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Rutgers Wrestling downs Illini in thriller

Van Brill kept hope alive at 157 just before intermission and then....

Roy DeBoer with permission

You knew it would be tight and it would hinge on the little things. We felt it would be a one or two point spread. But who knew.....

The Midlands Championships’ fourth place team against the fifth place team. It’s the nation’s No. 11 versus No. 12. RU in at 6-1, Illinois at 1-0.

And it came down to the last bout of the night.

Razhonn Gross won his first college dual bout with a takedown late in the third period to propel the Knights to a 19-17 Big Ten win over the Illini.

It started with 125 pound true freshman Brandon Paetzell getting the takedown at the buzzer for the win, 3-2. The call went to video review and was confirmed. “Paetzell – we call him the roadrunner”, said head coach Scott Goodale. “It’s constant, it’s nonstop, and that’s the way he wrestled. He’s got to do a better job of getting to his attacks because he can do more. He’s going to be really, really good down the road, and I feel the same way about Matt Correnti.”

But we’ll get to Correnti later.


At 133, Scott DelVecchio (13-5, 6th at Midlands) went out to face the No. 2 wrestler in the country, Zane Richards (12-1). And for Delvecchio, it was simply no fear. He scored the first takedown in the first 20 seconds of the bout. As the bout progressed, there were quick shots by Richards, and after two periods, it was tied 5-5. Richards was very good on his feet and traded one point escapes for 2. And with 10 seconds left he scored the final takedown, winning 9-7. It was a gutsy performance by Delvecchio against the three-time Big Ten placewinner.

No. 6 Anthony Ashnault (14-3) was methodical against the Illini’s Mousa Jodah. A quick ankle pick just 48 seconds into the match set the tone for the 11-0 major decision, a bonus point that would be very important down the line.

At 149, Anthony Giraldo (15-5) went out for the Knights. Both he and Ken Theobold (No. 14) went out for the handshake but Goodale decided on Giraldo. Illinois’ Eric Barone scored a 5-3 victory, cutting the Knights’ lead to 7-6.

And then came John Van Brill at 157. the redshirt sophomore went out against Kyle Langenderfer (12-3, 3rd at Big Ten Championships). In the first period he missed an opportunity with a deep ankle pick that he couldn’t convert. But after a nearfall and falling behind 7-0, it was all Van Brill. With 18 seconds left in the second, Van Brill reversed, taking Langenderfer right to his back and scoring the fall at 4:57.

John Van Brill has four points secured before his pin
Roy DeBoer with permission

“He’s dangerous. He’s never out of a match, we knew that,” said head coach Scott Goodale of Van Brill. “He fell down 7-0 and it was deflating on the bench. That’s a match we think we should win. He’s one of the better kids in the country, and their kid’s third in the Big Ten two years ago. On paper, we’re hoping to get that one. He’s down 7-0, but he’s dangerous. We preach it every day: keep wrestling and good things will happen. You never know. And he’s capable of hitting those kind of moves.”

It gave the Knights a much needed boost just before intermission. It was 13-6 Rutgers with some big Illini guns lined up after the break.

Isaiah Martinez (12-0) is the the top ranked wrestler in the country at 165, a two-time national champion. Against RU’s Willie Scott he showed why. Scoring a takedown in the first 30 seconds, Martinez went on to a 24-8 tech fall.

No. 12 Zac Brunson and Rutgers’ Phil Bakuckas ended up 1-1 at the end of regulation. A Brunson takedown 33 seconds into sudden victory gave the Illini their first team lead of the night at 14-13. And sudden victory would play out in the next bout as well.

The “showcase" match of the night was at 184, with No. 14 Emery Parker (16-3) going up against No. 11 Nicholas Gravina. After two periods, Gravina was down 4-3. Parker was very physical, using his strength and upper body moves along with his quickness. But Gravina was able to score an escape and a reversal in the third to force overtime. Parker’s quickness scored an early takedown for the 8-6 win and a 17-13 Illini lead.

Then came Matt Correnti.

“I felt Correnti could win this bout. He’s a blue chip recruit and one of the better kids in the country last year who’s just getting a feel of this,” Goodale said.” This is hard on him. First semester of school, cutting weight, getting down. He wrestled 220 in high school. This has been hard for him. It’s been tough, but it’s nights like tonight that get you over the hump.”

Correnti pushing for back points early
Roy DeBoer with permission

And over the hump he went. Correnti came out on fire with a takedown and back points. He had Andre Lee on his back in the first but couldn’t put him away. And that almost came back to haunt the true freshman. Lee came edging back, scoring multiple takedowns through the second and third periods. But a third period escaope and takedown for Correnti finished the match, giving him the 16-12 decision. And bringing Rutgers to within one point of the visitors at 17-16.

The final bout of the night at heavyweight had No. 17 Brooks Black scheduled for the Illini. But Black was on the bench in street clothes with an apparent concussion. And Deuce Rachal went out for Illinois to face Razhonn Gross.

“What a story, right? What a story. First dual meet at the RAC and it comes down to him,” Goodale said of Gross. “Everything he’s been through and all the years with DJ Russo and Billy Smith and then here comes Razohnn in a big spot. Good for him. That’s a gutty win.”

A back and forth closely contested bout saw Gross score a takedown in the last 30 seconds for the stunning victory, both personally and for the team.

Rutgers and Illinois split the matches, 5-5. But Ashnault’s major and Van Brill’s pin pushed the Knight over the top.


The Rutgers match on Sunday to take on the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes has been postponed due to weather on the east coast. The match will be wrestled on Monday, February 6th at 7 PM at St. John Arena. The Bucks (6-0) are coming off a 23-15 at Wisconsin Friday night.

No. 11 Rutgers (7-1, 2-0) 19, No. 12 Illinois (1-1, 0-1) 17

Attendance: 2,552

125: Brandon Paetzell (RU) dec. over Travis Piotrowski (ILL), 3-2; Rutgers leads, 3-0

133: No. 4/4/4 Zane Richards (ILL) dec. over Scott DelVecchio (RU), 9-7; Dual tied, 3-3

141: No. 6/6/6 Anthony Ashnault (RU) major dec. over Mousa Jodeh (ILL); Rutgers leads, 7-3

149: Eric Barone (ILL) dec. over No. NR/NR/19 Anthony Giraldo (RU), 5-3; Rutgers leads, 7-6

157: No. 19/13/17 John Van Brill (RU) wins by fall over Kyle Langenderfer (ILL), 4:46; Rutgers leads, 13-6

165: No. 1/1/1 Isaiah Martinez (ILL) tech fall over Willie Scott (RU), 24-8; Rutgers leads, 13-11

174: No. 12/10/12 Zac Brunson (ILL) dec. over Phillip Bakuckas (RU), 3-1 (SV); Illinois leads, 14-13

184: No. 14/13/14 Emery Parker (ILL) dec. over No. 11/11/10 Nicholas Gravina (RU), 8-6 (SV); Illinois leads 17-13

197: Matthew Correnti (RU) dec. over Andre Lee (ILL), 16-12; Illinois leads, 17-16

HWT: Razohnn Gross (RU) dec. over Deuce Rachal (ILL), 3-2; Rutgers wins, 19-17

Rankings (-/-/-): InterMat / FloWrestling/The Open MatNR denotes not ranked