Rutgers Wrestling came to Lincoln, Nebraska and the 2022 Big Ten Championships looking to punch as many tickets to nationals as possible, and despite some up and down performances, they are sending seven wrestlers to the Big Dance, the most since the 2017.
As a team, the Scarlet Knights finished in 9th place with 41 points, ahead of Purdue and behind Wisconsin, their best placing since 2019 when they crowned two Big Ten Champions (Nick Suriano, 133lbs and Anthony Ashnault 149lbs).
Dylan Shawver (125lbs) and Greg Bulsak (197lbs) each earned 7th place finishes, while Connor O’Neill (174lbs) picked up an 8th place medal.
Joe Olivieri (133lbs) and John Poznanski (184lbs) each prevailed in their respective 9th place brackets, which secured both a spot at the national tournament.
Rutgers had no wrestlers compete in the final session Sunday as the two Scarlet Knights who earned a guaranteed top-six placing, both medically forfeited out of the tournament.
Sebastian Rivera (133lbs) was expected to do just that after forfeiting in the semifinals Saturday night as he looks to get back to full health after a minor surgery for a meniscus injury 12 days ago.
Mike VanBrill (149lbs) fell in his consolation semifinal earlier on Sunday and elected to medically forfeit out of his 5th place match.
The seven qualified Scarlet Knights now turn their full attention to the NCAA Division 1 Championships taking place March 17th-19th in Detroit, Michigan.
In the team race, it was Michigan overcoming Penn State by a 1.5 point margin to bring home their first team title since 1973.
A recap of Sunday’s action involving Rutgers’ athletes and the championship finals can be found below.
No. 27 Dylan Shawver looked to close out his tournament with a 7th place finish at 125lbs, having already qualified for nationals Saturday night. Iowa’s No. 11 Drake Ayala, who has been nursing injuries all season, had to medically forfeit before the match, giving Shawver the 7th place medal.
Great job by the freshman Scarlet Knight to outperform his 9th seed with the medal podium finish.
Of note, Rutgers’ 2019 National Champion Nick Suriano earned the conference title at 125lbs Sunday afternoon while representing the Michigan Wolverines.
Suriano scored four takedowns and a reversal in the championship bout en route to a major decision victory over Wisconsin’s Eric Barnett.
Looking to grab an auto-qualifier spot for nationals after a rough start to his tournament, No. 15 Joe Olivieri took on Nebraska’s Dominick Serrano in the second round of the 133lbs 9th place bracket with winner earning a trip to Detroit.
Olivieri decided he was done waiting and took out the Cornhusker, 6-3, utilizing an incredibly strong performance on top that saw him accumulate over four minutes of riding time.
Add in one of the more textbook double leg takedowns we’ve seen at this tournament plus the Scarlet Knight freshman’s favorite single leg to a standing cradle, and Olivieri joined six of his teammates in guaranteeing his spot at nationals.
A tremendous accomplishment for the true freshman Olivieri, who was vying for his third NJ State Title just a year ago and now will be competing at the biggest stage in collegiate wrestling in 11 days.
In his 9th place match, Olivieri worked a trio of escapes to earn a top-10 ranked win when he took out No. 9 Brock Hudkins of Indiana to close out his Big Ten Tournament.
Olivieri was able to take advantage of an injury time-out from Hudkins, which allowed the Scarlet Knight to choose what position he wanted on the restart, leading to his third escape, which was the difference in the match.
In the championship bout at 133lbs, Penn State’s returning National Champion Roman Bravo-Young made it five straight wins over Iowa’s Austin Desanto with a late third period takedown to claim his second Big Ten Title.
As expected at 141lbs, Rutgers’ No. 3 Sebastian Rivera medically forfeited his last two matches on Sunday and finished in 6th place. The goal now for Rivera is to get as healthy as possible as he prepares to close out his collegiate career in Detroit at the National Championships in two weeks.
Much to the displeasure of the crowd on hand, the championship match at 141lbs never got started as Iowa’s Jaydin Eierman medically forfeited the finals match to Penn State’s returning National Champion Nick Lee, giving the Nittany Lion his first conference title.
In the consolation semifinals at 149lbs, Rutgers’ No. 15 Mike VanBrill looked to grab a spot in the Sunday night’s 3rd place match, but first he’d have to take out No. 10 Max Murin of Iowa.
The Hawkeye probably had revenge on his mind after he was a victim of the VanBrill steamroller that stormed through this weight at last year’s Big Ten Tournament. This time around, it was all Murin in a strong performance where he controlled VanBrill for the majority of the match.
Murin converted a takedown in the first and third periods, along with a full ride out of VanBrill in the second period to gain the 6-1 decision victory. With the loss, VanBrill would wrestle for 5th place during the final session of the tournament.
VanBrill ended up medically forfeiting out of his 5th place match, so he ends up with the 6th place medal at the 2022 Big Ten Championships, his third time placing at the incredibly tough tournament.
The final at 149lbs was the only medal match that was actually competed at the weight during the final session, and it was Wisconsin’s Austin Gomez taking out returning national runner-up Sammy Sasso of the Buckeyes.
Gomez, a former Iowa State Cyclone, has had an awesome comeback season with the Badgers after missing the last two years of competition with injury concerns and looked like the stronger wrestler here, winning the takedown battle three to one.
Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin, the champion at 157lbs, can cause many to do a double take when they hear the weight class he calls home. His frame looks all of 180lbs and he generally appears as a giant when compared most of his competition at the weight.
He used that size here to smother Michigan’s Will Lewan, accumulating over three minutes of riding time on his way to a 3rd Big Ten Title.
At 165lbs, Iowa’s Alex Marinelli became a four time Big Ten Champion, making him the seventh Hawkeye to accomplish the feat, an insane stat by itself, although Marinelli is the first to do it in 24 years.
Many consider the Big Ten Tournament the toughest in the country because of the concentration of talent which makes the accomplishment that much greater for the senior Hawkeye.
Sunday night, Marinelli, nicknamed the “Bull” looked the part as he forced two stall warnings on Michigan’s Cam Amine by muscling the Wolverine out of bounds on multiple occasions. The point derived from the second call ended up being the difference in the 2-1 win for Marinelli.
Playing with house money after earning one of the more unexpected automatic bids to nationals, Rutgers’ Connor O’Neill took on Dom Solis of Maryland in the 7th place match at 174lbs Sunday afternoon.
O’Neill hit a big four-point reversal in the first period that gave him an early lead, but those would be all the points the Scarlet Knight could produce as Solis took the 10-4 decision when the final whistle sounded.
The freshman O’Neill will still be dancing in two weeks, where he’ll look to duplicate this surprising outcome in Detroit then.
The final at 174lbs featured the top two seeds with Penn State’s returning National Champion Carter Starocci up against 2x All-American Logan Massa of Michigan in a match that had huge team score implications.
Starocci prevailed, 5-1, with a suffocating third period ride out dashing any hopes of a comeback by the Wolverine Massa. The Big Ten Title was the first for Starocci and the win put Penn State within 1.5 points of Michigan in the team title race.
Already having earned a spot at the national tournament despite starting these Big Ten Championships 0-2, Rutgers No. 9 John Poznanski looked to grab his first win when he competed in the second round of the 184lbs 9th place bracket against Wisconsin’s No. 27 Chris Weiler, and the Scarlet Knight didn’t even have to break a sweat as Weiler medically forfeited the match before it began.
It was more of the same in the 9th Place match as Michigan State’s No. 23 Layne Malczewski also decided not to compete, giving Poznanski another medical forfeit win to close out his tournament.
The 184lbs Championship bout was another Penn State/Michigan showdown as returning National Champion Aaron Brooks took on 2020 Olympic Bronze Medalist Myles Amine of the Wolverines.
Penn State’s Brooks took the regular season matchup between the two with a decision win and with 20 seconds remaining in Sunday’s final, it appeared we were in a for a repeat.
Michigan’s Amine had different plans though, as he solved the puzzle that is converting a takedown on Brooks with short time left in the match, before an escape at the buzzer by Nittany Lion tied it at four.
In sudden victory, Amine was confident and went right back to the well to gain the match ending takedown. The upset for Amine was huge in the team race, with Michigan increasing their lead to 5.5 with just two weight classes left.
The 7th place match at 197lbs was a rematch of a regular season dual matchup that featured Rutgers’ No. 12 Greg Bulsak who looked to get a measure of revenge against No. 23 Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State, who took out the Scarlet Knight in overtime in their first meeting.
This time, Bulsak was back to his successful formula of slick takedowns into smothering rides as he converted a snatch single in the second that led to a power-half for two nearfall points.
Add in a pair of escapes with some strong end of match defense and you have a 6-1 victory for the Scarlet Knight who earned a 7th place medal.
The Nittany Lions closed the gap in the team score after the final at 197lbs when Max Dean took out Eric Schultz of Nebraska with a 4-2 decision win. Dean scored the only takedown of the match in the first period which proved to be the difference in the final.
Michigan answered right back in the consolation bracket where Patrick Brucki cemented a 3rd place finish when he took out Iowa’s Jacob Warner.
The heavyweight title bout never got started because Minnesota’s Olympic Champion Gable Steveson came out to center mat by himself, picking up his third Big Ten Title when Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi medically forfeited out of the match.
All eyes immediately shifted to the third-place match between Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet and Michigan’s Mason Parris which would decide who took home the first-place team trophy.
Kerkvliet would need to pin Parris for Penn State to steal the first-place trophy that looked all but locked up heading into this final bout.
Kerkvliet prevailed in the match, but only by a decision, so Michigan took home the team title from Lincoln, Nebraska with 143 points to Penn State’s 141.5.
The NCAA Championships will take place March 17th-19th in Detroit, Michigan.
125: No. 27 Dylan Shawver (3-2, 7th Place) Qualified for Nationals
Rd. 1 vs No. 10 Patrick McKee (Minnesota) - wins by dec., 7-4
Quarterfinal vs. No. 1 Nick Suriano (Michigan) – loses by major dec., 18-6
Consi. Rd. 2 vs No. 22 Justin Cardani (Illinois) – wins by dec., 3-2
Consi. Rd. 3 vs No. 9 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State) – loses by dec., 8-3
7th Place Match vs. No. 11 Drake Ayala (Iowa) – wins by medical forfeit
133: No. 15 Joe Olivieri (2-2, 9th Place) Qualifies for Nationals
Rd. 1 vs No. 23 Matt Ramos (Purdue) - loses by dec., 7-5
Consi. Rd. 1 vs BYE
Consi. Rd. 2 vs No. 9 Chris Cannon (Northwestern) loses by dec., 4-2
9th Place Bracket Rd. 1 vs BYE
9th Place Bracket Rd. 2 vs Dominick Serrano (Nebraska) – wins by dec., 6-3
9th Place Bracket Final vs No. 9 Brock Hudkins (Indiana) – wins by dec., 3-2
141: No. 3 Sebastian Rivera (2-0, 6th Place) Qualified for Nationals
Rd. 1 vs Danny Bertoni (Maryland) - wins by FALL (5:32)
Quarterfinals vs No. 31 Parker Filius (Purdue) – wins by major dec., 15-5
Semifinals vs No. 2 Jaydin Eierman (Iowa) – loses by medical forfeit
Consi. Semifinals vs No. 15 Stevan Micic (Michigan) – loses by medical forfeit
5th Place Match vs No. 17 Dylan D’Emilio (Ohio State) – loses by medical forfeit
149: No. 15 Mike VanBrill (3-2, 6th Place) Qualified for Nationals
Rd. 1 vs Kanen Storr (Michigan) - wins by FALL (4:26)
Quarterfinal vs No. 6 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) – loses by dec., 2-0
Consi. Rd. 2 vs Peyton Omania (Michigan State) – wins by dec., 9-3
Consi. Rd. 3 vs No. 17 Beau Bartlett (Penn State) – wins by dec., 2-1 (TB2)
Consi. Semifinals vs No. 10 Max Murin (Iowa) – loses by dec., 6-1
5th Place Match vs No. 30 Michael Blockhus (Minnesota – loses by medical forfeit
157: Rob Kanniard (0-2) Eliminated
Rd. 1 vs Bryce Hepner (Ohio State) - loses by dec., 10-6
Consi. Rd. 1 vs BYE
Consi. Rd. 2 vs No. 9 Kaleb Young (Iowa) – loses by dec., 10-5
165: Andrew Clark (1-2) Eliminated
Rd. 1 vs Caleb Fish (Michigan State) – loses by dec., 8-3
Consi. Rd. 1 vs Kasper McIntosh (Indiana) – wins by dec., 2-0
Consi. Rd. 2 vs David Ferrante (Northwestern) – loses by dec., 7-2
174: Connor O’Neill (2-3, 8th Place) Qualified for Nationals.
Rd. 1 vs No. 4 Mike Kemerer (Iowa) - loses by FALL
Consi. Rd. 1 vs Nick South (Indiana) – wins by dec., 3-1 SV1
Consi. Rd. 2 vs Bailee O’Reilly (Minnesota) – wins by injury default
Consi. Rd. 3 vs Troy Fisher (Northwestern) – loses by dec., 7-4
7th Place Match vs Dom Solis (Maryland) – loses by dec., 10-4
184: No. 9 John Poznanski (2-2, 9th Place) Qualified for Nationals
Rd. 1 vs No. 22 Isaiah Salazar (Minnesota) – loses by dec. 8-3
Consi. Rd. 1 vs BYE
Consi. Rd. 2 vs No. 8 Kyle Cochran (Maryland) – loses by dec., 4-0
9th Place Bracket Rd. 1 vs BYE
9th Place Bracket Rd. 2 vs No. 27 Chris Weiler (Wisconsin) – wins by medical forfeit
9th Place Bracket Finals vs No. 23 Layne Malczewski (Michigan State) – wins by medical forfeit
197: No. 12 Greg Bulsak (3-2, 7th Place) Qualified for Nationals
Rd. 1 vs No. 28 Andrew Davison (Northwestern) – wins by dec., 9-2
Quarterfinals vs No. 1 Max Dean (Penn State) – loses by dec., 6-2
Consi. Rd. 2 vs No. 20 Braxton Amos (Wisconsin) – wins by dec., 5-3
Consi. Rd. 3 vs No. 13 Thomas Penola (Purdue) – loses by dec., 4-3
7th Place Match vs No. 23 Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State) – wins by dec., 6-1
HWT: Boone McDermott (1-3) Eliminated
Rd. 1 vs No. 10 Lucas Davison (Northwestern) – loses by tech. fall, 15-0
Consi. Rd. 1 vs Brad Wilton (Michigan State) – wins via injury default
Consi. Rd. 2 vs No. 11 Christian Lance (Nebraska) – loses by dec., 7-4
9th Place Bracket Rd. 1 vs Zach Schrader (Maryland) – loses by dec., 5-2