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Rutgers Wrestling: Nick Gravina, John Van Brill Aspire for NCAA Podium

The two seniors have one last shot at All-American status while Matt Correnti returns

Rutgers Wrestling

It’s always hard to say you came up short. However, there’s time to change that result.

Nick Gravina and John Van Brill have both suffered defeats in the “blood round” of the NCAA tournament, falling one win short of becoming All-Americans.

Gravina, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility, and Van Brill, a fifth year senior, have one last shot to become All-Americans and make up for close calls in years past.

Starting with Gravina, who will likely be slotted at 184 pounds once he returns to action, has battled should injuries his entire career. After another offseason surgery, he said he is just about back at 100%.

“The shoulder feels really good, probably the best it’s ever felt.” Gravina said. “This is the first time it’s never been in pain. It was always achey and I always was thinking, ‘oh, everyone feels like this wrestling,’ but now I feel nothing.”

Right now, Gravina has no timetable for the return and even head coach Scott Goodale is willing to take his time with his valuable 184 pounder.

“We will take a wait and see approach with Nick and will not rush him,” Goodale said. “When he is ready to go, we’ll get him out there. But we will not rush him, and hopefully we do not need him right away.”

Should Gravina not go right away, freshman Billy Janzer and redshirt senior Jordan Pagano will be the top options to fill in for him while he is sidelined.

As far as what Gravina was looking to work on for the upcoming season, he mentioned more technique in neutral and while on top. He has been known for one of the best “slide by’s” in the country, which is a takedown from neutral, but it utilizes the hands by throwing your opponent to the side and taking down the upper body to the mat.

“Our new lifting coach DeMarco has done a great job with helping me with my conditioning first of all,” Gravina said. “Neutral is my main focus right now. When I get back on the mat, I want to focus on my top game and focus on getting turns and pinning people. That’s huge for the team and obviously your health as well.”

“I was watching international matches with different slide by techniques so I might try to incorporate that as well,” Gravina said. “With my style, I want to see how my shoulder feels, I might throw in more shots. It just seemed every time I took a shot, the shoulder popped out.”

Gravina has his focus set on the team and of course getting through at NCAA’s to become an All-American. He also mentioned this could be the most exciting season of his college career.

“This is the season we have all been talking about,” Gravina said. “I think we can have two champs and four All-Americans at least. We are really going to do some damage this year. I have to pull it together at the tournament, but I have to stay healthy. I know I can beat all of these top guys and I have been at some point, so it’s time to put it all together.”

Van Brill is coming off a loss in the “blood round” in 2018 where he fell to Arizona State’s Josh Shields. He a big lead in the 3rd period that eventually evaporated and resulted in an overtime loss.

Despite that, Van Brill is ready to use that and finish his career on a high note.

“It’s in my back pocket and when I need it, I’ll pull it out,” “If there’s a day I’m not feeling the energy, all I have to do is pull out that match and I’m good to go.”

Goodale knows that loss lingers in the back of Van Brill’s head. Even though it’s there, he knows Van Brill uses it as motivation and will put his best foot forward in 2018-19.

“We all know his last time out what happened and he responded with a really good summer and fall and is really motivated,” Goodale said. “He seems like more than anybody else looks happy to be in the wrestling room, maybe more so than anyone in the program, so that is always a good sign. I look forward to seeing the type of year he is going to have.”

Right now, Van Brill is slotted at 157 pounds and ranked No. 9 according to Flo Wrestling. However, he will have to wrestle off with freshman Stephan Glasgow for the spot and the loser will be at 165 pounds.

“I prefer 157 but our lineup could be best with me at 165,” Van Brill said. “It’s something I juggle with but we will see how it ends up.”

Regardless of the weight, Van Brill focused on his own style of wrestling this offseason in order to take on any opponent.

“I love when the match gets chaotic,” Van Brill said. “I do pretty well when it’s hectic and I’ve been working on when the action starts slowing down, I make it start again. I know people get tired in scramble situations and as soon as we get back to our feet, they’re going to have to match my conditioning.”

Meanwhile, at 197 pounds, Matt Correnti is making a quiet return. No really, no one has really mentioned Correnti, a 2017 NCAA qualifier is back.

After taking a redshirt year and experimenting with heavyweight, Correnti is back and will look to solidify the 197 pound weight class which has been an issue in the last few years for the Scarlet Knights.

“I feel good,” Correnti said. “I missed wrestling of course but I think the year off helped me out a lot physically and mentally.”

Goodale revealed that Correnti at heavyweight probably wasn’t going to be the best idea moving forward and he’s glad Correnti got his weight back down and is ready to go at 197.

“I don’t think he ever wanted to be a heavyweight and he wasn’t really able to get above 225 and now he’s back down at 197,” Goodale said. “We need a big year at that weight class. He’s probably put more time in during the summer. He’s probably had his best preseason and we need to make steps and get better.”

With Correnti qualifying for NCAA’s in his first season, that’s the expectation for the 2019 and then some.

“I have expectations for myself and I’ve seen guys in the rankings that I’ve beaten before,” Correnti said. “I’m ready to go and it’s a big confidence booster.”