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Rutgers Scores Win on Liberty's Senior Night
With the victory, the Scarlet Knights continue their unprecedented run, as the win pushed Rutgers' record to 17-4-1 on the season and keeps the squad unbeaten in its last 13 duals.
With the three points from Knowles at 184 pounds, Liberty kept itself from suffering its second shutout in program history, as the Flames have scored team points in 369 of the program's 370 dual matches. The lone shutout for the Flames, who are now 9-9 on the year, came in a 41-0 loss to No. 14 Illinois at the Wendy's Big Classic Duals on Jan. 20, 2008.
Rutgers wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, as Joseph Langel picked up his team-leading 15th win in a row with a 9-1 major decision over Jonathan Childress at 125 pounds.
The redshirt freshman scored three takedowns, including two during the final two minutes, to go along with a second-period reversal and 4:55 of riding time to move to 9-0 in the match with a major decision outcome.
At 133 pounds, the bout between Liberty's Joe Pantaleo and Rutgers' Bill Ashnault remained scoreless after three minutes of action. The Scarlet Knights' grappler got on the board first with an escape point just seconds into the middle period.
After adding two more points with a two-point takedown with 45 seconds left in the second, Ashnault used the move to end the bout with his 11th win by fall at 4:20 and pushed the visitor's dual lead to 10-0.
One of the closest bouts of the evening remained neck-and-neck throughout, as the 141-pound matchup was not decided until the final 60 seconds.
The bout between Liberty's Scott Clymer and Rutgers' Trevor Melde was tied 2-2 after the first and 4-4 following five minutes of action. Clymer jumped out to a 7-4 lead thanks to an early escape in the third and a takedown with 1:17 left in the match.
However, Melde was able to reverse control 20 seconds later with a move that led to three near-fall points and secured the sophomore's 22nd win of the season in a 10-8 decision.
Frankie Gayeski took to the mat next with the senior looking to end Liberty's drought and pick up his team-leading 23rd victory during his last appearance in the Vines Center.
But the Scarlet Knights' David Greenwald quickly kept the senior captain from picking up one more win in front of his hometown crown, when Greenwald pinned Gayeski in just 60 seconds to up Rutgers' margin to 19-0 with his 10th win by fall this season.
Fellow senior Shaun Smith followed directly after Gayeski, with the four-year member of the roster looking to join Liberty's Eagle Medal Club at the Bronze level in his final home bout.
Daryl Cocozzo jumped out to a 5-0 lead with a first-period takedown with three near-fall points in the 157-pound bout. After a second-period escape, Cocozzo pushed his lead to 8-0 with a takedown in the third. Smith finally got away from Cocozzo's grasp with 30 seconds left, but it was too late for the senior to score his 60th career win, as Rutger's redshirt junior was able to take the 9-1 major decision win.
Following the 157-pound bout, Liberty honored its four-member senior class during the halftime break. Gayeski and Smith were joined by fellow seniors Collin Lewis (141 pounds) and Sean Katz (133 pounds), as the quartet were recognized for their career efforts during the 10-minute break.
Shortly thereafter, the dual returned to action at 165 pounds and Liberty's Joseph Bayer gave the Flames their first lead of the night with a takedown 50 seconds into his matchup with Gregory Zannetti.
The Rutgers wrestler slipped away from Bayer 40 ticks later and added a takedown in the waning seconds of the first period to open up a 3-2 lead after three minutes.
Starting from the down position, Zannetti was able to reversal control 48 seconds in the middle period and just seconds later scored six team points with a win by fall at 4:01, which was his 18th victory of the year.
Liberty's Brad Clark and Rutgers' Daniel Rinaldi gave the Vines Center crowd one of the most exciting matchups of the evening at 174 pounds, which saw Clark nearly pin Rinaldi in the first period.
Just seconds in the bout, Clark made a move on Rinaldi and held him down for the next 2:20 to score three near-fall points. But Rinaldi was able to stave off the whistle and score a reversal with 20 seconds left in the first.
Rinaldi added an escape and a takedown in the second period to knot the bout at 5-5 with two minutes remaining. Clark momentarily took the lead with an early escape, but Rinaldi scored the bout's decisive points with a takedown at the 6:00 mark to secure the 7-6 decision.
Knowles came out gunning for his 14th win of the year, as the junior scored three takedowns during the opening three minutes to jump out to a 6-3 lead at 184 pounds. Jesse Boyden was able to trim the deficit to two points with a second-period escape.
However, Knowles made sure to give his team dual points, when he opened the final two minutes with a quick escape and a fourth takedown of the bout with 45 seconds left, allowing him to claim the 7-4 victory and put the Flames on the scoreboard.
Rutgers closed out the dual with its top two athletes, starting with Lamar Brown, who is ranked No. 18 in the country at 197 pounds. The redshirt senior needed nearly the entire seven minutes to secure a hard-fought 3-2 decision win over Jacobi Johnson.
Neither grappler could find the scoreboard during the opening three minutes, while an escape and a takedown allowed Brown to jump out to a 3-1 lead in the second.
Johnson pulled within a point with a quick escape to open the third and nearly score the decisive two points late in the period, but the nationally ranked senior was able to fend off his charges and pick up his 20th victory of the season.
Looking to cap off their 17th dual win of the season, Rutgers sent team-leader Dominick Russo out onto the mats to square off against Liberty's Josh Pelletier at heavyweight.
The No. 8 ranked grappler in the country scored the bout's first points with 1:10 left in the first and added three near-fall points 30 seconds later to lead 5-0 after the first.
Neither wrestler could score points during the second, while Russo secured his 12th victory in a row and 26th of the season with a third-period reversal to score the 8-0 major decision win. For Pelletier, it marked the junior's fourth loss in six setbacks to top-ranked grapplers.
The Flames will have nearly a week away from the wrestling mat, as Liberty is slated to travel to Fairfax, Va., next Thursday to square off with George Mason. Match time is set for 7 p.m. inside the Field House.
The two programs have split dual matches, with the road team proving to be the victor in each matchup. Last year, Liberty and George Mason each took five bouts, but the Flames secured bonus points in four of their five wins to claim a 23-19 decision on Feb. 17.