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Correnti 1 of 2 possibilities for Rutgers' heavyweight spot in Championships

 – Photo by Curstine Guevarra

Some of the Rutgers wrestling team’s weight classes have had consistent starters in dual meet action. No. 9 true freshman 133-pounder Sammy Alvarez and No. 19 redshirt freshman 125-pounder Nicolas Aguilar are examples of this. 

With that being said, injuries and playing time in a weight class can lead to the option of a rotation: Switching in different wrestlers at one weight class, whether that means diving into your bench or having a student-athlete add some weight into a new class.

That’s exactly what happened when junior 197-pounder Matthew Correnti appeared in three matches at the heavyweight class this season. Last season’s starter at 197 pounds became a fallback option for head coach Scott Goodale at heavyweight. 

Fifth-year senior heavyweight Christian Colucci did not see any more appearances after the No. 25 Scarlet Knights’ (10-7, 4-5) Dec. 7 match against Maryland. Sophomore heavyweight Alex Esposito, who boasted an 11-5 redshirt record in the 2017-18 campaign, was thrust into the starter’s role. He finished the year with a 17-12 record.

Correnti had to bulk up, like all wrestlers have to when they are bumped up a weight class. Upping his weight by more than 10 pounds, Correnti made a big transition from 197 pounds to heavyweight.

As the 197-pound starter last season, Correnti went 12-15. One of his highlights from the 2018-19 campaign was his weight class title at the Wilkes Open on Dec. 22, 2018.

Correnti, a Delran, New Jersey, native, competed at Holy Cross Academy. Like many Rutgers wrestlers, he has a state title to his name, as he won the 220-pound championship in his senior season. Intermat tapped him as the 54th best recruit in the nation while he was No. 5 at the 220-pound weight class.

A Junior All-American, Correnti made a name for himself as a true freshman in the 2016-17 season. He captured a sixth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships in 2017, earning him an at-large bid to the national tournament. 

The following season as a redshirt freshman, Correnti went 3-1 at the East Stroudsburg Open. At the Wilkes Open in the 2017-18 season, he was a second-place finisher with a 4-1 record.

Correnti’s first bout as a heavyweight was back on Jan. 10 when the Knights visited Ohio State. He took the No. 5 Buckeyes’ (10-4, 6-3) Gary Traub, then ranked No. 19 in the nation, to extra time. Traub muscled out a 4-2 decision. 

Correnti’s first victory at the heavyweight class was on Jan. 24 against Indiana’s Jake Kleimola. The new heavyweight pinned his Hoosier (2-10, 1-8) opponent 1:26 minutes into the bout.

His second bout was a different story, though. He wrestled a tight match against Purdue’s Thomas Penola on Jan. 26, but couldn’t come away with the victory. Penola won 6-4 in extra periods.

In his final regular season bout on Feb. 23, Correnti avenged this defeat with a 6-3 victory over Princeton’s Aidan Connor. 

Correnti also won 10 matches as a 197-pounder, finishing that period of his season with a 10-3 record. He had two pins in that weight class, including a major decision over Campbell’s Austin McNeill in the Navy Classic. Correnti also pinned Chattanooga’s Logan Andrew 1:18 minutes into the bout at the Southern Scuffle. 

Goodale could opt for either Correnti or Esposito at the heavyweight spot next weekend, when the Rutgers Athletic Center hosts the Big Ten Championships. Esposito pinned Northwestern’s Jack Heyob on Feb. 14 to conclude his regular season. 

The heavyweight class, like many others for the Championships, is dominated by Big Ten wrestlers. Minnesota’s Gable Steveson tops the heavyweight class on InterMat Wrestling’s rankings. Michigan’s Mason Parris, who secured three victories in Pittsburgh at the NCAA Championships this past March, is No. 2. Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi follows at the third spot and Wisconsin’s Trent Hillger rounds out the list of conference wrestlers ranked inside the top 10 Nebraska’s David Jensen is 15th in the country.

Colucci was Rutgers’ heavyweight representative at last year’s conference tournament. In the first round, he lost to Stevenson, a 21-6 technical fall. In wrestlebacks, Colucci defeated Michigan State’s Chase Beard before losing to Jensen of the Cornhuskers (11-3, 6-3). 

Penn State’s Anthony Cassar won the heavyweight Big Ten title last year and is 5-0 on the season. He missed the first portion of the season with an injury. 

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

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