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Recapping Rutgers & Big Ten at NCAA Wrestling Championships

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There’s a lot to talk about so let’s get down to business

Rutgers Athletics / Ben Solomon

The 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships are now history. Penn State won the team title and Rutgers made its own history. But there were a lot of story lines coming out of Cleveland and we’re going to talk about a few of them. Let’s get started.

Nick Suriano

What a story! Although we apparently didn’t know all of it.

Going into the Big Ten Championships on March 3 at Michigan State, Suriano hadn’t wrestled since the Northwestern match on February 2. A month off the mat. The original report was that he - along with a few other people - had the flu. But nj.com’s James Kratch reports that, while the flu may have been an issue, there were additional issues that kept Suriano out of the lineup.

“I’m not making excuses. But it’s been tough. I was in the hospital for eight days. I overcame a very bad infection,” Suriano told NJ Advance Media, declining to discuss specifics.

”I think me being out, not training and stuff, affected me mentally a little bit. But hats off to Spencer Lee. He beat me fair and square. He got those takedowns, he’s a tough competitor. We’ve faced each other before. I just want to let my fans who were wondering about me to know that I’ve been through some [stuff].”

The fact that he was hospitalized with an infection says a lot about the person. In a way, you have to be amazed that he came back at all, let alone make the finals of the NCAA championship. A tough way to end a great season, but a motivator for the future.

Again from Kratch’s report: “For the last two months, it’s been hard for him,” Rutgers coach Scott Goodale said. “He battled back and had a great tournament. He should be so motivated by this (going forward). The kid just had his number tonight.”

The Tournament

Rutgers had its best NCAAs ever.

Prior to Cleveland, RU’s best result was in 2016 at Madison Square Garden when it scored 30 points and finished in 15th place. RU had two All Americans that year with Anthony Ashnault and Anthony Perrotti. It again had two All Americans in Suriano and Scott DelVecchio.

Penn State won its third consecutive NCAA championship and seventh in the last eight years. The one it didn’t get in that period was won by Ohio State in 2015. And for the record, the four before that were won by Iowa (three) and Minnesota. So Big Ten teams have won the last 12 team titles and - again for the record - the last eight runner up positions over those 12 years.

On the Banks graphics

Rutgers was the sixth best team among Big Ten teams in the tourney, and finished ahead of perennial power Oklahoma State and regional rivals Lehigh and Princeton.

Coaching retirements could mean....

There are currently two openings for head coaches in the Big Ten. Early in March Wisconsin’s Barry Davis announced his retirement after 25 years as the Badger’s head man. And just last Saturday, Michgan’s Joe McFarland announced his retirement after 19 years at the helm.

Which brings up an interesting - if not concerning - thought. Is RU associate head coach Donny Pritzlaff ready for a head coaching gig? Pritzlaff is a Lyndhurst, NJ native but he is a Wisconsin grad. As a collegiate wrestler at Wisconsin, he was a two-time NCAA 165-pound champion (2000, 2001) and four-time NCAA All-American. He became the 12th NCAA champion in Badger program history, becoming Wisconsin’s fourth multiple champion and one of just three four-time All-Americans in program history.

Would Donny want to go to his other “home” and have his own program in the Big Ten. Or would Michigan come courting? Or would he want to stay at Rutgers and build something special here? He is only six years younger than head coach Scott Goodale and, as long as Goodale is successful, would likely stay on as head coach.

Interesting discussion, no?

What ifs....

From the liars never figure and figures never lie file.

Here’s an interesting thought. Does bringing more wrestlers automatically mean you score more? Does bringing fewer automatically mean you’re left in the dust? Well, not necessarily.

First off, your wrestlers have to win....and hopefully score bonus points with pins and tech falls and majors.

But sometimes you bring a bunch of guys and they don’t win, or don’t win much, or don’t score bonus points.

Here’s a table on the left with the teams in the order of finish along with how many competitors they had in the tournament. And then the same table on the right reorderd based on how many points each competitor “averaged”.

On the Banks graphic

Having a finalist or, even better, a champion means you’ve scored a bunch of points. Illinois finished behind Rutgers but having Isaiah Martinez win a title - plus the bonus points from his scoring a tech and a major - and they pass Rutgers. Or Hofstra: one wrestler but a medalist (sixth place) for 285-pounder Mike Hughes - including two pins and a major - and they are the third best team in the tournament based on points per athlete.

Lehigh brought its entire team. They all scored, but their highest finish was fifth. On “average”, they scored less than four points per wrestler.

Even though Rutgers had only six competitors, every one of its wrestlers scored points, led, of course, by Suriano’s 20.5 and DelVecchio’s 12.5 points. Consider that John Van Brill was a match away from being an All American - and the points you get for at least seventh place - and you can see how even a few top performing wrestlers can make you a top team.

Trying to raise $125K for @RUWrestling

Rutgers did well but can do more. And you know at least in part how that works: more money.

R Fund, the fundraising arm of athletics, is looking to raise $125,000 for wrestling in recognition of 125 pounder Suriano (see what they’re doing here?).

And as of 6:00 pm on Sunday, March 18 - just a little over 24 hours after it was announced - the campaign had raised/pledged just under $27,000. Good money in a short time.

And then there is our friend and big RU promoter/supporter Jon Newman who upped the ante just a tad.

Interested in joining in? Here’s the link for the Rutgers Wrestling NCAA Championship campaign.