Fresh off a narrow 1-point win over in-state rival then No. 20 Princeton, the Rutgers wrestling team added two wins on the road in the Midwest, capturing at least 20 points against Indiana and No. 20 Purdue.
In last Friday’s match in Bloomington, Indiana, the No. 18 Scarlet Knights (11-5, 4-3) secured 7 of 10 individual bouts against the Hoosiers (5-10, 1-6), including three major decision wins.
After downing Matthew Kolodzik last weekend, consensus No. 1 graduate student 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault found himself down 4-3 to Indiana’s Fernando Silva after the first period. Ashnault appeared almost out of sorts Friday evening – perhaps the adrenaline of defeating the former No. 1 in the 149-pound weight class took over.
But, he would tie the match at 6 and even started the second period on top, a position that he rarely starts from, and defeated Silva 8-7 to start the match.
This toughness was on display all evening against the Hoosiers. Wrestlers like sophomore 174-pounder Joseph Grello and No. 14 graduate student 157-pounder John Van Brill defeated their opponents by 2 and 3 point differentials, respectively.
Despite injuries at the 184-pound weight class and the pressure of competing in away matches, especially against the ranked Boilermakers (6-8, 2-5), Rutgers showed its readiness to begin the Big Ten Championships, which begin on March 9.
Here are three takeaways from the Knights’ wins over both Indiana Big Ten schools:
Back in gear
After suffering a nine-match losing streak dating back to Dec. 16, sophomore 125-pounder Shane Metzler earned his first career Big Ten victory by defeating Purdue’s Marshall Craig in a 4-1 decision.
Metzler’s win tied up the meet’s score at 9 before intermission. He added a takedown in the third period to secure his eighth overall victory of the current season.
This season, Metzler has been thrown into the 125-pounder starting spot after No. 4 junior Nick Suriano ascended to the 133-pound weight class spot. Taking a former All-American and NCAA finalist’s role is never easy.
The transition has certainly been difficult for Metzler, but it seems like he has some newfound confidence that will only help him when the team faces No. 4 Michigan in its last Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) appearance, Sunday afternoon.
The match against the Wolverines (10-1, 6-1), whose only loss of the season came against No. 1 Penn State on Feb. 1, has all the implications of being a tough one for Metzler. He will most likely face No. 15 Drew Martin, who earned a pin more than 4 minutes into the match against the Nittany Lions.
Suriano defeated both his opponents by margins of 13 and 8 points against the Hoosiers and Boilermakers’ 133-pound wrestlers, respectively. He earned his first major decision of the weekend against Indiana’s Garrett Pepple in a 20-7 match.
On Sunday, Suriano faced his sixth ranked opponent of the season in Purdue’s No. 14 Ben Thornton. The higher-ranked wrestler won, as Suriano cruised to his ninth major decision victory of the season, which leads the team.
Suriano comes into this weekend riding a five-match winning streak. He has accumulated 17 bonus victories, four technical falls and has outscored his opponents 89-25.
Junior heavyweight Christian Colucci has won three straight matches including his 10-point major decision victory over the Tigers’ Kendall Elfstrum on Feb. 3. Last Friday, he powered his way to a 10-1 victory over the Hoosiers’ Fletcher Miller, his 12th win of the season.
Against the Boilermakers, Colucci delivered another win for the Knights’ heavyweight class, earning a tough 3-2 double overtime decision against Jacob Aven.
Colucci has asserted himself as one of Rutgers’ finishers, as his weight class traditionally closes out meets.