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Rutgers falls to Princeton to finish off dual meet season

 – Photo by Curstine Guevarra

Prior to the start of the Rutgers wrestling team’s final dual meet of the season at Princeton’s Jadwin Gymnasium, the home team recognized eight seniors. Joined along with their parents, the seniors took in the scene of a packed lower bowl of the Ivy League school’s men’s basketball arena.

It was a fitting night that the No. 14 Tigers’ (9-4, 5-0) senior day festivities at home coincided with the 83rd meeting with the No. 25 Scarlet Knights (10-7, 4-5). Rutgers’ rivalry with Princeton is the program’s oldest continuing string of contests in its history.

On Sunday, the Tigers won their first meeting against their central New Jersey foe since 1990 by a final score of 18-15.

The highlight of the meet on the Knights’ end was No. 19 graduate student 197-pounder Jordan Pagano’s 1-point upset over Princeton's No. 3 Patrick Brucki. Wrestling in his first full season since the 2016-17 campaign, Pagano avenged a loss he took in his team's previous match to Northwestern’s Lucas Davison back on Feb. 14. 

Pagano captured his first victory over a top five opponent this season with his 10-9 decision on Sunday. He now owns a 22-7 record with the win, capping off his dual meet career on the Banks. He holds an 80-41 final record since arriving on campus in 2015.

Head coach Scott Goodale went with a different wrestler in the 141-pound weight class. Junior 141-pounder Zach Firestone was tapped in for true freshman 141-pounder JoJo Aragona. 

Wrestling in his first bout since his defeat at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1, Firestone worked his way to a 5-2 win over the Tiger's Marshall Keller. That was the redshirt junior’s first victory since New Year’s Day in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the Southern Scuffle. 

There were no bonus points awarded to Rutgers, with 9 out of the 10 matches being decided by 5 points or less. Matthew Kolodzik was the lone wrestler to capture a fall in the meet. He pinned redshirt freshman 149-pounder Gerard Angelo 2:06 minutes into the bout. It was only Kolodzik’s fifth match of the season, but he maintains an unblemished 5-0 record.

Kolodzik, who has earned All-American status since 2017, avenged his major decision loss he suffered to alumnus 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault in last season’s meeting. 

No. 13 redshirt freshman 184-pounder Billy Janzer was upset by Travis Stefanik in a 5-2 victory for the Tigers wrestler. Stefanik now owns 11 wins in his last 15 matches. His most recent loss came on Dec. 29 to Fresno State’s Hunter Cruz at the Midlands Championships.

Junior 157-pounder Michael VanBrill held his own against Quincy Monday, earning a major takedown in the second period. Ultimately, it was Monday who came away with an 8-5 victory. VanBrill now holds a 16-15 record in his first season as the 157-pound starter. He has filled in for his older brother, alumnus John VanBrill.

No. 20 redshirt freshman 125-pounder Nicolas Aguilar dropped the first meet of the evening, a 10-5 decision to Patrick Glory. Glory is 1 of 4 Princeton players ranked inside the top five of their weight classes.

Sean Pierson battled No. 9 true freshman 133-pounder Sammy Alvarez to a close finish, but was unable to come up with the upset. Alvarez muscled a 7-5 decision to conclude his first season on the Banks.

Fresh out of the intermission break, junior 165-pounder Brett Donner wrestled a close matchup with the Tigers' Grant Cuomo. Cuomo earned his 15th victory of the season. He previously lost to Drexel’s Ebed Jarrell on Feb. 15. 

At heavyweight, Goodale opted to go with junior 197-pounder Matthew Correnti at the upper-weight class instead of typical starter sophomore heavyweight Alex Esposito.

Correnti, who was wrestling in his first heavyweight matchup since Jan. 26 against Purdue, worked a 6-3 win against Princeton's Aiden Connor. It was Correnti’s second victory at his new weight this season after he pinned Indiana’s Jake Kleimola in his inaugural heavyweight bout.

With the dual meet season over, the Knights have a winning overall record at 10-7. They will host the Big Ten on March 7 and 8 at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC). 

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

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