No. 17 Rutgers Wrestling (12-1, 2-1) hosted No. 15 Illinois (2-1, 0-1) Friday night at Jersey Mike’s Arena in frosty Piscataway and came away with a 21-13 win, taking 6 of 10 matches on the evening.
Graduate student and current No. 3 ranked wrestler at 141lbs Sebastian Rivera picked up his 100th collegiate win in a wild match as he prepares for his toughest test of the season Sunday at Penn State.
The dual started with a ranked matchup at 125lbs where Rutgers’ No. 31 Dylan Shawver was up against No. 26 Justin Cardani of the Illini. A nice scramble halfway through the first ended in a stalemate and that was all the action until Shawver was able to shuck Cardani by for a takedown with 10 seconds left in the period.
Shawver chose bottom to start the second and Cardani put on a solid ride until Shawver got out with 40 seconds left in the period. The action would end there and Cardani chose neutral for the third, hoping to preserve his riding time.
The first half of the final period featured three stalemates and the score was 3-0 in Shawver’s favor where he would hold on for the upset victory, 3-1 after Cardani’s riding time point was added. Another impressive win for the freshman Shawver.
Our second match of the evening was another ranked bout that saw No. 20 Joey Olivieri in his second varsity match taking on returning All-American and No. 6 ranked Lucas Byrd of Illinois.
The first period featured lots of strong hand fighting between the two wrestlers with Byrd looking to work the upper body where he was able to eventually score a takedown. Byrd was able to finish the period on top and took a 2-0 into the second.
Olivieri put himself back down to begin the period and he was finally able to get out after 50 seconds. Byrd worked a go-behind off an Olivieri shot attempt to gain another takedown to extend his lead to 4-1 as the second period ended.
Olivieri was on top to begin the third, but Byrd was able to score a reversal on the edge to make it 6-1. Olivieri was out right away but Byrd got right back in on a shot and another takedown. Byrd was then able to work a tilt for four nearfall points at the end of the period to take the major decision win, 13-2.
As I anticipated in my match preview, Illinois No. 5 Dylan Duncan didn’t make his season debut against Rutgers’ No. 3 Sebastian Rivera, so the Illini sent out We Rachal in his stead.
Rivera got his first takedown 20 seconds into the bout and after a few tilt attempts, he let Rachal up. Rachal appeared to be running for his life and the 3000+ on hand were letting him hear it. After two stall calls on Rachal and a late takedown from Rivera, it was 5-1 after the first.
Rivera was on top to begin the second and another stall call on Rachal came shortly after, and then a fourth. Rivera took an 8-1 lead into the third and quickly took Rachal down just to let him up and do it again.
He cut Rachal again and quickly took him down again if you’re getting the theme here.
Rivera would not be denied his technical fall as he proceeded to continue his takedown clinic to secure the early ending, 23-7. What a performance from Rivera who notched his 100th collegiate victory with the win, a huge accomplishment in college wrestling.
Illinois also didn’t weigh in their returning national qualifier in Mikey Carr at 149lbs to take on Rutgers’ No. 18 Mike VanBrill and it instead was Christian Kanzler who got the nod.
Lots of positioning and hand fighting in the first, as the two appeared to be getting a good measure of each other, but no scoring. VanBrill chose bottom to start the second and he was out after 14 seconds and that would be all the action in the second as VanBrill took a 1-0 into the third.
Kanzler was on bottom for the third and got his escape quickly as well to knot the score at one apiece. VanBrill then shot in with a double leg, switched to a single, and scored the takedown on the edge with 50 seconds remaining to lead 3-1.
A late escape came from Kanzler but it wasn’t enough as Mike VanBrill took the decision win, 3-2.
Our first match of the evening featuring unranked wrestlers from both squads saw Rutgers’ Rob Kanniard up against Joseph Roberts. Roberts was in deep on a shot early, but Kanniard regained the advantage and came out on top of a scramble to secure the takedown.
Kanniard worked a strong ride to accumulate 90 seconds of riding time before Roberts was able to escape. Kanniard scored a double leg takedown on the edge of the mat as time expired and Illinois challenged the call, but the call was confirmed and Kanniard led 4-1 after one.
Roberts chose bottom to begin the second and he escaped after about 30 seconds. Kanniard was close to a takedown on the edge of the mat, but he couldn’t convert, and the score was 4-2 heading into the third.
Kanniard chose bottom and was out quickly, but Roberts was able to secure a takedown to cut the lead to 5-4. Kanniard was out after 30 seconds, and Roberts was very close to scoring a takedown on the edge, but they ended up out of bounds.
A scramble on the edge again is where the match would end with Kanniard holding on for the 7-4 decision after the riding time point was added.
At the intermission, Rutgers led 14-4 as they took four of five bouts to begin the match.
At 165lbs, Rutgers’ Andrew Clark was looking for revenge against No. 27 Dan Braunagel of the Illini after falling to him by major decision earlier in the season.
The match began with an almost minute long scramble then ended in a stalemate as Clark fought off multiple close finishes from Braunagel. Braunagel was able to convert though with 30 seconds left in the period and took a 2-0 lead into the second.
Clark deferred his choice and Braunagel chose a neutral start where he was able to gain another takedown after an extended scramble to lead 4-0 halfway through the second.
Clark was out quickly but Braunagel secured another takedown as time expired in the second to extend his lead to 6-1. Clark chose bottom for the third and was out after a brief ride from Braunagel, who then got behind Clark for another takedown before letting him up, looking for the major decision.
Clark held off Braunagel for the rest of the match, though, and kept it to a regular decision win for the Illini wrestler, 9-3, after the riding time point was added.
A surprise for the Scarlet Knights here as returning All-American and No. 26 ranked Jackson Turley didn’t weigh in for the match, and is out for the season according to Turley and Coach Goodale, so Connor O’Neill stepped up to take on DJ Shannon of the Illini.
Shannon got behind O’Neill about a minute into the period for the opening takedown and early lead. O’Neill got out after a 40 second ride from Shannon, but the Illini wrestler quickly got behind O’Neill again for a takedown.
O’Neill again escaped after another 40 second ride and was close to scoring at the end of the period but couldn’t convert and Shannon led 4-2 after one.
O’Neill was on top to begin the second and after a quick tilt attempt, Shannon was able to escape. A wild scramble at the end of the period saw Shannon showing off his athleticism to come out on top and gain the takedown to lead 7-2 after two.
O’Neill chose bottom to start the third and after a quick escape, O’Neill scored a takedown to cut the lead to 7-5. O’Neill was incredibly close to securing nearfall points off the takedown via a leg turk, but it wasn’t to be, and Shannon held on to take the tight decision win, 7-5.
This spot will be O’Neill’s going forward, and the young wrestler is showing some flashes but needs to be more consistent.
Another dual, another ranked match for No. 5 John Poznanski of the Scarlet Knights as he took on the second ranked Braunagel of the evening as No. 19 Zach Braunagel got the nod.
It was Poznanski who opened the scoring with a go-behind off a shot attempt from the Illini wrestler. Braunagel was out quickly and the two would end the period in neutral.
Poznanski chose bottom to begin the second and he was out in ten seconds. Poznanski showed off his flexibility on the edge of the mat, evading a Braunagel takedown attempt and the two would restart in neutral, where the period would end.
Poznanski led 3-1 heading into the third where he was on top, but quickly conceded an escape to Braunagel. Undeterred, Poznanski snatched a single leg and converted another takedown to extend his lead to 5-2 with a minute remaining in the match.
Poznanski would finish on top and after the riding time point was added, he took the decision win 6-2.
The Scarlet Knight hammer at 197lbs, No. 7 Greg Bulsak, also had what seems like his 10th ranked match of the year as he took on No. 29 Matt Wroblewski of the Fighting Illini.
A quiet first 90 seconds ended with Bulsak getting behind Wroblewski off a single leg to take the early lead and he would finish the period on top. Bulsak chose bottom to start the second and parlayed a quick escape into a mean takedown where he bounced Wroblewski hard onto the mat.
Bulsak would again keep the Illini wrestler with his head on the mat for the remainder of the second to lead 5-0 after two. Wroblewski, like many before him, had enough of Bulsak’s top game and choose neutral to begin the third, only to have Bulsak get behind him again off a shot attempt and gain another takedown.
Wroblewski was finally able to gain an escape at the end of the match, but a pair of earlier stall warnings and the riding time point gave Bulsak the 9-1 major decision win.
The final match of the evening saw Rutgers’ Boone McDermott taking on No. 17 Luke Luffman of Illinois, and it was McDermott who opened the scoring with a slick single leg takedown.
Luffman was out right away and after lots of handfighting, Luffman was able to convert a takedown late in the period to lead 3-2 after one. McDermott chose bottom to start the second and worked a granby-roll to what should have been an escape, but it wasn’t rewarded, and Rutgers would challenge the call.
Rutgers lost the challenge and Luffman would remain on top for the rest of the period. Boone was on top to start the third and let Luffman out quickly.
After more tough hand fighting from both wrestlers, Boone shot in on a single leg attempt, but Luffman was able to get behind to secure the takedown and the decision victory, 7-2, after the riding time point was added.
One extra match took place before the official dual, and it featured Al Desantis of Rutgers against Illinois’ Jake Reicin.
Reicin recorded a takedown in the latter half of the first and Desantis worked a quick escape and a takedown of his own to take a 3-2 lead after one. Desantis was on top to start the second and was able to tilt Reicin for four nearfall points halfway through the period and then hit the same tilt again to blow the match open at 11-2 heading into the third.
Desantis chose bottom to start the final period and was out quickly. He got behind for a takedown and cut Reicin with eyes on the tech fall. Another takedown on the edge made it 16-3 and after a quick ride attempt, Desantis cut him again. He quickly scored another takedown and with the riding time point, secured the technical fall as time expired, 19-4.
The match tonight was a much-needed win for the Scarlet Knights as they looked to rebound after a tough loss to Wisconsin last weekend and with No. 1 Penn State looming on Sunday afternoon.
Sebastian Rivera continues to lead by example with his excellent wrestling and is in a great spot heading into his rematch with No. 1 Nick Lee of Penn State Sunday at 5:00PM on ESPNU. The other two Scarlet Knight top-ten hammers in John Poznanski and Greg Bulsak will each be facing the No. 2 ranked wrestlers at their respective weights, so we can expect some fireworks. I’ll have an in depth preview of the dual tomorrow.
Box Score: No. 17 Rutgers 21, No. 15 Illinois 13
125: No. 31 Dylan Shawver vs No. 26 Justin Cardani - Shawver by dec., 3-1
133: No. 20 Joey Olivieri vs No. 6 Lucas Byrd - Byrd by major dec., 13-2
141: No. 3 Sebastian Rivera vs We Rachal - Rivera by tech. fall, 23-7
149: No. 18 Mike VanBrill vs Christian Kanzler - VanBrill by dec., 3-2
157: Rob Kanniard vs Joseph Roberts - Kanniard by dec., 7-4
165: Andrew Clark vs No. 27 Dan Braunagel – Braunagel by dec., 9-3
174: Connor O’Neill vs DJ Shannon - Shannon by dec., 7-5
184: No. 5 John Poznanski vs No. 19 Zach Braunagel - Poznanski by dec., 6-2
197: No. 7 Greg Bulsak vs No. 29 Matt Wroblewski – Bulsak by major dec., 9-1
285: Boone McDermott vs No. 17 Luke Luffman – Luffman by dec., 7-2
157: Al Desantis vs Jake Reicin – Desantis by tech. fall, 19-4