Is it better to come off a tight win or a laugher going into an important match? Do you carry momentum and confidence from a blow out? Are you drained from an emotional contest?
Rutgers and Nebraska came into their match at the Devaney Center from different angles. The Knights ran over Hofstra (7-7, 2-2 EIWA) Friday night at the RAC while the No. 18 Huskers took a close criteria win on the road at No. 20 Northwestern.
Nebraska had to win the last bout of the night at Northwestern at 184. Seventh-ranked Taylor Venz and Mitch Sliga wrestled to a scoreless tie through two periods before Sliga escaped from Venz’s grasp early in the third period to take a 1-0 lead. But the Husker scored a takedown in the third period and rode Sliga out to clinch a victory in the bout and the match. With the match tied at 18-18 after 10 bouts, Nebraska won by Criteria 3.15.3 (total match points scored only from decisions, major decisions and technical falls) by a 68-66 margin. Friday marked Nebraska’s first-ever win by criteria. It was Nebraska’s second criteria match this season, having lost to Illinois earlier. Rutgers topped North Carolina on criteria on January 12.
That set up the crucial Big Ten match in Lincoln on Sunday afternoon.
And both put it all on the line, but it was the home-standing Huskers (6-3, 4-1) who pulled out the 19-13 victory. Rutgers is now 5-4, 1-3.
Starting the match at 165, Rutgers reeled off three straight wins - all decisions - to take a 9-0 lead. No. 12 Richie Lewis topped No. 11 Isaiah White, 2-1, in overtime, followed by decisions by Joe Grello and No. 14 Nick Gravina. Gravina seems back on track as he put together a solid win over No. 7 Taylor Venz, 9-3.
Nebraska came back with wins at 197 and 285 to cut the lead to 9-7. As the match went back to the lower weights, Nick Suriano handled his opponent scoring a 14-4 major decision. A critical loss at 133 hurt the Knights as No. 17 Scott DelVecchio was upset in a back and forth match, 14-11. Nebraska’s Jason Renteria scored early, going up 5-2 after one period and 8-6 after two. Rutgers still had a 13-10 lead, but would not score team points again.
At 141, Mike Van Brill fought hard but dropped a close 3-1 decision to No. 12 Chad Red Jr.. With the match tied, it came down to 149 and No. 13 Eleazar DeLuca against No. 10 Colton McCrystal. In the second period, McCrystal got a reversal and back points to build a lead that DeLuca could not overcome, losing 5-2. The match finished at 157 with No. 8 Tyler Berger winning in sudden victory 6-4 over No. 18 John Van Brill.
Analysis and Commentary
Rutgers has a serious disadvantage every time it wrestles. Right now Rutgers is, in essence, only putting out eight wrestlers. As we noted after the Ohio State match, Rutgers’ two heaviest weights, 197 and 285, were only 1-7 and had been outscored 32-3. Since then, as Rutgers has fortunately, gone 2-1 in dual matches, those two weights are a combined 0-6 and have given up an additional 23 team points. You can’t win in the Big Ten - or just about any place else - when two weights fail to produce. For RU fans, the thinking may be becoming “I hope we have a 13 point lead going into 197 because....”. Well, because you can’t count on those two weights to win.
Nebraska was a winnable match. The matches split 6-4 in favor of Nebraska. Scott DelVecchio’s match was disappointing, but he has probably wrestled better than his ranking for the most part. Nick Gravina, who had been struggling, had a strong win over a ranked opponent. If the teams had split matches 5-5 (yeah, I know....if), it might very well have come down to criteria....again. Put three on the board for DelVecchio or DeLuca or either of the VanBrills and we’re tied. And we’d end up at criteria number three...total bout points scored....again. The result in this match was 53-51 points, Nebraska. An additional win and/or not giving up a major decision could have changed that.
Until 197 and heavyweight turn things around - if they can - the burden is on the other eight wrestlers to do more, to score more, to win more. It’s a bit unfair, but that’s the reality facing the Knights.
No. 18 Nebraska 19, No. 16 Rutgers 13
Bob Devaney Sports Center – Attendance 933
165: #12 Richie Lewis (RU) tb-1 #11 Isaiah White (NEB), 2-1 (RU 3, NEB 0)
174: Joe Grello (RU) dec. Beau Breske (NEB), 4-2 (RU 6, NEB 0)
184: #14 Nicholas Gravina (RU) dec. #7 Taylor Venz (NEB), 9-3 (RU 9, NEB 0)
197: Eric Schultz (NEB) dec. Kevin Mulligan (RU), 3-2 (RU 9, NEB 3)
HWT: Patrick Grayson (NEB) major dec. Razohnn Gross (RU), 10-2 (RU 9, NEB 7)
125: #2 Nick Suriano (RU) major dec. Mitchell Maginnis (NEB), 14-4 (RU 13, NEB 7)
133: Jason Renteria (NEB) dec. #17 Scott DelVecchio (RU), 14-11 (RU 13, NEB 10)
141: #12 Chad Red Jr. (NEB) dec. Michael Van Brill (RU), 3-1 (NEB 13, RU 13)
149: #10 Colton McCrystal (NEB) dec. #13 Eleazar DeLuca (RU), 7-2 (NEB 16, RU 13)
157: #8 Tyler Berger (NEB) sv-1 #18 John Van Brill (RU), 6-4 (NEB 19, RU 13)
On Friday night, the Scarlet came out fast and strong, dominating the Hofstra Pride en route to a 37-9 win. RU took the first eight bouts picking up bonus points in seven of them: two falls, two tech falls three majors.
“We were aggressive,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “We got on their legs right away, which was really our theme all week long, even leading into Sunday. For us to win this match, we have to get on these guys’ legs. It needs to be seven minutes worth of pressure, so we did a good job of that tonight.”
Nick Suriano set the tone leading off at 125, scoring his seventh tech fall of the season. It continued right up the line as Rutgers came out aggressively, putting Hofstra wrestlers on the defensive all night.
Redshirt freshman Mike Van Brill was as string as anyone with two first period near falls, eventually scoring the first of the team’s two pins in the second period. Big brother John was not going to be outdone as he, too, decked his opponent 28 seconds into the second period.
Nick Gravina closed out the RU scoring with a 12-1 major decision at 184, bouncing back from a bad loss against UNC.
No. 16 Rutgers 37, Hofstra 9 Attendance: 3,139
125: No. 2/2/2 Nick Suriano (RU) tech fall over Jacob Martin (HOF), 19-3
133: No. 17/14/12 Scott DelVecchio (RU) major decision over Vinny Vespa (HOF), 15-3
141: Michael Van Brill (RU) fall (4:17) over Charlie Kane (HOF)
149: No. 13/13/10 Eleazar DeLuca (RU) major decision over Connor Muli (HOF), 14-5
157: No. 18/17/14 John Van Brill (RU) fall (3:28) over Chris Mauriello (HOF)
165: No. 12/12/11 Richie Lewis (RU) tech fall over Ricky Stamm (HOF), 22-6
174: Joseph Grello (RU) decision over Sage Heller (HOF), 11-4
184: No. 14/18/15 Nicholas Gravina (RU) major decision over Michael Oxley (HOF), 12-1
197: Nezar Haddad (HOF) decision over Kevin Mulligan (RU), 6-1
HWT: No. 9/9/8 Michael Hayes (HOF) fall (5:43) over Ralph Normandia (RU)
Rutgers gets to rest up before hosting No. 1 Penn State next Sunday at the RAC. The 2 pm match is sold out as the Lions come in at 9-0, 5-0 B1G. They topped No. 24 Purdue, 25-12, in State College on Friday before taking down Maryland in College Park, 47-3, on Sunday. Penn State will be wrestling on Friday at home against No. 13 Minnesota. OTB will preview the match later this week.