No. 16 Rutgers Wrestling (16-5) closed out their regular season Saturday on a snowsquall filled afternoon at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway as they hosted the visiting Columbia Lions (4-10) in non-conference dual meet action.
The Scarlet Knights honored their eight seniors before the match, including ranked starters Mike VanBrill, Sebastian Rivera, and Greg Bulsak.
The Lions took advantage of a short-handed Rutgers squad, earning a five-to-five match split, but bonus points from the Scarlet Knights at 133lbs and 197lbs proved to be the difference in the dual meet.
With the win, Rutgers’ skipper Coach Scott Goodale earned his 199th victory on the banks and the team completed a sweep of their non-conference schedule.
The action kicked off at 125lbs where we were greeted with a ranked matchup between No. 28 Dylan Shawver of the Scarlet Knights up against No. 31 Joe Manchio. Shawver was able to roll through a shot attempt from Manchio to score the first points of the match and he immediately started looking for tilts to gain nearfall points.
Manchio was hit with a stall warning towards the end of the period, and it was 2-0 Shawver after one.
The Scarlet Knight chose bottom to begin the second and granby-rolled to a reversal to double his lead. Shawver rode Manchio out for the rest of the period, accumulating over three minutes of riding time in the process.
For the third period, Manchio chose neutral to avoid more top dominance from Shawver. Shawver picked up a takedown in the latter half of the period, and cut Manchio, looking for the major, but couldn’t convert another takedown and took the match by decision, 7-1.
The second match of the day was another ranked bout, this time at 133lbs, and it was No. 16 Joe Olivieri squaring up with No. 23 Angelo Rini of the Lions. Rini picked up the first takedown of the match, but Olivieri was out quickly.
Rini shot in on a low double attempt, but a big sprawl from Olivieri allowed him to get around the Lion for the takedown. Olivieri then used a mat return to put Rini on his back and picked up the fall for the Scarlet Knights with short time remaining in the first.
No. 3 ranked Sebastian Rivera, the dominant lightweight force for the Scarlet Knights, suffered a knee injury Friday night in his match against Princeton, so he was given the day off here and Andrew Gapas stepped in to take on Columbia’s No. 20 Matt Kazimir.
Gapas came out firing, picking up a quick takedown right into a wrist tilt for two nearfall points to jump out to a 4-0 early lead. Kazimir picked up an escape shortly after the restart and the two would end the period in neutral, with Gapas up 4-1.
To begin the second, Gapas was in the top position, but yielded a quick reversal to Kazimir, who put on tough ride and finished the period on top.
It was 4-3 in favor of the Scarlet Knight entering the third and Gapas chose a neutral start. Kazimir picked up a takedown midway through the final frame to take a 5-4 lead and Gapas was hit with his second stall warning, conceding another point to the Lion.
Kazimir would go on to take the 7-4 decision win after the riding time point was added.
Rutgers No. 16 ranked senior Mike VanBrill was given the day off in this spot, so Asa Garcia, a transfer into the program from Indiana during the first semester, made his home debut against Dan Fongaro of Columbia.
Fongaro opened the scoring with a takedown right into a tilt for two nearfall points in the latter half of the first to take a 4-0 lead. Garcia was in the top position to begin the second and Fongaro earned a quick escape.
The Lion secured his second takedown of the match midway through the period to extend his lead to 7-0.
For the third period, Garcia chose a neutral start as he needed multiple takedowns to get back into the match, but it was Fongaro who picked up his third takedown of the bout, again midway through the period after multiple attempts from Garcia.
Fongaro then held Garcia down for the remainder of the match to take the 10-0 major decision when the riding time point was added.
Normal 157lbs starter Rob Kanniard broke his nose during a collision with his opponent from Princeton Friday night, so he wouldn’t be available in this spot, and it was Al Desantis getting the nod for the Scarlet Knights.
It was Andrew Garr of the Lions taking on Desantis and the Columbia product scored the first points of the match on a takedown midway through the first. Desantis earned his escape after a 30 second ride from Garr and the two finished the period in neutral.
Desantis chose bottom to begin the second and earned another quick escape to knot the score at two apiece. Garr was able to counter a shot attempt from Desantis to put Scarlet Knight on his back for four total points to grab a 6-2 lead heading into the final frame.
For the third, Desantis would be in the top position, needing a rally to get himself back into the match. Desantis attempted multiple tilts to try and tie the bout at six, but Garr was patient and waited until the Scarlet Knight overextended himself to pick up a reversal and the win by decision, 8-2.
At intermission, Columbia led 10-9, taking three of five matches to open the dual.
During the intermission, Rutgers Senior David Campbell took on Boris Witmer in an extra bout at 133lbs and the Scarlet Knight closed out his career on the banks with a 5-3 decision win.
The first match after intermission took place at 165lbs where Rutgers Andrew Clark looked to close out his regular season with a ranked win as he squared off against No. 19 Josh Ogunsanya of the Lions.
Ogunsanya picked up the first points of the match, countering a shot attempt from Clark to get behind the Scarlet Knight for a takedown. The match was halted for a moment after Clark needed injury time and Ogunsanya chose bottom position on the restart.
Clark was able to keep Ogunsanya down for almost two minutes before conceding the late escape and the Lion led 3-0 after one. Clark chose the bottom position for the second and earned a quick escape ten seconds into the period.
Ogunsanya was then able to convert a takedown on the edge after collecting Clark’s legs to extend his lead to 5-1. Clark was again able to escape quickly, but Ogunsanya picked up his third takedown of the match with a strong double leg shortly after.
Entering the third, it was 7-2 in favor of Ogunsanya, and he chose a neutral start to the period before hitting his fourth takedown. Clark earned his escape but another takedown from Ogunsanya followed right away.
It was 11-4 after another escape from Clark, but Ogunsanya picked up a major decision sealing takedown at the end of the third to cap off his victory, 13-4.
The match at 174lbs featured Rutgers Connor O’Neill taking on Nick Fine in a match most considered a tossup on paper heading into the action.
Fine opened the scoring, getting behind O’Neill after an extended scramble two minutes into the first and he kept O’Neill down for the remainder of the period.
For the second, O’Neill was in the top position and the Scarlet Knight rode Fine out for the entire period, displaying some strong top wrestling in the process.
O’Neill chose neutral for the third period, hoping to preserve his riding time advantage. There was an extended scramble at the end of the period where O’Neill was close to scoring, but Fine held on for the 2-1 decision win.
Up at 184lbs, Rutgers sent out the No. 11 ranked wrestler nationwide in John Poznanski to take on Columbia’s Brian Bonino. A scoreless first period saw few attacks from either wrestler as they were both measured in their approaches.
In the second, Poznanski was in the top position and Bonino earned his escape right away, which would prove to be the only point in the period.
Poznanski chose bottom for the final frame and earned his own escape after a 30 second ride from Bonino. The score was knotted at one with a minute to go in the match and Bonino was hit for a stall warning after multiple attempts from Poznanski.
The match would head to sudden victory where Bonino had Poznanski in trouble, as he draped over his back, but the Scarlet Knight shook the Lion off and picked up the match deciding takedown.
Columbia would challenge the result, but the call would stand the Poznanski would pick up the decision win.
Rutgers’ No. 11 ranked Senior Greg Bulsak, a transfer student who spent just the past season on the banks, also took the mat for the last time at Jersey Mike’s Arena to take on Sam Wustefeld. The Scarlet Knight opened the scoring with a quick sweep single takedown. The match would end shortly thereafter as Bulsak wrenched Wustefeld over to his back and picked up a big fall for the Scarlet Knights.
At heavyweight, Rutgers’ Boone McDermott squared up with Dan Conley in the final match at Jersey Mike’s Arena this season in a bout that would decide the outcome of the dual meet, as Rutgers led 18-17 with regards to the team score.
The Scarlet Knight secured a takedown on the edge of the mat as the buzzer sounded in the first to take a 2-0 lead after one. McDermott chose bottom to begin the second and earned his escape 20 seconds into the period.
That would be the extent of the action in the period and McDermott led 3-0 entering the third where Conley chose a neutral start. Conley got in deep on a low single attempt, but McDermott turned it into his own points, getting on top of the Lion for a takedown.
An escape from Conley followed, but it wasn’t enough as McDermott held on the to secure the match winning decision for the Scarlet Knights, 5-1.
It was a rollercoaster of a day, especially with Rutgers missing Rivera, VanBrill, and Kanniard as Columbia picked up wins at each of those weights.
Shawver looked to be on another level than his ranked opponent Manchio and seems primed to make a run at Big Tens.
Olivieri recovered from a match opening takedown by Columbia’s ranked Lini and decked the Lion on a mat return near the end of the first period, another strong performance from the freshman.
Gapas made weight at 141lbs on four hours’ notice according to Coach Goodale and looked as if he may pull the upset early, before falling to the ranked Kazimir. A gutsy outing regardless from the graduating senior.
Coach Goodale said Rivera will absolutely be ready for Big Ten’s and it was now on the training staff to get him in a position to win a national title.
Asa Garcia made his home debut for the Knights, although the team didn’t think VanBrill would be out until pre-match roll-arounds where they decided to hold out the incumbent starter. Garcia weighed in light and never really got going in his match at 149lbs.
Desantis was close to hitting a few tilt attempts in his third period against his Columbia opponent but couldn’t convert. Coach Goodale indicated that Kanniard would be a full go for Big Tens if he doesn’t need surgery on his broken nose.
Clark struggled with the quickness Ogunsanya brought to their match as the Lion picked up six takedowns in his victory.
O’Neill couldn’t ride the momentum from his big win Friday night into Saturday as he fell in a tight match to Fine and couldn’t get to his offense again, something he’ll look to remedy in the two weeks before the Big Ten Tournament.
Poznanski had trouble figuring out his opponent Bonino but showed some moxie in picking up the overtime win, a result that proved instrumental in the outcome of the meet.
Bulsak did Bulsak things, picking up a quick takedown and fall off a power half that looked painful from the press box.
McDermott is absolutely hitting his stride at the right time, but he’ll have his work cut out for him at the Big Ten Tournament which will feature eight wrestlers ranked in the top 15 at heavyweight.
That does it for the regular season for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights as 100% of the focus is now getting prepared and healthy for the postseason.
The Big Ten Tournament takes place March 5th and 6th from Lincoln Nebraska. I’ll have full previews up of each weight before action kicks off that Saturday.
Box Score: No. 16 Rutgers 21, Columbia 17
125: No. 28 Dylan Shawver vs No. 31 Joe Manchio - Shawver by dec., 7-1
133: No. 16 Joe Olivieri vs No. 23 Angelo Rini - Olivieri by FALL (2:38)
141: Andrew Gapas vs No. 20 Matt Kazimir - Kazimir by dec., 7-4
149: Asa Garcia vs Dan Fongaro - Fongaro by major dec., 10-0
157: Al Desantis vs Andrew Garr - Garr by dec., 8-2
165: Andrew Clark vs No. 19 Josh Ogunsanya - Ogunsanya by major dec., 13-4
174: Connor O’Neill vs Nick Fine - Fine by dec., 2-1
184: No. 11 John Poznanski vs Brian Bonino - Poznanski by dec., 3-1 (SV1)
197: No. 11 Greg Bulsak vs Sam Wustefeld - Bulsak by FALL (2:43)
285: Boone McDermott vs Dan Conley - McDermott by dec., 5-1