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Rutgers' takeaways from bouts with Indiana, Purdue

 – Photo by Curstine Guevarra

Over the weekend, the Rutgers wrestling team notched a commanding 29-7 win over Indiana on Friday and lost a close back-and-forth dual with Purdue, by a final score of 20-18 on Sunday.  

On Friday, the No. 23 Scarlet Knights (8-4, 3-3) dominated the Hoosiers (1-6, 1-5) on the mat all night long, using eight individual wins to secure their latest Big Ten victory. But on Sunday Rutgers returned to the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) and lost in a frustrating performance to the No. 13 Boilermakers (11-2, 4-1), dropping its Big Ten record to 3-3 for the season. 

Coming off an encouraging win on Friday over Indiana, head coach Scott Goodale seemed noticeably frustrated during the press conference on Sunday, following the Knights’ close loss to Purdue, in which the dual came down to the very last match. 

“It’s frustrating right now, can’t let matches like that go," Goodale said. "Honestly, we kind of got beat up in a lot of different spots tonight, we were really exposed."

Rutgers will look to shake off this tough loss on Saturday when it heads to Madison Square Garden to face Michigan, as the team takes part in the annual Big Ten Super Saturday event. But, first, some takeaways from this past weekend’s meets for the Knights:

No. 9 true freshman 133-pounder Sammy Alvarez continues to impress

The No. 9 ranked 133-pounder has been a bright spot for this team all season long. So far the Garfield, New Jersey, native is 19-6 in his first year on the Banks. Alvarez has posted an impressive 5-1 mark against InterMat-ranked opponents thus far, which includes big wins against DJ Fehlman (Lock Haven), Anthony Madrigal (Oklahoma) and most recently Jordan Decatur (Ohio State).

Alvarez was undefeated last weekend in a perfect 2-0 effort. On Friday, he beat the Hoosiers' Cayden Rooks in a decisive 14-5 major decision in which he looked to be in control the entire match. On Sunday, he secured an easy 6-0 victory over the Boilermakers' Travis Ford-Melton.

Alvarez is rapidly becoming one of the toughest wrestlers on the team. It is no easy task to perform so well as an underclassman in the Big Ten either. If he can continue to wrestle like this, Alvarez looks to be an important part of this team in the near future, as Rutgers will host the Big Ten between March 7 and 8 at the RAC. 

Graduate student 197-pounder Jordan Pagano improved to a 18-6 mark in the year 

Pagano, also in his first season as a Knights wrestler, equaled the 2-0 mark of Alvarez this past weekend when he beat Indiana’s Nick Wilham 7-0 on Friday and Christian Brunner of Purdue, albeit by default, on Sunday.

The No. 18 ranked 197-pound South Brunswick, New Jersey, native has put together quite the resume so far during his first season with Rutgers. For example, just two weekends ago, he recorded a major decision when he beat Jonathon Fagen of Cornell. Back in November, Pagano won the 2019 Navy Classic Champion for the Knights and hasn’t looked back since. 

Pagano redshirted last year and sat out all season due to injury. His return has proved to be a major factor in the success of Rutgers wrestling this season. If he can stay healthy and continue to wrestle the way that he is, look for Pagano to be a major part of the Knights' winning formula moving forward.

Junior 197-pounder Matthew Correnti stepped up to the challenge when asked to move up to heavyweight

The 197-pound junior showed some grit on Friday night when he bumped up in weight to fill in for heavyweight sophomore Alex Esposito. He has been asked to do this in the past with not as much success. This time around though, Correnti won a decisive match against the Hoosiers’ Jake Kleimola. 

Correnti fought back to win the match after Kleimola scored a takedown early. Correnti countered the move brilliantly and proceeded to execute a cradle, which ended his match in under 1 minute and gave him his third fall decision of the year.

“I feel a lot stronger now I would say, I probably weigh (approximately) 210, soaking wet, that range around there," Correnti said. "So, I feel good, it’s all just a mentality. You just have to go out there and do it."

For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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