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RU Wrestling: Ashnault Advances to BIG Championship Final as Nine Knights Qualify for NCAAs

Wrestling at the 2016 Big Ten Championships - Session One / March 5, 2016 / Iowa City, Iowa Credits: Mark Lundy,

IOWA CITY, Iowa – No. 10 Rutgers Wrestling qualified nine Scarlet Knights for the NCAA Championships and secured the program’s first Big Ten Wrestling Championships finalist in 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault (South Plainfield, N.J.) in an historic Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Scarlet Knights enter the final day of the tournament fifth in the team standings with 90.5 points, behind No. 1 Penn State (137), No. 2 Iowa (106), No. 3 Ohio State (100) and No. 4 Nebraska (97.5).

“I knew we were capable. It means a lot,” said head coach Scott Goodale of his team’s performance Saturday. “Everything we’ve talked about and worked on and tried to peak for has come to fruition and here we are now. But we’ve got to finish it tomorrow. It won’t mean the same if we have a bad day tomorrow so we really want to capitalize. But it’s pretty cool to be in the thick of it in the best conference in the country.”

2016 Big Ten Wrestling Championships
Saturday, March 5 – Sunday, March 6
Carver-Hawkeye Arena | Iowa City, Iowa
Day One Brackets: Click Here
Day One Team Scores: Click Here
Live Stream (BTN Plus): Mat Links
TV (Championship Finals): BTN
Live Results:
Live Updates: Twitter – @RUWrestling

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The nine NCAA qualifiers is a new program record, with every grappler from 133 pounds to heavyweight punching their tickets to the 2016 NCAA Championships from March 17-19 in New York City. In the second session Saturday, Rutgers went a combined 15-3. The list of automatic NCAA qualifiers after day one is listed below:

2016 NCAA Championships Qualifiers
133 Pounds - Anthony Giraldo (Guttenberg, N.J.)*
141 Pounds –Anthony Ashnault (South Plainfield, N.J.)**
149 Pounds –Tyson Dippery (Harrisburg, Pa.)*
157 Pounds –Richie Lewis (Toms River, N.J.)*
165 Pounds –Anthony Perrotti (Roseland, N.J.)***
174 Pounds –Phillip Bakuckas (Hammonton, N.J.)*
184 Pounds –Nicholas Gravina (Allendale, N.J.)*
197 Pounds –Hayden Hrymack (Point Pleasant, N.J.)*
HWT –Billy Smith (Wantage, N.J.)****
*denotes number of NCAA qualifying bids in Rutgers career

125-pound redshirt junior Sean McCabe (Ronkonkoma, N.Y.) can make it all 10 Scarlet Knights at Madison Square Garden if he takes seventh place tomorrow in his match against No. 6 Johnny Jimenez (Wisconsin).

“It was one of the better rounds I’ve ever been a part of,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “We met as a group after that first round and knew that it could be a special night if we got on a roll. McCabe got us started and next thing you know we’re rolling. We treated it like a dual meet and wrestled for each other and that was the coolest thing that went on tonight. Everybody was into each other’s matches.”

“We’ve got to get one more through tomorrow. Like I told our guys tonight, tomorrow is a really important day. We’ve got to climb the ladder and wrestle really, really well.”

Ashnault (27-2) beat No. 7 Danny Sabatello (Purdue), 8-4, in the championship semifinals to reach his first Big Ten Championship final. He wrestles eighth-seeded Jimmy Gulibon of Penn State tomorrow night for the first time in his career on Big Ten Network. The final session begins at 4 p.m. EST.

“It’s a big match with the opportunity to win a Big Ten title,” Goodale said. “They don’t come around very often. We’ve got guys that feel they can win this tournament and this is another step in the direction of showing that it can be done. He’ll be excited for it. He’ll be geared up.”

A host of Scarlet Knights will begin the second day of the tournament in the consolation semifinals.

Smith (26-7) ended the day on top for Rutgers with a decision against Wisconsin’s Brock Horwath – the 100th in his career at Rutgers. The victory secured Smith’s fourth-straight NCAA Championships bid, making him the fourth Scarlet Knight in program history to accomplish that feat. He wrestles No. 6 Collin Jensen (Nebraska) Sunday in the consolation semifinals.

Giraldo (17-12) defeated two opponents he lost two in the regular season in No. 8 Rossi Bruno (Michigan) and No. 4 Geoffrey Alexander (Maryland) to earn his spot at nationals and move onto the consolation semifinals. The Scarlet Knight draws another rematch in the consolation semifinals against No. 6 Ryan Taylor (Wisconsin).

Dippery (18-11), Lewis (25-4), Gravina (20-8) and Hrymack (18-11) made it six Scarlet Knights total that went 2-0 in the second session of the tournament. Among the four are three rematches from this season, with Gravina set to wrestle No. 2 Matt McCutcheon (Penn State) for the first time in his career.

Bakuckas (17-13) went 1-1 in the second session and will wrestle for seventh Sunday. He scored a 13-0 major decision over No. 10 Mitch Sliga (Northwestern) and suffered a 3-2 loss to No. 5 Nate Jackson (Indiana).

Perrotti (21-4) lost by injury default in the semifinals at 165 pounds versus No. 1 Isaac Jordan and will medical forfeit Sunday. The result lands him on the sixth-place spot of the championships podium.

Session I
Ashnault won his first two matches of the day to advance to the semifinals. Following a first-round bye, Perrotti locked up his second win by fall over No. 5 Chad Welch (Purdue) to join Ashnault as RU’s only two semifinalist of the tournament.

With the early wins, both wrestlers automatically qualified for the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The South Plainfield HS product pinned Michigan’s George Fisher (3:40) and scored 5-2 decision against Nebraska rival Anthony Abidin in the first and second rounds.

Six other Scarlet Knights made runs to the quarterfinals in session one, but missed their shots at semifinal appearances with a loss. Closest were Lewis and Smith, who had victory within their grasps before losing in tiebreakers.

Smith fell to fifth-seeded Michael Kroells (Minnesota) by two seconds of riding timing in TB-2. The match ended in a 3-3 tie but Kroells held Smith down by a fraction for the win.

No. 6 Brian Murphy (Michigan) escaped Lewis’s grip in the opening 30 seconds and kept the Scarlet Knight on the mat for another 30 seconds in a 2-1 tiebreaker win.

Bakuckas, Gravina, and Hrymack recorded decision victories in their opening matches and lost in the quarterfinals.

Bakuckas redeemed himself from a January loss to No. 8 Ricky Robertson (Wisconsin) with a 2-0 decision. The Hammonton HS product led, 1-0, entering the third period and rode Robertson out to secure the 2-0 victory.

Hrymack also earned revenge with a 5-3 win against Purdue’s Drake Stein, who won by fall against the Scarlet Knight in dual competition.

Gravina shut out Purdue’s Tanner Lynde in a 6-0 win with a third-period ride out in the championship first round.

At 133 pounds, Giraldo fell to No. 7 Johnni DiJulius (Oho State) by a 5-1 final.

McCabe (14-12) dropped his match to defending Big Ten and NCAA champ Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) at 125 pounds and Dippery lost his opener to No. 5 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan), 6-2.

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