With a pair of All-Americans already in hand after a stellar Friday night performance, the Scarlet Knights wrapped up their season at the 2022 NCAA Wrestling Championships Saturday morning from Little Ceaser’s Arena in Detroit, Michigan.
Sebastian Rivera earned his fourth NCAA All-American honor (fifth with 2020’s NWCA award) Friday night when he took out SDSU’s Clay Carlson and opened Saturday morning with a win over Stanford’s No. 4 Real Woods to earn a spot in the 3rd place medal match.
He kept that momentum going, taking out Grant Willits of Oregon state to secure a bronze medal to close out his fantastic career.
When being interviewed after his 3rd place match win, Rivera indicated he’s “all-in” on freestyle wrestling now that his college career is behind him and confirmed he will be representing Puerto Rico while hunting for a world championship.
He also spoke about his relationship with Coach Goodale, “I mess with him a lot because I have a lot of love for him and the Rutgers’ guys,” Rivera told ESPN’s Quint Kessenich.
Senior Greg Bulsak also wrestled in his final collegiate bout Saturday morning, looking to gain some revenge on Nebraska’s Eric Schultz, who sent the Scarlet Knight to the consolation bracket back in championship round two, but the Cornhusker’s stingy defense again was the difference and with the loss, Bulsak took home the 8th place medal.
The two All-Americans give Coach Scott Goodale and his program multiple All-American finishers for the seventh straight year (sixth straight NCAA tournament) as he continues to try and build the program into a national powerhouse.
On top of that, these two AAs came via the transfer portal which speaks volumes to Goodale’s adapting to the current culture of college athletics where potential transfers play a huge role in recruiting.
The team finished the tournament with 28.5 points, which put them tied for 20th place with Northern Iowa.
First up for the Scarlet Knights, No. 3 Sebastian Rivera looked to continue his impressive consolation bracket run as he squared off with Stanford’s No. 4 Real Woods. The two wrestlers came out swinging, with strong hand-fighting and tie ups throughout the first period.
Rivera appeared to flip Woods to his back, and was initially awarded four points for the effort, but a Stanford challenge wiped the score off the board. The Scarlet Knight began the second in the bottom position and earned an escape 15 seconds into the period.
The two again traded tie ups from neutral before Rivera dove in for a low double and collected Woods’ legs for the takedown. Woods escaped quickly and would earn another point in the third when Rivera stood him up before the opening whistle, but that would be it for the Cardinal as Rutgers’ leader Rivera would head to the 3rd place match with a 3-2 decision win.
In his 3rd place bout, as he’s done 114 times before, Rivera closed out his career with a big win, taking out No. 8 Grant Willits of Oregon State with a pair of takedowns, despite a scrappy performance for the Beaver.
Rivera had the advantage on his feet and kept Willits near the edge of the mat for a good portion of their time spent in the neutral position, which produced a stall warning on Willits for backing up.
A takedown from Willits came with under 20 seconds left to tie the match at five, but Rivera earned a quick escape and fought off the late attempts from Willits to capture the bronze medal.
A stellar career at both Northwestern and Rutgers comes to an end for Rivera, and the five time All-American will now focus on his international freestyle wrestling future.
Greg Bulsak found himself in the 7th place match Saturday afternoon in a rematch with No. 3 Eric Schultz of Nebraska who took out the Scarlet Knight back in round two of the championship bracket.
Schutlz opened the scoring with a takedown in the second with an almost minute long rideout coming with it. Bulsak would tie the match with a late escape in the third, but Schultz already had his riding time accumulated over a minute, so when the final whistle sounded, the Cornhusker took the 3-2 decision win.
Bulsak’s great tournament, season, and career come to an end with the loss, but the Rutgers’ hammer will forever be an NCAA All-American as he closes out his college run with 103 wins.
That does it for the 2021-22 Scarlet Knight Wrestling season. It was a rollercoaster but let’s be honest, the most exciting seasons always are. The Scarlet Knights will be a very young team next year with the only starting upperclassmen in Rivera, Bulsak, and VanBrill all having finished their careers on the banks.
I plan to do a full season recap and cover any freestyle action that features Rutgers’ wrestlers throughout the offseason. Thanks for reading.