despite the four majors given up, is better for Rutgers. A lot better. I know -- I was there for both matches.
And the crowd on Friday was there for Rutgers. There were PSU fans, of course. But the vast majority of the record 6,071 fans were there to watch Rutgers wrestling. And Rutgers wrestlers. There were kids, all those kids in youth wrestling programs, out to see Rutgers and Big Ten wrestling. There were high school wrestlers. And their coaches, out to see the best. And there are the "unattached" fans. Young and old, male and female. It was a broad mix of people, most wearing Rutgers red. The team, the program, still needs to win consistently to totally convert them, to convince them, that Rutgers is and will be for real. But it's a start. A good start.