PISCATAWAY – It was not a good matchup on paper for the Rutgers University wrestling team entering Sunday’s Big Ten Conference match against Northwestern at Jersey Mike’s Arena
It played out that way on the mat as the Wildcats won the first seven bouts, eight of 10 overall and recorded a 28-6 win.
The strength of Rutgers’ lineup through the first four Big Ten matches was 125 pounds-141 with redshirt freshman Dean Peterson (125), graduate student Joe Heilmann (133) and sophomore Joey Olivieri (141). Those three were a combined 10-2 in Big Ten matches before Sunday. Peterson and Olivieri were both 4-0 in Big Ten matches.
However, Northwestern’s three wrestlers – redshirt senior Michael DeAugustino (125), redshirt junior Chris Cannon (133) and redshirt sophomore Frankie Tal Shahar were all ranked higher than the Rutgers’ trio. DeAugustino and Cannon are returning NCAA All-Americans and Tal Shahar is a returning NCAA qualifier.
The Wildcats won all three weights and they allowed just one reversal in the three bouts. The wins were by a combined six points, but the wins took any suspense and drama out of the match.
As strange as it may be, even though Northwestern (5-2, 4-2) is ranked 14th in the country and Michigan was ranked No. 3 when it wrestled Rutgers on Jan. 22 and is currently ranked No. 7, the Scarlet Knights (9-5, 1-4) matched up better with Michigan than they did against Northwestern because two of the Wildcats’ three lower weights were ranked higher than Michigan’s were. Rutgers won two of the first three weights against Michigan in a 24-9 defeat.
Sunday was the perfect example that matchups are everything in wrestling dual meets.
DeAugustino, the NCAA fourth-place finisher at 125 last year, hung on for a hard-fought 3-2 win over Peterson.
Peterson was close to a takedown as the buzzer sounded, but it was not awarded and the challenge by Rutgers’ head coach Scott Goodale was denied even though the crowd chanted loudly “2” to signify the takedown should be awarded. The crowd booed loudly when the challenge was denied.
A takedown 33 seconds into the bout was the difference for DeAugustino was the difference.
Cannon, seventh in the country at 133 the last two seasons, defeated Heilmann 7-3.
Cannon, a former Blair Academy wrestler and Oceanport native, pulled away from a 3-3 tie after two periods with an escape, takedown and riding time point.
Tal Shahar defeated Olivieri 5-3 with takedowns in the second and third periods.
SOLDANO WITH LATE MAGIC
There was a real chance Rutgers was going to get shutout with three bouts remaining before freshman Brian Soldano (184) came up with some late heroics.
Tied 5-5 with Evan Bates and with sudden victory on the horizon, Soldano turned Bates to his back four back points in the final 20 seconds to record a 9-5 win and break a three-bout losing streak
It was the second time Soldano had defeated Bates in dramatic fashion this season. He pinned in a Midlands Championship quarterfinal when he flipped Bates to his back in a bout Bates was leading 14-8 at the time and had had Soldano on his back a couple of times.
Through the first five bouts, Northwestern allowed just two reversals and no takedowns.
JANZER CONTINUES TO PROGRESS
Redshirt junior 197-pounder Billy Janzer continued to show he is turning the corner with a 3-1 win in sudden victory over returning NCAA qualifier Andrew Davison.
It was the second straight win for Janzer (5-8), who was an NCAA qualifier at 184 in 2020, when the pandemic canceled the national tournament, and in 2021, before he was redshirt last season with injuries.
TWO THAT GOT AWAY
Rutgers was in position to win at both 165 and 174 and make the match a lot closer, but Robert Kanniard (165) and Jackson Turley (174), both let leads get away late.
The one at 174 was particularly galling for Rutgers as Turley built a six-point lead in the first period against Troy Fisher when he threw Fisher to his back. He almost had Fisher pinned.
However, Fisher chipped away with five takedowns in the second and third periods to record an 11-10 win. The winning takedown came with 30 seconds left.
Before that, it looked like Kanniard was going to make a successful return to the Rutgers lineup after he missed the last three matches with a knee injury, according to his mother Lisa.
However, a takedown and four back points by Maxx Mayfield in the final nine seconds enabled him to record a 9-4 win.
The bout was tied 3-3 and Kanniard had the riding time point locked after he rode Maxfield for the last 54 seconds of the first period after a takedown, which was Rutgers’ first takedown of the match, and the first 1:37 of the second.
But, off an extended scramble Mayfield finally got the takedown and put Kanniard to his back.
More:Rutgers wrestling edges Michigan State for badly needed win
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NORTHWESTERN 28, RUTGERS 6
125: Michael DeAugustino (N) d. Dean Peterson 3-2
133: Chris Cannon (N) d. Joe Heilmann 7-3
141: Frankie Tal Shahar (N) d. Joey Olivieri 5-3.
149: Yahya Thomas (N) md. Anthony White 12-4
157: Trevor Chumbley (N) d. Andrew Clark 5-3.
165: Maxx Mayfield (N) d. Robert Kanniard 9-4.
174: Troy Fisher (N) d. Jackson Turley 11-10
184: Brian Soldano (R) d. Evan Bates 9-5.
197: Billy Janzer (R) d. Andrew Davison 3-1 (Sudden Victory)
HWT: Lucas Davison (N) p. Kyle Epperly 4:44