It was an exciting night at the RAC as two evenly matched B1G foes went at it with a mixture of highly ranked and new to the line up competitors. Even though I had Rutgers as a very slightly higher ranked team I thought that the matchups favored Illinois. As many tough matches do, I thought that Illinois would score more bonus and win close. I overlooked John Van Brill’s aggressive style when thinking through my projections.
Pre-match Interview with Illinois coach Jim Heffernan
Brandon Paetzell opened with a close win that was unexpected setting the table for Rutgers to take control early. Zane Richards looked more like a top 20 guy instead of a top 5 guy against DelVecchio, who opened up the match with a surprise takedown setting a scrappy tone early. Ashnault was dominant but his match strategy led to a major when a tech was possible and needed. Eric Barone just seemed to flat out want the match more than his opponent. I’m not sure if there were extenuating circumstances but the match was a toss up until the end. Giraldo got an early takedown and then looked tired or unmotivated for most of the next several minutes. JVB was down 7 early and came back with a variation of a cement job that gave his team 6 much needed points. The RAC went crazy and Van Brill was pumped center mat to say the least. I’ve said it earlier in the season keep an eye on this kid. He’s learning, wants it more than most and has a chip on his shoulder about being an overlooked recruit.
IMar put on a clinic for any kid watching. He keeps fantastic positions, has precise technique and is as mentally solid as it gets. 174 is another weight where I thought that desire won the match – Brunson won an evenly matched bout in SV on desire. The marquee match-up of ranked opponents came at 184. I had Gravina winning close – and it was, with Parker winning on a scrambling takedown in sudden victory. Parker made fewer mistakes and took advantage of Gravina’s missteps in position and tactics. I’d like to see that match again at B1G’s come March. The RAC was pretty quiet after this match. Illinois was up by 4 with two toss up matches coming up to decide things.
At 197 Lee came out upper body aggressive against Correnti and was put on his back twice in the first period for leaving his hips out of position. While he mounted a comeback it was to little and too late. The stage was set for the backup Illinois big man to take on the RU big man who has spent the last couple of years focusing solely on football with the dual outcome on the line. Both guys had moments where I thought they’d win. Gross appeared to want it just a bit more and dug deep to seal the deal. The RAC went crazy.
This dual had everything good sport should have: good athletes competing, an uncertain outcome and human desire to win as the deciding factor in victory. I love the RAC, the fan base is growing and is becoming more knowledgeable. Did I mention loud. There’s nothing like a passionate fan base cheering on their team.
125lbs: Brandon Paetzell (RU) over Travis Piotrowski (ILL), 3-2; RU up, 3-0
133lbs: #4 Zane Richards (ILL) over Scott DelVecchio (RU), 9-7; Dual tied, 3-3
141lbs: #6 Anthony Ashnault (RU) major decision over Mousa Jodeh (ILL); RU up, 7-3
149lbs: Eric Barone (ILL) over #20 Anthony Giraldo (RU), 5-3; RU up, 7-6
157lbs: #15 John Van Brill (RU) wins by fall over Kyle Langenderfer (ILL), 4:46; RU up, 13-6
165lbs: #1 Isaiah Martinez (ILL) tech fall over Willie Scott (RU), 24-8; RU up, 13-11
174lbs: #13 Zac Brunson (ILL) over Phillip Bakuckas (RU), 3-1 (SV); Illinois up, 14-13
184lbs: #13 Emery Parker (ILL) over #12 Nicholas Gravina (RU), 8-6 (SV); Illinois up 17-13
197lbs: Matthew Correnti (RU) over Andre Lee (ILL), 16-12; Illinois up, 17-16
285lbs: Razohnn Gross (RU) over Deuce Rachal (ILL), 3-2; Rutgers wins, 19-17
Officials: Nate Chapman and Jim Rivello-I’ve seen these guys before and they usually do a good job. It appeared to me that there was some inconsistency of calls during the match. The most noticeable was the drop down to the leg stalling calls or non calls. It’s a thankless job but someone has to do it.