Last year's 149-point national champion Anthony Ashnault fires up the Rutgers fans before Friday night's match against Cornell. Asbury Park Press
PISCATAWAY - A late rally was not enough to overcome a costly stretch early in the match for the Rutgers University wrestling team Friday night against Cornell.
Cornell won five straight bouts from 133-165 to build a 15-point lead and then held on, despite Rutgers' surge in the final four bouts, in an 18-16 victory for the visiting Big Red in a nonconference match before a crowd of 4,592 at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
A 6-3 win by heavyweight Alex Esposito in the final bout was an impressive personal win for Esposito, a former Cranford High School star, but it was not enough for Rutgers to win the match. The Scarlet Knights needed a pin.
The two bouts that did in Rutgers (7-2) came at 141 and 149 pounds. Cornell (6-4) collected a decision and a pin in those bouts. Rutgers was winning both of those bouts in the third period. Those two bouts left Rutgers with no margin for error in the late bouts.
"I think it's one we let get away,'' said Rutgers' coach Scott Goodale.
At 149, redshirt freshman Gerard Angelo(11-8) led Hunter Richard (14-7) 3-1 nearing the midway point of he third period, when off a scramble, Richard bear-hugged Angelo to the mat and recorded the pin with 1:06 left.
"I think all up and down, we've got to kind of manage the match better,'' Goodale said. "You've got to have a feel. You get taken down there and make 3-3, and you can get out and still win the match. You can't get pinned, though.''
Before that, Cornell 141-pounder Noah Baughman (141) recorded a last-second come-from-behind 6-4 win over freshman JoJo Aragona.
Aragona (9-5), the 2019 NJSIAA 138-pound champion at Pope John, led 4-2 when Baughman recorded a tying takedown at the right edge of the mat with 16.8 seconds left.
Then, after a restart with 13.6 seconds left, Baughman put Aragona to his back at the right edge of the mat for two back points.
''We need to stop looking at the clock because it's not going any faster,'' said Goodale, about the 141-pound bout. "We need to dominant the hand fight so much so you're the aggressor. When you start looking at that thing to bleed - that clock to bleed - you end up losing big matches, and that's what happened.''
Cornell led 18-3 after Cornell's Jakob Brindley (4-5) defeated Brett Donner 5-3 at 165 on a takedown with 50.4 seconds left.
Rutgers then dominated the upper weights.
Redshirt junior Joe Grello (174), red-hot Billy Janzer (184),ranked No. 25 at 184 and sixth-year senior Jordan Pagano (197) all recorded dominant wins.
Janzer, ranked No. 25 at 184, defeated No. 19 Jonathan Loew 10-4 with two takedowns in both the first and second periods. .
It was third straight win over a ranked wrestler for Janzer, who was a two-time NJSIAA champion in 2017 and 2018 at Delsea.
Pagano did everything he could to try and pin Jonathan Fagen in a 12-0 major decision that pulled Rutgers within 18-13.
Fagen (6-5) might have been an unsung hero for Cornell in avoiding the pin as Pagano overpowered him.
Esposito was aggressive in his win.
Before the bouts at 141 and 149, Cornell's Charles Tucker (20-0), ranked No. 4 in the nation at 133, won the featured bout of the match by defeating Rutgers' Sammy Alvarez, ranked No. 9, 3-2
Tucker recorded the only takedown of the bout midway in the second period and escaped three seconds into the third.
Alvarez (17-5), who suffered his first loss of the season in eight bouts against wrestlers, ranked by Intermat, showed great balance and hips in fighting off several takedown attempts by Tucker during the match.
Ranked No. 9 in the nation, Alvarez, the 2019 NJSIAA 126-pound champion during his senior season at St. Joseph (Montvale) had a chance for a reversal in the second period after Tucker's takedown, but a potentially dangerous called halted the action.
"We have to be patient with these young guys,'' said Goodale, whose team wrestles at four-time defending national champion and No. 2 ranked nationally Penn State Sunday at 5 p.m on ESPN2. "You can't really use the age as an excuse because freshman are winning national titles.
"But, the bottom line is we have to be patient. They're going to be in a lot bigger spots as they go forward. I'm proud of this team. They've worked really, really hard to get to this point. ''
CHAMPIONSHIP BANNERS UNVEILED
Championship banners were unveiled for 2019 national champions Nick Suriano and Anthony Ashnault before the match.
Those two are the only wrestling national champions Rutgers has ever had.
Suriano, who was the 133-pound national champion, is taking an Olympic redshirt year as he prepares for the United States Olympic Trials April 4-5 at the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus of Penn State. Suriano will try to qualify for the Olympics at 57 kg.
Ashnault won the 149-pound national championship. He is preparing for the Last Chance Qualifier March 27 at Millersville, Pa. in an attempt to qualify for the Olympic Trials.
He was at the ceremony and led the crowd at the RAC in a R-U, R-U chant.
Suriano is currently training in Italy.
Cornell 18, Rutgers 16
125: Nicolas Aguilar (R) d. Dominic LaJoie 11-5.
133: Charles Tucker (C) d. Sammy Alvarez 3-2.
141: Noah Baughman (C) d. JoJo Aragona 6-4.
149: Hunter Richard (C) p. Gerard Angelo 5:54.
157: Adam Santoro (C) d. Michael Van Brill 9-4.
165: Jakob Brindley (C) d. Brett Donner 5-3.
174: Joseph Grello (R) d. Milik Dawkins 7-2.
184: Billy Janzer (R) d. Jonathan Loew 10-4.
197: Jordan Pagano (R) md. Jonathan Fagen 12-0.
HWT: Alex Esposito (R) d. Brendan Furman 6-3.
Steven Falk covers scholastic football, wrestling and baseball for app.com and is a life-long resident of the Shore area who loves the rich history of sports in the Shore area 732-643-4267; email@example.com.