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Rutgers Wrestling Wrecap: Topped at Nebraska, the road is still tough

Just one Big Ten win so far. Is that what was expected? It's a good team learning what it's like in the biggest arena.

They traveled to corn country looking for their first Big Ten win against a ranked opponent.  That goal will gave to wait until next week.  Rutgers did pick up its first fall in a conference match, but the Knights lost to Nebraska, 26-9.

At 149, Ken Theobold took just 1:27 to earn the fall and bring the Knights to within four.  It was Theobold's fifth straight win.  But the Huskers reeled off wins in the next five bouts to seal the win.  Billy Smith, again wrestling in OT, got a takedown in sudden victory for a 5-3 win over No. 17 Collin Jensen.  But that was it for the Knights as their record fell to 10-5, 1-5 B1G.

Anthony Perrotti, recovering from injury, was in the lineup for the first time since the Illinois match.  He dropped an 11-4 decision to No. 3 James Green.

A tough challenge

We keep saying how tough the Big Ten is in wrestling.  And I'm sure there are casual fans who are probably a little tired of hearing that.  Too bad; it's true and we're going to talk about it some more.

The latest Intermat rankings came out yesterday.  Wrestlers are ranked in their weight class 1-20.  If you just look at the top eight in each weight (why? Top eight at the NCAA Tournament equals All American), the Big Ten occupies 41 of the 80 spots.  Five Big Ten wrestlers are No. 1 in their weight class, including 149-pounder Logan Stieber who Anthony Ashnault will face Sunday at the Barn.      

Want more?  Of course you do.  The latest Intermat team dual rankings puts Rutgers at No. 23.  Not bad, you say.  Here's the top ten plus the rest of the Big Ten teams that are ranked.








Big Ten




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Ohio State


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Penn State


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Oklahoma State


Big 12


Iowa State


Big 12


Virginia Tech






Big Ten




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Big Ten

Ranked Knights

Six wrestlers are ranked this week by Intermat, The Open Mat, WIN Magazine or FloWrestling, with the Rutgers wrestling team coming in at No. 22 in the latest USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll. In the Intermat Dual Rankings, the Scarlet Knights were tabbed No. 23 in the country.

Junior 149-pounder Ken Theobold and heavyweight Billy Smith head into RU's home weekend versus Navy (Jan. 31) and No. 4 Ohio State (Feb. 1) on winning streaks.

Theobold (18-4, 12-2 Duals), ranked No. 17/17/17/19 this week in the four polls, picked up his fifth win in a row over the weekend with a pin in 1:27 over Justin Arthur of Nebraska. No. 14/18/20/11 Smith (10-4, 7-4 Duals), meanwhile, snapped a string of sudden victory defeats with a 5-3 overtime win against then-No. 17/NR/19/NR Collin Jensen.

133-pound sophomore Scott DelVecchio (14-6, 8-4 Duals) dropped out of the Intermat top-20, but maintained a No. 19 ranking by The Open Mat and No. 20 ranking by FloWrestling.

141-pounder Anthony Ashnault (17-4, 13-2 Duals) slid a few spots to No. 9/7/12/9 after losing a 5-2 decision against Nebraska's then-No. 10/6/12/15 Anthony Abidin last Sunday.

157-pounder Anthony Perrotti (12-6, 7-5 Duals) returned to the mat Sunday to face No. 3/3/4/2 James Green, losing 11-4.

Redshirt sophomore Phillip Bakuckas stayed in the Intermat, The Open Mat and FloWrestling top-20 following a 7-1 loss against unanimous No. 1 Robert Kokesh. He is No. 19/17/18/NR this week.

Big Ten Wrestler of the Week

Brandon Sorensen, Iowa, 149 pounds - Fr. - Cedar Falls, Iowa

  • Defeated defending national champion in No. 1 Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern (3-2 TB-2)

  • Guided the top-ranked Hawkeyes to a 38-3 win over No. 24 Northwestern

  • Handed Tsirtsis his first loss of the season and ended a 40-match winning streak

  • Moved into the No. 2 ranking in the 149-pound weight class after previously being ranked No. 3

Coming up....

Rutgers returns home next weekend for a pair of matches at the College Ave. Gym against Navy on Saturday, Jan. 31 (2 p.m.) and No. 4 Ohio State on Sunday, Feb. 1 (Noon).  The Ohio State match has been declared a sellout.  The matchup with Navy will stream live on RVision, presented by AT&T, with Danny Breslauer and Sean Dedeyn on the call.

So what have we learned?

We're in a tough conference.  Look at the conference wrestler of the week.  A freshman beat a defending national champion.  Yikes!  But we can be, and have been, competitive.  We still need to get tougher and more consistent.  But we aren't that far off the track.  And I look to none other than a Penn State fan for inspiration.  This was a comment posted at On the Banks following the Penn State match.

I'll echo your sentiments (and I'm a PSU alum).

the quality of wrestling, again despite the four majors given up, is better for Rutgers. A lot better.

Agree 100% with that. Rutgers has, top to bottom, a very good squad. Ashnault can beat anyone not named Stieber at 141. McCabe and DelVecchio didn’t have their best matches Friday night, and are capable of more. Theobold and Bakuckas could surprise some guys in March. Let Campo round into form, get Perrotti back healthy, and you have a top 20 squad; maybe – maybe – even a top 10 squad, if 2 or 3 of those guys make a Perrotti-style run at NCAAs. Three All-Americans would probably do it. Four definitely would.

there are the "unattached" fans… the program still needs to win consistently to totally convert them

Now’s the time to get on the bandwagon. I think RU could finish in the top half of the Big Ten this year. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Looking a little further down the road, when (not if) Coaches Goodale and Pritzlaff land 2 or 3 more Ashnault-like studs, RU is challenging for top 5 in the Big Ten – and that, in turn, means you’re challenging for a national championship. Just being in the Big Ten is going to help recruiting tremendously. RU won’t miss out on guys like Taylor Walsh (Camden Catholic, currently #4 at 165) who chose Indiana largely to wrestle in the Big Ten (and whose brother is #16 at 157 for Rider). RU’s arrow is definitely pointing up. If the "unattached" want tenured bragging rights, they need to get on board now. RU isn’t very far away.

Nebraska Match Results

125: #11 Tim Lambert (NEB) by major dec. over Sean McCabe (RUT), 12-1 (NEB 4, RUT 0)

133: Eric Montoya (NEB) by dec. over #17 Scott DelVecchio (RUT), 7-4 (NEB 7, RUT 0)

141: #10 Anthony Abidin (NEB) by dec. over #7 Anthony Ashnault (RUT), 5-2 (NEB 10, RUT 0)

149: #17 Ken Theobold (RUT) by pin over Justin Arthur (NEB), 1:27 (NEB 10, RUT 6)

149: Justin Arthur (NEB) vs. #17 Ken Theobold (RUT) 1st Period Theobold takedown RUT 2-0 Theobold pin 1:27

157: #3 James Green (NEB) by dec. over #20 Anthony Perrotti (RUT), 11-4 (NEB 13, RUT 6)

165: Austin Wilson (NEB) by dec. over Nick Visicaro (RUT), 3-1 (NEB 16, RUT 6)

174: #1 Robert Kokesh (NEB) by dec. over #20 Phil Backukas (RUT), 7-1 (NEB 19, RUT 6)

184: #18 TJ Dudley (NEB) by dec. over Anthony Pafumi (RUT), 9-4 (NEB 22, RUT 6)

197: Aaron Studebaker (NEB) by major dec. over Ralph Normandia (RUT), 14-1 (NEB 26, RUT 6)

HWT: #14 Billy Smith (RUT) by sudden victory over #17 Collin Jensen (NEB), 5-3 (NEB 26, RUT 9)