The best collegiate wrestlers in the country are all gearing up for the NCAA Wrestling Championships, and one of South Plainfield’s own will enter his bracket as the number one-seed.
Anthony Ashnault has been making Scarlet Knight history ever since he first joined Rutgers’ wrestling program, and even before he steps out on the mat in Pittsburgh on Thursday, he’ll already have achieved another first for Rutgers. The South Plainfield native was named the top-seed of the 149-pound bracket, which makes him Rutgers’ first ever NCAA tournament one-seed. Ashnault will enter the tournament with an undefeated record, and is coming off winning his third Big Ten conference title. Rutgers' previous highest ever seeds was earned by Emil Perona, who was the second-seed in the 1952 tournament.
The three-time All-American will be making his fourth appearance in the NCAA Championship, with his highest finish coming in 2016, where he finished fourth as a four-seed. The former South Plainfield standout has taken two wins over second-seeded Micah Jordan (Ohio State) and also has wins over third-seeded Mitch Finesliver (Duke), fifth-seeded Matthew Kolodzik (Princeton) seventh-seeded Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State), tenth-seeded Pat Lugo (Iowa), 19th-seeded Cole Martin (Wisconsin), and 20th-seeded Tommy Thorn (Minnesota). Ashnault is the only undefeated wrestler in his weight class, and one of just 12 in the tournament.
Ashnault will begin his tournament with a first round bout against the winner of the preliminary matchup between 32-seed Tanner Smith (Chattanooga) and 33-seed seed Malik Amine (Michigan).
Ashnault won’t be the only Scarlet Knight with a chance at a first-place finish, as Nick Suriano will be competing as third-seed at 133-pounds. .This year marks the first time Rutgers will have two wrestlers seeded among the top four in the same national tournament. Suriano will begin his tournament against Dylan Duncan (Illinois).
Six Scarlet Knights in all will be taking part in the national tournament. John Van Bril will be the 16th-seed at 157-pounds, while Nick Gravina is the 21-st at 184. Joe Grello is the 29th-seed at 174, and Peter Lipari will be competing as the 33-seed at 141-pounds.