It was a mixed bag of results for Rutgers at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships at Assembly Hall on the Indiana campus. The Knights finished tied for eighth place and six RU wrestlers have automatically qualified for the NCAA tournament. But it could have been better.
Six Scarlet Knights automatically qualified for NCAAs. Gross can join with a win:— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) March 5, 2017
Anthony Ashnault defended his 141-pound title in solid fashion, and will be one of the six Rutgers grapplers who definitely will go to the NCAAs in St. Louis from March 16-18
Back-to-back, baby!@RUWrestling's Anthony Ashnault wins second straight @B1Gwrestling crown. https://t.co/dT0deq2n4B— Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) March 5, 2017
There is still a chance that RU will have more than six when the NCAA Selection Committee awards at large bids on Wednesday at 6 pm; it can be seen live here. It’s that process that may be the salvation for Jordan Pagano and Razhonn Gross. Both wrestlers finished outside the Big Ten's allocation at their weight.
Rutgers finished tied for eighth place with Wisconsin with 67.5 points. Last year, RU finished fifth with 106.5 points. There was a bit of a Rutgers comeback after a tough and disappointing first day. “I thought we really bounced back,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “We didn’t wrestle great yesterday (Saturday) but we had a really good night round which allowed us to get some guys though. It’s the Big Ten Tournament. Today there were some ups and downs. We won some I didn’t think we’d win and we lost some I thought we would win. That’s the ebb and flow of the Big Ten Tournament. Overall, we got six guys through. There’s a good chance we get seven.
“And good for Anthony Ashnault – dominating performance. He’s wrestling really well right now. We’ve got one more big weekend left and we’ll see where it will take us.”
Anthony Ashnault lead @RUWrestling in Bloomington. The champ & @CoachGoodale look back at his bout and the weekend: https://t.co/DIQbASSfFF— RVision (@RVisionRU) March 6, 2017
In a bit of an upset, Ohio State took the team title, ousting defending champion Penn State in the process.
Big Ten Wrestling Championships Team Scoring
1. Ohio State 139.5 Pts
2. Penn State 130
3. Iowa 112.5
4. Nebraska 102.5
5. Minnesota 93
6. Illinois 88.5
7. Michigan 83
8T. Rutgers 67.5
8T. Wisconsin 67.5
10. Michigan State 38.5
11. Maryland 32
12. Purdue 26
13. Indiana 24.5
14. Northwestern 18
In no small indication of why they won, OSU had four individual champions to PSU’s two. Iowa also had two champions, while Rutgers and Illinois had one apiece.
Big Ten Wrestling Championships Individual Awards
Wrestler of the Year: Jason Nolf, Penn State
Freshman of the Year: Kollin Moore, Ohio State
Coach of the Year: Tom Ryan, Ohio State
Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships: Zain Retherford, Penn State
Flowrestling Tournament Ranking
FloWrestling does rankings for both dual match competition and tournament competition. Based on its ranking for Rutgers, the Knights “should” have come in ninth; they were pretty much on the mark. This FloWrestling’s ranking is extrapolated for the Big Ten; the team’s actual tournament finish is in parentheses.
- Penn State (2)
- Ohio State (1)
- Iowa (3)
- Nebraska (4)
- Illinois (6)
- Minnesota (5)
- Wisconsin (T-8)
- Michigan (7)
- Rutgers (T-8)
Strength and depth
If there’s one major difference between Rutgers and the Big Ten elite, its depth. Rutgers had one No. 1 seed, and after that, the best RU seeded wrestler was at No. 5.
By comparison, Penn State had six wrestlers seeded 1 or 2; Ohio State had 4, and Iowa had 4. Each of those wrestlers - like Ashnault - had a first round bye and that’s a great advantage.
Team finish in a wrestling tournament certainly relies on athletes getting to the finals and hopefully wining championships. But more often than people realize, titles can be won or lost by how your “other” wrestlers do in the wrestleback consolations. In team scoring, winning the championship at a weight class earns your team 16 points. Second place earns 12 points and third place earns the team 10 points; it goes down through eighth place. No RU wrestler finished higher than fifth place (seven points). And just as in a dual match, additional points are earned for falls (two points), tech falls (1.5 points with NF points or 1 without)), and majors (one point). There are also advancement points for moving ahead. In winning his title, Anthony Ashnault earned an additional five bonus points plus the 16 for winning. Theobold, in taking fifth, earned 15 team points; it included two major decisions plus a fall. That translates to this: more than half of RU’s scoring was done by only two wrestlers. It’s hard to win titles with that result.
The Buckeyes had six wrestlers in the finals, more than anyone. Iowa had four, with two champs. But while RU’s best finish, aside from Ashnault, was fifth, Penn State had four third place finishers; that’s 30 points, almost as many as Ashnault and Theobold.
The First Day of Competition
By the end of Day One, Rutgers had qualified five wrestlers for the national tournament. But the rest of the Knights either ended their season or continued into wrestleback consolation rounds looking for a qualifying win. At that point, Goodale commented how that hurt their chances. "We lose two of our better guys at 174 (Pagano) and 184 (Gravina) and they’ve got to work their tails off to get back in this thing and give themselves a chance to get to the national tournament. We just didn’t wrestle good (on Saturday) and this tournament can do that to you,” Goodale said. “There are so many good guys, a ton of upsets, you’ve seen it. We stayed the course just like we did last year and we had a really good team meeting in the hotel room and we got refocused. It was about getting back to what we do and we won some close matches and got on a roll.”
About our predictions
I never said I was all knowing! Our first Big Ten Tournament preview post had me prognosticating - not perfect, but not too bad, either.
Prediction: Penn State Actual champion: Ohio State
Prediction: 6th place Actual: T - 8th
Prediction: Anthony Ashnault Actual: Anthony Ashnault
Rutgers place winners (1st - 8th)
Prediction: Seven - Scott DelVecchio, Anthony Ashnault, Ken Theobold, John Van Brill, Jordan Pagano, Nick Gravina, Matt Correnti
Actual: Six - Ashnault (Champion), Scott DelVecchio (seventh), Ken Theobold (fifth), John Van Brill (seventh), Nicholas Gravina (ninth) and Matthew Correnti (sixth).
Prediction: Six - DelVecchio, Ashnault, Theobold, Van Brill, Pagano, Gravina
Actual: Six - DelVecchio, Ashnault, Theobold, Van Brill, Gravina, Correnti - five right (could be more depending on at-large selections)