Maryland came into the match having dropped their last two duals against Navy and Lehigh. Rutgers came in ranked as a top 25 team but they had lost their last four duals in a row. However, all of those duals came against top 15 teams and three of the four were in the top five in the country.
As an aside, Maryland was trying to hold off the dubious distinction of being the first Maryland non-revenue sports team to lose to Rutgers in head-to-head competition since Maryland and Rutgers joined the Big Ten. This dual was close throughout and there were a multitude of 50-50 moments that ultimately changed the course of the dual. Let's go through it together.
Josh Polacek battled Sean McCabe tough to open the dual. After a scoreless first period, Polacek rode McCabe for 1:25 before McCabe was able to escape. Polacek got taken down with under 45 seconds left in the 3rd period and had his riding time advantage neutralized as McCabe rode him out for the duration of the match to win 3-1.
If Polacek had able to hold off McCabe for the final minute, he would have won the match 2-1 and given Maryland a 3-0 lead to start the dual. It was a 50-50 moment and Maryland would come out on the losing side of most of them in the dual.
Geoffrey Alexander has been one of the bright spots on the Maryland wrestling team this season and he took on Scott DelVecchio. The ref showed that he wanted to encourage action in the match and in every match thereafter because he warned DelVecchio for stalling just 1:10 seconds into the match.
DelVecchio blasted through for a low double to take down Alexander with 35 seconds left in the first but Alexander quickly escaped. Alexander trailed 2-1 going into the 2nd. DelVecchio escaped in just six seconds and looked to get in on another deep shot but Alexander was able to scramble to a stalemate position.
DelVecchio was relentless from the neutral position and took Alexander down again with under a minute to go in the second period. DelVecchio led 5-2 going into the third period and Alexander took down to start the third. DelVecchio hit a big mat return but was unable to gain the riding time advantage on Alexander. With 1:28 left in the match, Alexander only trailed 5-3.
DelVecchio hit a re-shot and took Alexander down and built over a minute of riding time. DelVecchio secured the riding time point and had a de facto 8-3 lead with 22 seconds left in the match. Alexander escaped but DelVecchio took him down with a single and won a 10-4 decision. It was an unusual match to see Alexander get beat in that fashion. He hadn't lost a match since the Midlands and he hadn't lost a dual match since December 11th against Penn State. Alexander simply wasn't himself out there on the mat today and it showed.
One of Maryland's other stars took the mat at 141 as Shyheim Brown battled top-10 Anthony Ashnault. After a scoreless first period, Brown was on bottom to start the second. Ashnault did a good job in stopping Brown's first move and returning him to the mat . Ashnault drove Brown off the mat to avoid letting him go and was hit with stalling. It was a calculated risk but it allowed Ashnault to get another ten seconds of riding time before Brown eventually escaped.
Ashnault scored on a single and rode Brown out for another 20 seconds or so to take a 3-1 lead going into the third with 1:11 riding time. Brown was warned for stalling with under a minute to go. Brown never really seriously threatened Ashnault in the final minute and lost a 3-1 decision. At this point, the dual looked bleak for Maryland as two of their best three wrestlers had gone down back-to-back.
Shane Arechiga found out the day before the match that he would be starting and took on Ken Theobold at 149. It was all Theobold fairly quickly. Theobold took a 5-0 lead lead and then turned Arechiga repeatedly in the second. Theobold had a 13-0 lead going into the third and got a takedown to get the tech. He had a 4:30 seconds of riding time and got the 16-0 tech fall to give Rutgers a 14-0 lead.
Maryland got a huge boost from Lou Mascola at 157 to keep the match from becoming a laugher.
157 was pretty much the same as 149 except it was all Lou Mascola. Mascola got Maryland's first takedown of the match in the first period and went to the second up 4-1. Mascola reversed and turned Perrotti twice in the second period to take a huge 15-1 lead with 2:21 of riding time. Mascola escaped to get the tech 16-1 and with the riding time advantage, he won 17-1. That put Maryland on the board but they still trailed 14-5 going into the intermission.
Since placing at the Midlands, Mascola has been a bonus points machine. He had a major decision against Harvard, another one against Navy and he added a tech-fall today.
Nick Visicaro came out for Rutgers at 165 and Maryland sent out Tyler Manion. After a scoreless first period, Manion earned an escape just six seconds into the period to take a 1-0 lead. Manion and Visicaro got into a great scramble at the end of the period and the score was 1-1 because Manion had been called for stalling twice. Visicaro escaped to take a 2-1 lead.
Manion didn't showcase the same aggressiveness that he did earlier on in the match. Manion hit a single late in the third period but couldn't build off of it and Visicaro scored with his defense by extending Manion out and getting behind him. Visicaro won 4-1 to push the Rutgers lead to 12.
Manion wrestled a tough match early on and got in on some shots where it looked like he would finish and take control of the match but came up short each time.
Phil Bakuckas took on Josh Snook (who placed 4th at the Midlands but lost his last two dual matches against Harvard and Navy) at 174. Bakuckas and Snook got into a phenomenal scramble position that lasted for almost two minutes but Bakuckas came out on top with the takedown. Snook has been wrestling hurt for much of the season but he gutted this match out.
It seemed like Bakuckas was about to get out but Snook rolled back to get a three point near-fall. Bakuckas eventually escaped and the score was tied 3-3. Snook was warned for stalling with under 50 seconds left to go in the 2nd period. Bakuckas had ten seconds of riding time and Snook was on bottom to start the third period. Bakuckas rode Snook for 1:16 before a stalemate was called.
Bakuckas ran Snook towards the edge of the mat as he courageously got to his feet in the final seconds. With eight seconds left, Bakuckas managed to run out the clock on Snook and won by a 4-3 decision. 174 was probably one of the most entertaining and tightly contested matches in the dual. Snook and Bakuckas both wrestled a really good match.
Anthony Gardner took the mat for Maryland at 184 with Maryland in a 20-5 hole. Anthony Pafumi came out and both guys battled hard early on but Pafumi was able to score off of a single leg attack about halfway through the first period. Gardner escaped with under 30 seconds left and it was 2-1 Pafumi going into the second.
Gardner got to his feet repeatedly and escaped to tie it up 2-2 but Pafumi took Gardner down again and rode him out to take a 4-2 lead going into the second period and he had racked up two minutes of riding time. Pafumi escaped in seven seconds.
Pafumi spent most of the remaining time in the period stalking Gardner around the mat. Gardner tried a desperate roll attempt to try and catch Pafumi after Pafumi had shot in for a single leg. He got caught and Pafumi added 5 points to get the 11-2 major decision with his riding time. Pafumi's win clinched the dual win for Rutgers.
Rob Fitzgerald took on Andrew Campolattano at 197 with the dual result already decided since Rutgers led 24-5. Campolattano took Fitzgerald down in the first but Fitzgerald was able to escape. It was 2-1 going into the second. Campolattano escaped in about 25 seconds to take a 3-1 lead. Fitzgerald hit a very nice single leg but Campolattano had great shot defense and was able to stave off Fitzgerald's attack.
Fitzgerald was on bottom to start the third and Campolattano returned him to the mat three times in the same exact way to prevent him from getting up. Campolattano went over the minute of riding time and cut Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald hit a low single to take a 4-3 lead and erase the ride time. Campolattano escaped but Fitzgerald hit another takedown with under 10 seconds left that brought the Maryland crowd to its feet. They didn't have a lot to cheer about today and it was a great moment for them and a great match.
Rutgers had already wrapped up the win going into heavyweight so this match was different than the last two that Spencer Myers wrestled in for Maryland. Myers won 2-0 to beat Harvard in a match that was all tied up and he won 6-0 against Navy when he needed a pin to get the dual win.
Billy Smith and Myers are both ranked in the top-15 in the country and this was a good early test to see how Myers will do against his peers in the Big Ten before he gets into the meat of the Big Ten schedule.
After a scoreless first period, Myers hit a nice mat return on Smith but Smith escaped in 12 seconds to take a 1-0 lead. Neither wrestler scored after that and Myers took down to start the third. This one had the smell of overtime when the third period started.
It was disappointing to hear the Rutgers fans above the Maryland fans for most of the match but both fan bases were pretty vocal in this one. Smith was hit with stalling twice in the third period much to the chagrin of the Rutgers coaches and fans because they felt that Smith was in a wrestling position and didn't appear to be stalling.
Maryland's Kerry McCoy asked for a video review because he thought that Smith was guilty of a locked hands call that would have given Myers a 2-1 lead with 18 seconds remaining. Smith had the riding time locked up and needed to ride Myers out for 18 seconds to get the 2-1 decision win. Smith got hit with stalling for a third time and Myers took a 2-1 lead but it ended up 2-2 with the riding time so it did go into overtime.
Neither wrestler scored in the first sudden victory period and on it went to the tie-breaks. Myers got hit with stalling with two seconds left in his ride-out to give Smith a 3-2 lead. Myers took bottom and got to his feet twice but action went out of bounds. Myers had 11 seconds to get away and he did just that with about three seconds to go. The action went to the second sudden victory period.
Myers blasted through for a double leg with 25 seconds left in the sudden victory overtime to win 5-3 for a feel-good match that was all Rutgers early on. Maryland came away with two decision wins in the last two matches but at the end of the dual it was 24-11 Rutgers. This win was as much about heart and desire as it was talent and Myers had it in spades.
"It was a good match. We knew it was going to be tough starting off," said McCoy after the dual.
That it was. Maryland came tantalizing close to beating a top-25 Rutgers team if some key moments in some key matches had gone their way. Maryland lost 3-1 at 125, got upset at 133, lost 3-1 at 141, lost 4-1 at 165 and lost 4-3 at 174. They won 6-4 at 197 and 5-3 in the second sudden victory overtime period at Heavyweight.
There was a key moment in every one of those matches that could have turned the tide. Polacek was taken down with under a minute left and had his riding time neutralized. Alexander was upset 10-4 by DelVecchio. McCoy said that Alexander wasn't fully committing to his shots and was just a little bit off. McCoy said, "Those were two that we were hoping to get."
McCoy said that his guys put themselves in position to win. A pattern that McCoy noticed was that the "...mindset consistently was going out there to see what happens. I really think today was as much of a battle of wills as possible...I think Rutgers wanted to win a little bit more and went out to win the match. Their pace and their style in most matches kind of overwhelmed our pace and our style."
McCoy was pleased that the Terps were able to take the last two matches of the dual saying, "Great job by Fitz coming out and beating a really seasoned guy and Spence, with two weeks on the mat, beats a guy that is ranked 8th or 9th in the country in dramatic fashion. Rob Fitzgerald is one of the most committed dedicated guys we have in our starting line-up."
McCoy had a hunch that they would see a lot of rematches soon saying, "I have a feeling that there is going to be a lot of Maryland-Rutgers match-ups in the first and second rounds of the conference tournament."
Maryland's next opponent is Ohio State, a top-10 team whose three losses have come by a combined six points against teams that are all in the top-5. McCoy had one thing that he wants the Terps to go out and do next Sunday, "Go out and fight. Don't take a backseat to anybody. I don't care what their rankings are. I don't care what color their singlets are. We just got to go out and fight."