No. 24 Rutgers Wrestling pulled out a big time conference win Friday night when they took out the No. 20 ranked Michigan State Spartans 16-15 in front of a raucous 3,622 fans at Jersey Mike’s Arena.
For Rutgers, the win represents their first in Big Ten action this year after they dropped their first two conference duals against No. 21 Indiana and No. 7 Ohio State.
The five to five match split saw both teams earn a major decision in the dual, so in theory the match should’ve been tied after heavyweight, but a boneheaded decision to throw the challenge brick at the official by Michigan State cost them a team point.
In reality though, the Scarlet Knights would have prevailed via criteria (45-42 match points) even if Michigan State neglected to go full dodgeball with the brick.
Here are five takeaways from the upset win over the Spartans.
The Lightweights Came to Wrestle
The tone was set early by the lightweight group Friday night, as they reeled off four consecutive wins to start the dual.
No. 11 Dean Peterson again looked strong against a ranked opponent, hitting a late takedown on the edge to seal his 6-3 win over No. 24 Tristan Lujan.
After the dual, I asked Peterson about wrestling in front of the fans at Jersey Mike’s Arena for the first time: “It was very exciting,” said Peterson. “I have been coming to matches at the RAC and Jersey Mike’s Arena since I was six or seven years old. To finally get to wrestle in front of all the fans and in front of Jersey, it was very exciting. You can feel the energy.”
No. 17 Joe Heilmann displayed some strong defense and scramble skill in the first period of his match at 133lbs against No. 16 Rayvon Foley. Heilmann was able to pick up what turned out to be the match deciding takedown after having his own leg up in the air for an extended period by Foley.
The NJ boy said, “Not in this house.” ☝️@RUWrestling's No. 17 Joe Heilmann over No. 16 Foley. pic.twitter.com/93xTA7X8nt— Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) January 21, 2023
At 141lbs, No. 17 Joe Olivieri gave up the first takedown to Michigan State’s Jordan Hamdan, but shook that off quickly and went to work, earning a 16-4 major decision over the Spartan.
Redshirt freshman Tony White picked up his first Big Ten conference win when he dispatched Peyton Omania 5-3, himself also prevailing despite giving up the first takedown of the match.
Jackson Turley Picks Up a Timely Win
Rutgers embattled 174lber Jackson Turley has had an up and down season so far, but after taking out Michigan State’s Ceasar Garza 7-2 in what turned out to be the clincher for the Scarlet Knights, there’s hope he’s rounding into form at the right time.
“He is starting to get more confident in his conditioning. Doing it on top, that’s the old Jackson Turley, and that’s what we saw. I was happy about that,” said Coach Goodale.
Turley hit a huge mat return that got the Jersey Mike’s Arena crowd fired up and expertly transitioned the return into a tilt that would seal his victory Friday night.
I’m Ready to Say It.. Billy Janzer is Back
Billy Janzer has had a rough couple years on the banks after splashing onto the scene as a redshirt freshman during the 2019-2020 campaign, wrestling in only 22 matches since that time due to numerous factors, including a significant injury that caused him to miss all of last season.
But if Friday night is any indication, Jazner is healthy, strong, and ready to cause some chaos at 197lbs in the Big Ten as he gave No. 14 Cam Caffey everything he could handle, falling in overtime 3-1.
Multiple times throughout the match Janzer displayed excellent defense, stifling the always game Caffey (who took out Rutgers 2022 All-American Greg Bulsak by major decision last year) and was in deep on a shot of his own in overtime, before Caffey himself showed off his own defensive prowess, getting behind Janzer for the win.
Even though he didn’t come out with the win, this feels like a momentum builder for Janzer and I’m excited to see where it goes.
The Brian Soldano Growing Pains Continue
There’s absolutely no question that No. 13 Brian Soldano is a talented wrestler and a freak athlete when he’s on the mat, but we’re seeing that the dangerous and exciting moves that make him a fan favorite can also lead to trouble against top Division 1 competition.
Although Soldano was able to roll Malczewski to his back in the first and almost picked up the fall, the Spartan quickly adjusted his strategy and never looked back, taking out Soldano by major decision 16-6.
Soldano is a very confident wrestler and I have no doubt he will bounce back, but I anticipate more growing pains along the way (but also some absolutely WILD matches that will be endlessly enjoyable).
The Crowd was LOUD
It was great to hear the true roar of the Jersey Mike’s Arena crowd multiple times throughout the dual Friday night. I was nervous heading into the match about crowd turnout after the past two seasons of restrictions, but my worries were alleviated quickly when the assembled 3,622 fans rewarded Dean Peterson’s win at 125lbs with a raucous ovation.
It’s great to be home.
No. 24 Rutgers Wrestling is back in action Sunday at 2:00PM against No. 3 Michigan at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway. The match will be streamed via BTN Plus.
Box Score courtesy of Rutgers Athletics
No. 24 Rutgers 16, No. 20 Michigan State 15
125: 11/12 Dean Peterson (RU) over 24/24 Tristan Lujan (MSU) by dec., 6-3; RU leads, 3-0
133: 17/14 Joe Heilmann (RU) over 16/17 Rayvon Foley (MSU) by dec., 4-3; RU leads, 6-0
141: 17/HM Joseph Olivieri (RU) over Jordan Hamdan (MSU) by MD, 16-4; RU leads, 10-0
149: NR/HM Tony White (RU) over Peyton Omania (MSU) by dec., 5-3; RU leads, 13-0
157: 15/17 Chase Saldate (MSU) over NR/24 Andrew Clark (RU) by dec., 5-0; RU leads, 13-3
165: 25/HM Caleb Fish (MSU) over Connor O’Neill (RU) by dec., 2-0; RU leads, 13-6
174: Jackson Turley (RU) over Ceasar Garza (MSU) by dec., 7-2; RU leads, 16-6
184: 15/14 Layne Malczewski (MSU) over 13/16 Brian Soldano (RU) by MD, 16-6; RU leads, 16-9*
197: 14/12 Cameron Caffey (MSU) over Billy Janzer (RU) by SV1, 3-1; RU leads, 16-12
HWT: Ryan Vasbinder (MSU) over Kyle Epperly (RU) by dec., 3-0; RU wins, 16-15*Michigan State deducted one team point for loss of mat control