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Rutgers Wrestling to face Lehigh in NWCA Duals as Knights wrap up regular season on up swing

Knights face No. 11 Lehigh (9-4) at Grace Hall in Bethlehem

It was never in doubt. Rutgers won the first five bouts against Northwestern (7-8, 2-7) and cruised to a 28-6 victory to close out the regularly scheduled season. The Knights sit at 12-4, 6-3 B1G. No. 11 Lehigh (9-4) will host its former EIWA foe and 12th-ranked Rutgers at Grace Hall this Friday at 7 p.m in rhe NWCA Duals.

A crowd of 2,527 was there as the Knights recognized their six seniors: Phil Bakuckas, Sean McCabe, Anthony Pafumi, Dylan Painton, Josh Patrick and Ken Theobold.

“I’m just proud of those seniors,” head coach Scott Goodale said. “They’ve stuck through it. It’s a hard thing to do, five years of this sport, especially if you’re not always the guy. To all of them, we have a great appreciation. That’s the best way to put it, we have a tremendous appreciation for them and what they’ve done for this program.”

The match opened with a thrilling win by freshman Brandon Paetzell as he scored the winning takedown with two seconds left in the match. Scott DelVecchio followed with a solid 11-4 victory, finishing strong with five points in the third period.

Anthony Ashnault upped his season record to 22-3 as he recorded the first of two bonus point wins for the Scarlet. The two-time All American notched his sixth tech fall of the season with a 21-6 win. It was his third consecutive bonus point win (fall, major, tech).

With over four minutes of riding time, Ken Theobold had a relatively easy time at 149, recording a 9-3 win. And John Van Brill, a redshirt sophomore, had almost four minutes of riding time in beating a redshirt senior at 157, 7-2. With that victory, Rutgers went into intermission up 17-0.

Northwestern won its first bout at 165, but Phil Bakuckas at 174 made his last match at the RAC a memorable one. Bakuckas had a 10-0 lead just 40 seconds into the match and wrapped up the tech fall, 16-0 in just 2:05.

Nick Gravina toughed out a gritty 3-0 victory followed by the Wildcats only other win, a 5-3 victory at 197. But that loss by freshman Matt Correnti was to a redshirt senior, so a “strong” loss.

The finale on the afternoon was a doozy as Razhonn Gross went to overtime, scoring a 3-2 win in TB1. Gross has taken on this “Rocky” persona, facing a clearly heavier wrestler at heavyweight and one who was a good head taller than he is.

Scott Goodale was pleased and enthused with the crowd. “It’s been great. They were really into it today too,” said Goodale of the fan support at home, where the Scarlet Knights went undefeated this season (6-0). “We were scoring a lot of points early. When you wrestle with an exciting style, they get into it. That last match they got into it and I think that’s what puts Razohnn [Gross] over the top. It’s become a real home mat advantage.”

Prepping for the postseason

Both the RPI and the Coaches Panel are used to determine which wrestlers move on to the NCAA Tournament (March 16-18 in St. Louis). The first RPI and second Panel results were issued on Friday, with seven RU wrestlers are among those listed.

Big Ten closes out regular season

The conference finished its season over the weekend with Penn State winning the regular season title with a perfect 9-0 record. The Lions topped Illinois, 34-7 and Maryland, 45-6 to go undefeated. They will face top-seeded Oklahoma State in the NWCA Duals Championship next Sunday.

Unofficially, Rutgers finished tied for fourth place with Illinois and Nebraska.

The rest of the top teams in the Big Ten:

Iowa: Closed out at 8-1, scoring victories over Indiana, 32-7 and Nebraska, 27-9.

Ohio State: Finished 7-2 with weekend wins over Nebraska, 24-13 and Minnesota, 24-20

Illinois: Finished 6-3, losing to Penn State, 34-7 and topping Indiana, 28-9.

Nebraska: Finished 6-3, losing to Iowa, 27-9

The Big Ten Tournament will be March 4-5 in Bloomington, Indiana.

Match Result

No. 13 Rutgers 28, Northwestern 6

Attendance: 2,527

125: Brandon Paetzell (RU) dec. over Anthony Rubinetti (NU), 4-2

133: Scott DelVecchio (RU) dec. over Jason Ipsarides (NU), 11-4

141: No. 5/5/7 Anthony Ashnault (RU) tech fall over Alec McKenna (NU), 21-6

149: No. 14/17/13 Ken Theobold (RU) dec. over Shayne Oster (NU), 10-3

157: No. 18/14/13 John Van Brill (RU) dec. over Ben Sullivan (NU), 8-3 *

165: Johnny Sebastian (NU) major dec. over Anthony Pafumi (RU), 14-2

174: Phillip Bakuckas (RU) tech fall over Braxton Cody (NU), 16-0

184: No. 13/12/13 Nicholas Gravina (RU) dec. over Mitch Sliga (NU), 4-0

197: Jacob Berkowitz (NU) dec. over Matthew Correnti (RU), 5-3

HWT: Razohnn Gross (RU) dec. over Conan Jennings (NU), 3-2 (TB-1)

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

*Northwestern docked a team point for flagrant misconduct following 157-pound match