Session IV Recap: Suriano/Ashnault One Win Away From History
Rutgers wrestling may not have come into the Friday night round of the NCAA tournament with many wrestlers, but the two they had wrestling are on a mission to make history. Nick Suriano and Anthony Ashnault both came into the evening being two wins away from being Rutgers’ first two national champions in program history. However, in order to get one step closer, Suriano would have to avenge a previous loss, and Ashnault would have to defeat an in-state rival once again.
Nick Suriano squared off with Michigan’s Stevan Micic. Micic defeated Suriano in the dual meet earlier this season, but the score did not quite reflect how the match was wrestled. In their first encounter, Suriano was the aggressor, taking multiple shot attempts as Micic played defense. Suriano however, was unable to finish on any of his shot attempts, as opposed to Micic, who scored on his lone leg attack of the match. Micic’s takedown would be the difference.
This time around, Suriano left no doubt as to who the better wrestler was. Suriano finished a double leg takedown with authority, planting Micic into the mat in the first period. A gritty ride, and a relentless hand fight gave Suriano to keep Micic at bay. Micic’s only score came off of an escape in what ended up being a 4 – 1 victory for Suriano.
Suriano will wrestle in the national finals for the second time in his career. Once again, Suriano will have to avenge another loss if he wants to be crowned the 133 – lb national champion. Coming from the opposite side of the bracket will be Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix. Fix and Suriano wrestled in what was called the “biggest wrestling match in New Jersey history”.
The historic match, however, was nothing more than anti-climatic. After several, and very long, replay reviews, the match ended with a hands-to-the-face call against Suriano. Fix walked away the victor in a 3-2 overtime decision.
In contrast to Suriano, Anthony Ashnault was going up against the adage of “it’s more difficult to beat someone a second time”. Ashnault had a rematch against Princeton’s Matthew Kolodzik in his 149 – lb semi-final. In their first meeting of the season, Ashnault dismantled the formerly top ranked Kolodzik in a dual meet. This time around, things were not as easy.
Ashnault, as opposed to first match with Kolodzik, was unable to get any offense going from his feet. The first period ended scoreless, but that was not a problem for Ashnault, as the Scarlet Knight is equally as dangerous in the top and bottom positions.
Ashnault escaped after choosing defense in the second period. Once again, after Ashnault got to his feet, he was unable to get a takedown. The second period ended with a 1 – 0 score, in favor of Anthony Ashnault.
Kolodzik opted to take defense as well – a decision that would come back to bite him. For two minutes, Anthony Ashnault did not allow Kolodzik to escape. His gritty ride kept the Princeton Tiger down for the entire third period, giving Ashnault an additional point for riding time. When the clock struck zero, the score read 2 – 0, giving Ashnault the victory, and a shot at a national title.
TKR was able to catch up with Coach Goodale last night, but he had very little to say. His message was short, and clear – showing that the culture has changed around Rutgers wrestling. It is no longer about celebrating being on the podium for Rutgers, it’s about being on the top of the podium.
“I’m excited for our guys, but we got work to do”, said the Rutgers wrestling head coach, “the job isn’t finished”.
If Suriano and Ashnault can get the job done this evening, they will become Rutgers wrestling’s first and second national champions in program history.