No. 17 Rutgers Wrestling took the short trip to the Keystone state Sunday afternoon to take on the No. 1 ranked Nittany Lions of Penn State (11-0, 3-0). The Scarlet Knights (12-2, 2-2) lost to the host team 27-11, falling in seven of ten bouts in the late afternoon dual.
The first half of the meet looked promising for Rutgers as they led 11-6 at intermission on the back of a technical fall from No. 3 Sebastian Rivera and toss-up decision wins from No. 18 Mike VanBrill and Rob Kanniard.
The second half of the dual was a different story though, as the Nittany Lions took all five matches to cement their victory.
The opening bout saw Rutgers’ No. 31 Dylan Shawver up against new Penn State transfer and No. 9 ranked Drew Hildebrandt, a returning All-American. Shawver was close to hitting a fireman’s carry early, but Hildebrandt recovered.
Shawver then worked a snatch single to a double leg to open the scoring midway through the first. Hildebrandt was out quickly and the two would end the period in neutral with Shawver leading 2-1.
Shawver was on top to start the second and Hildebrandt was out after 20 seconds. The rest of the period saw Hildebrandt fighting off multiple Shawver attacks to keep the score knotted at 2 heading into the third.
Shawver chose neutral for the period to avoid the strong top game that Hildebrandt is known to possess. After some lengthy scrambles throughout the third, Hildebrandt was able convert a takedown on the edge at the buzzer to take the decision, 4-2. The call was reviewed but upheld to confirm the win for the Nittany Lion.
The second match of the dual saw No. 20 Joey Olivieri taking on returning National Champion and No. 1 ranked Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State. The Nittany Lion wrestler is incredibly quick and put that on display early with the go-behind takedown to score 10 seconds in, but Olivieri was out right away.
Olivieri then had a shot attempt but Bravo-Young read it well to get behind again for the takedown. After an Olivieri escape, the two wrestlers traded shot attempts before Bravo-Young hit a slick duck-under for another takedown and ended the period on top with the score in his favor, 6-2.
Olivieri was in top position to start the second and after a brief ride, Bravo-Young worked a reversal to extend his lead. Bravo-Young let Olivieri up after a 30 second ride and we saw some strong hand-fighting from both until the buzzer sounded in the second.
Olivieri chose down to begin the third and was cut right away by Bravo-Young who was then able to score off another Olivieri shot attempt to extend his lead to 10-4 before an Olivieri escape. Olivieri fought off a few shot attempts at the end of the period to keep Bravo-Young’s victory to a decision, 11-5, which is about all you could ask of the true freshman in that spot.
The main marquee match of the dual would not come to fruition as Penn State’s returning National Champion and No. 1 ranked Nick Lee didn’t weigh in due to COVID-19 protocols and Rutgers’ No. 3 Sebastian Rivera instead took on Brandon Meredith.
Rivera scored his first takedown 20 seconds in and was then trying to gather a wrist for a tilt attempt before standing Meredith up after an out of bounds restart. The second Rivera takedown followed shortly after, and he was able to convert a tilt off a power half for four near-fall points.
Rivera liked that tilt, because he hit it again right after to extend his lead to 12-1 after the first period. Rivera chose bottom to start the second and was out after five seconds before scoring his third takedown off the match off a single leg.
Rivera was then able to wrench Meredith over to his back for a moment to get two more near-fall points and took the match by technical fall, 17-1, 30 seconds into the second. Another dominant performance from the Rutgers leader Rivera.
The fourth contest of the evening featured two closely ranked competitors as Rutgers sent out No. 18 Mike VanBrill to take on Penn State’s No. 19 Beau Bartlett at 149lbs. The period was scoreless for the first 90 seconds before Bartlett was able to snatch a single leg and convert it to a takedown to gain the early lead.
Bartlett was penalized for an illegal mat return to give VanBrill his first point of the match before the Scarlet Knight earned an escape to tie up the score late in the period. VanBrill took bottom to begin the second and was out quickly.
Both wrestlers were showing off their upper body technique throughout the remainder of the period but neither would concede any points and it was 3-2 VanBrill at the end of two.
VanBrill was on top to start the third where he needed to stay for 15 seconds to cancel out Bartlett’s riding time and he was able to do just that before conceding the escape.
VanBrill was in deep at the end of the period before Bartlett was able to get in the better position, but no points were awarded as the buzzer sounded and we were headed to overtime, pending a Penn State challenge.
The call was confirmed so the wrestlers headed to a two-minute sudden victory overtime period. A wild scramble with 30 seconds left again resulted in no points despite VanBrill almost getting caught on his back and the two would now head to ride outs.
VanBrill held Barlett down for the 30 seconds he needed to during his turn on top, but also couldn’t escape during his 30 seconds in the bottom position.
The wrestlers then had a one-minute sudden victory period from the neutral position and there was again no scoring to be had, so they went back to ride outs, only this time, if no points were scored, the wrestler with the most accumulated riding time in the overtime periods would be named the winner.
VanBrill on top for the first 30 second ride out period and was again able to keep Bartlett down. VanBrill chose neutral for his 30 second period because he already had the riding time advantage that would give him the win.
VanBrill was able to fight off all Barlett’s shot attempts and earned the win in an absolutely wild bout.
After everyone was able to catch their breath following the 149lbs match, Rutgers sent out Rob Kanniard to take on Tony Negron of the Nittany Lions. Negron opened the scoring when he secured a takedown off an extended scramble to lead 2-0 early.
Negron rode Kanniard for 90 seconds before Kanniard was able to gain the escape but Negron scored another takedown as the buzzer sounded in the first to lead 4-1 after one.
Kanniard was in the top position to start the second and he was able ride out Negron for the entirety of the period.
Kanniard chose bottom to begin the third and was out after 15 seconds where he looked to get to work on his feet. Kanniard scored a takedown off a snatch single to tie the match up at four and finished the period on top, so we would see back-to-back overtime bouts.
A weak shot attempt from Negron allowed Kanniard to get behind quickly for the takedown in sudden victory and the win, 6-4. A gutsy performance from the Scarlet Knight.
At the intermission, No. 17 Rutgers led No. 1 Penn State 11-6, taking three of five bouts to start the dual.
At 165lbs, Rutgers sent out Andrew Clark and Penn State surprised many on hand by sending out Brady Berge, a two-time national qualifier who indicated he was done wrestling last season but recently registered back at Penn State.
The wrestlers traded scoring attempts throughout an action packed first period, but neither was able to convert as the buzzer sounded.
Clark chose bottom to begin the second and he was out after a brief ride from Berge. There was lots of good action in the second from both wrestlers before Berge was able to convert a takedown near the end of the period to lead 2-0 after two.
Clark was on top for the third and was able to ride Berge for over a minute before giving up the escape. Berge quickly scored another takedown off a reshot and finished on top to take the 5-1 decision win.
The match at 174lbs featured Connor O’Neill of the Scarlet Knights taking on defending National Champion and No. 1 ranked Carter Starocci of Penn State and Starocci opened the scoring quickly, earning a takedown 10 seconds in.
Starocci cut O’Neill right away and went back to work, gaining another takedown almost instantly. Starocci cut him again and scored another takedown, extending his lead to 6-2.
The Nittany Lion wrestler then worked an armbar to put O’Neill on his back and gained four near-fall points for the effort. Another tilt at the buzzer gave Starocci a 12-2 lead after the first.
O’Neill was on top to start the second and Starocci was out quickly before gaining another takedown and locking up a cradle to gain four near-fall points to secure the technical fall victory, 19-2.
Our actual marquee matchup of the evening was up at 184lbs where Rutgers’ No. 5 and returning All-American John Poznanski took on defending National Champion and No. 2 ranked Aaron Brooks.
This was a rematch of the Big Ten tournament semifinal last year that saw Brooks take the major decision win. Lots of strong hand-fighting and snap downs between these two before Brooks was able to score on the edge at the end of the period to lead 2-0 after one.
Poznanski was on top to start the second and Brooks was out quickly. Brooks took a deep shot from Poznanski and turned it into his own points to score another takedown on the edge.
Brooks was able to ride Poznanski out for the remainder of the second and took a 5-0 into the third. Poznanski chose bottom to start the period and got out after 10 seconds.
Poznanski was taking strong shots, but Brooks is so athletic, he kept turning them into his points as he led 7-1 midway through the third.
Brooks would cut Poznanski after the takedown, and after some posturing, would gain another takedown near the end of the match to earn the major decision over No. 5 Poznanski. It’s back to the drawing board for Poznanski, who couldn’t get to his offense against the defending champion Brooks.
The penultimate match of the dual was another top ten showdown that featured Rutgers’ No. 7 Greg Bulsak up against Penn State’s No. 2 Max Dean. Dean was able to score the first takedown but was quickly reversed by Bulsak before gaining an escape.
Near the end of the period, Dean was in deep on a double leg attempt before Bulsak showed off his insane flexibility to get into a switch position and gain a takedown at the buzzer to lead 4-3 after one.
Bulsak chose bottom to begin the second and Dean was hit for a locked hands call to give Bulsak another point before his gained an escape moments later. Dean converted a takedown late in the second to cut Bulsak’s lead to 6-5 as the period ended.
Bulsak was in the top position to begin the third and Dean was out right away to knot the match at 6. Dean then worked a single leg to another takedown to take the lead and he held on to take the decision win, 9-6, after the riding time point was added, giving Bulsak his first loss on the season.
In the final match of the evening, the normal starter at heavyweight for Rutgers, Boone McDermott, didn’t go and instead the Scarlet Knights sent out Alex Esposito to take on 4th ranked Greg Kerkvliet of Penn State. Kerkvliet scored two quick takedowns and was able to cradle Esposito after the second one to secure the fall and put a cap on the Nittany Lion victory.
No. 17 Rutgers had little chance of coming home from this dual with a victory on paper, and that held true this afternoon.
Shawver and Olivieri look as if they can compete with most of the Big Ten and Rivera continues his dominant streak.
VanBrill and Kanniard showed tons of heart in their overtime wins and Clark kept his bout close with the two-time national qualifier Berge.
O’Neill was outmatched at 174lbs, and Penn State’s defending champ Aaron Brooks looked as if he saw every shot attempt Poznanski threw at him coming from a mile away. Bulsak didn’t have a chance to put on his patented ride for most of his match at 197lbs as Dean generally controlled the match when the wrestlers were in neutral.
Overall, I think Coach Goodale would be happy with the effort put forth by his team today as they will take important lessons away from this dual.
The Scarlet Knights need to shake this one off quickly as more Big Ten dual action is on the horizon next weekend when the squad will head to Michigan for a pair of meets against Michigan State on Friday and No. 3 Michigan on Sunday.
Note: All ranks derive from Intermat’s Team Dual and Individual lists which can be found here.
Box Score: No. 17 Rutgers - 11, No. 1 Penn State - 27
125: No. 31 Dylan Shawver vs No. 9 Drew Hildebrandt – Hildebrandt by dec., 4-2
133: No. 20 Joey Olivieri vs No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young – Bravo-Young by dec., 11-5
141: No. 3 Sebastian Rivera vs Brandon Meredith – Rivera by tech. fall, 17-1
149: No. 18 Mike VanBrill vs No. 19 Beau Bartlett – VanBrill by dec., 4-3 (TB2)
157: Rob Kanniard vs Tony Negron – Kanniard by dec., 6-4 (SV1)
165: Andrew Clark vs Brady Berge – Berge by dec., 5-1
174: Connor O’Neill vs No. 1 Carter Starocci – Starocci by tech. fall, 19-2
184: No. 5 John Poznanski vs No. 1 Aaron Brooks – Brooks by major dec., 10-2
197: No. 7 Greg Bulsak vs No. 2 Max Dean – Dean by dec., 9-6
285: Alex Esposito vs No. 4 Greg Kerkvliet – Kerkvliet by FALL, 1:45