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Rutgers Wrestling Wrecap: New rankings, new respect

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The Knights get good reviews after the impressive match with Ohio State.

Will Schneekloth, scarletknights.com

It's just about a month until Rutgers competes in its first Big Ten Tournament.  It should be a challenge of the highest order.  But with four more matches, two in conference, where does this team stand as it heads into the home stretch?

For starters, it is 11-6.  It is ranked No. 21 in the latest USA Today/NWCA poll.  And it seems to be upping its game at the right time.  Look at the wrestlers who are ranked and what they've done recently.

Scott DelVecchio, 133 pounds  No. 18/16/NR/17

16-6 overall, 10-4 dual, 4-3 B1G

I'll look at that last record first.  In the Big Ten, DelVecchio has a winning record.  In an incredible comeback win, DelVecchio knocked off the then-No. 7 wrestler, Ohio State's  Johnni DiJulius.  He entered the national rankings again this week.

Ken Theobold, 149 pounds  No. 17/16/17/20

20-4 overall, 14-2 dual, 6-1 B1G

Again, the conference record.  And against PSU, he beat the then-No. 17 wrestler in the nation, Zack Beitz, the guy who this week was named the Big Ten's Wrestler of the Week.

Anthony Ashnault, 141 pounds  No. 9/7/12/9

19-4 overall, 15-2 dual, 5-2 B1G

Ashnault has won 6 of his last 8 bouts, including a major and a tech fall in the last two against Navy and Ohio State.  At No. 9/7/12/9, he is the highest ranked Knight.

Anthony Perrotti, 157 pounds  No. 16/16/14/18

14-6 overall, 9-5 dual, 1-3 B1G

The returning All American, out with an injury for several matches, is 2-1 since his return including an 8-5 win over the Buckeyes then-No. 9 Josh Demas.

Billy Smith, 285 pounds  No. 14/18/20/11

12-4 overall, 9-4 dual, 3-4 B1G

Living a little dangerously as he went into overtime for three matches in a row (1-2 in that stretch), Smith has reeled off three straight wins. That string included a win over then- No. 17 Collin Jensen of Nebraska.

Rounding out the six ranked Scarlet Knights is 174-pounder Phillip Bakuckas (16-10, 9-8 Duals). He dropped out of three polls following a pair of tough losses to Navy's Jadaen Bernstein and Ohio State's then-No. 13/10/17/13 Mark Martin, and comes in ranked No. 17 this week by The Open Mat.

Rankings: Intermat, The Open Mat, WIN Magazine, FloWrestling.

What we learned

Against Ohio State, there were no Stieber brothers in the lineup; it doesn't matter.  OSU head coach Tom Ryan was sweating a bit, yelling a lot, complaining to refs.  It was a battle.  And the crowd was into it (see below). There is legitimate strength and power in the lineup.  Against OSU, the team scored more points and won more bouts (5) than in any other Big Ten match except the win at Maryland.  They are competitive and a good run by any wrestler could propel them to a B1G title and/or a shot at the NCAAs.

Wrestling Attendance

Rutgers is shooting for a top ten, maybe even top five, finish in attendance....nationally, not just in conference.  And they very well might get it.  There were over 2800 at The Barn over the weekend for the two matches.  RU's conference attendance average is 3913.  Julie Hermann was at the OSU match, as was Kyle Flood (and not to be introduced, to watch).  Good things are happening. One more home match against Princeton on Feb. 14 at The Barn.

Team Rankings

Rutgers sits at No. 21 in the coaches poll and at No. 24 in the Intermat poll.  The coaches ranking equals the highest for the Knights this season.  Eleven (11) of the conference's 14 teams are ranked in both polls.

USA Today/NWCA Poll

1

Iowa (12)

11-0

1

2

Missouri

18-0

3

3

Minnesota

10-1

2

4

Ohio State

11-3

4

5

Penn State

10-2

5

6

Cornell

12-1

6

7

Oklahoma State

6-3

7

8

Iowa State

7-2

8

9

Virginia Tech

10-2

9

10

Nebraska

9-1

10

14

Illinois

11-4

14

16

Michigan

5-4

16

18

Wisconsin

8-2

17

21

Rutgers

11-6

22

22

Purdue

8-7

21

25

Northwestern

9-7

24

Big Ten Wrestler of the Week

Zack Beitz, Penn State

149 pounds - So. - Mifflintown, Pa.

  • Defeated No. 9 Alec Pantaleo of Michigan, 6-4, to guide No. 5 Penn State to a 19-15 dual match win over the 16th-ranked Wolverines
  • Posted a 13-3 major decision over Michigan State's Nick Trimble to lead Penn State to a 35-0 win over the Spartans

Good news in wrestling circles

In 2006, Fresno State dropped wrestling.  It wasn't alone.

Ironically, 2006 was the year that Rutgers dropped men's swimming & diving, crew, tennis, and fencing along with women's fencing.  None are on the horizon to return.

In 1981-82, there were 146 Division 1 wrestling programs under NCAA auspices.  By 2005-06, there were 87.  Last academic year there were just 77.  But hope springs eternal. This Tweet appeared last Tuesday:

That isn't an easy thing to do these days, but I'll give a thumbs up to the Bulldogs.