IOWA CITY, Iowa – Former South Plainfield High School standout Anthony Ashnault has been making waves in NCAA wrestling ever since he joined the Rutgers wrestling team as a redshirt freshman last year. During today’s 2016 Big Ten Championships, Ashnault further etched his name in Rutgers’ history books.
As a three seed, Ashnault captured a Big Ten individual title at 141 pounds, making him the first Scarlet Knight ever to win a Big Ten conference title, and the last Rutgers grappler to get a conference title since Scott Winston in 2011.
Ashnault, who went undefeated during his four years as a South Plainfield Tiger, started off the tournament in Iowa City with a fall over Michigan’s George Fisher. After decision wins over both No. 6 Anthony Abidin of Nebraska and No.7 Danny Sabatello of Purdue, the third seeded 24-2 All-American found himself in the championship match against eighth seed Jimmy Gulibon of Penn State.
The championship match started off slowly, with both wrestlers feeling each other out in a scoreless first period. The turning point of the match came in the second period, where Ashnault took the top position in the second period. The former Tiger latched onto the Penn State wrestler, riding him out and picking up six points from two near fall tilts. In the match’s closing moments, Ashnault connected on a takedown off an ankle pick, and solidified his win and title.
The win puts Ashnault in a prime spot for success in the upcoming NCAA Championships at Madison Square Garden, which begins on March 17. Last year as a redshirt freshman, Ashnault finished the national tournament eighth with a 3-2 record, after suffering an injury in the seventh place match.
As a team, Rutgers secured automatic NCAA Championship qualifiers for nine of its 10 wrestlers, and had seven other place winners in Billy Smith (4th at HW), Hayden Hrymack, (6th at 197) Nick Gravina (4th at 184) Phil Bakuckas (7th at 174), Richie Lewis (5th at 157), Tyson Dippery (sixth at 149), and Anthony Giraldo (sixth at 133).
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