PISCATAWAY -- Scott DelVecchio of Rutgers and Troy Heilmann of North Carolina indirectly faced-off against each other last night as the 17th-ranked Scarlet Knights locked horns on the wrestling mat with the No. 24 Tar Heels.
DelVecchio and Heilmann both hail from South Plainfield High School. They both are two members of the famed Murderers’ Row, a nickname given to the SPHS wrestling team a few years ago. The Tigers were loaded with supreme talent at the time -- which included four-time undefeated NJSIAA state champion, Anthony Ashnault, who also stayed home and is at Rutgers. Ashnault, a three-time NCAA All-American, hasn’t wrestled this year due to injury and recovery however.
On Friday night at the Rutgers Athletic Center, the Scarlet Knights snapped a three dual match losing streak with a 18-17 win based on criteria (70-64) over the Tar Heels in front of 3,511. It is the second win for Rutgers over a ranked opponent this season. They also improve to 4-1 lifetime against North Carolina.
And during the match, DelVecchio (No. 16 at 133) and Heilmann (No. 5 at 149), the one that got away, both won their matches.
DelVecchio, which fed off the warmed up crowd from No. 2 Nick Suriano’s 12-3 major decision win over James Szymanski at 125, came back from a second period deficit to score a four-point near-fall in the third period about 30 seconds in to help beat No. 20 Zach Sherman, 6-2. DelVecchio then kept Sherman from escaping, throwing him hard to mat several times to much applause from the crowd.
"It's certainly something we've been working on, mat returns," Rutgers head coach Goodale said. "I think about his match, we went over all week long - Mat return, boom! Mat return, boom! Mat return, boom! Closing out matches is a hard thing to do and it takes a lot of effort, a lot of energy. That's what we want when we close out a match, to not let a guy go.
“Scotty’s win was huge against a really good kid who’s having a really great year. That was a really big part of the match and we knew it would be. ...That’s the way you finish the match.”
After Surano’s and DelVecchio’s battles, Rutgers’ Michael Van Brill at 141 upset No. 17 A.C. Headee, 7-5. Van Brill recorded a reversal with 1:02 left in the final period and held on. All three victories gave Rutgers a 10-0 lead to start the night until Heilmann did his thing at 149, defeating No. 12 Eleazar DeLuca, 4-1.
Heilmann scored a takedown late in the first period and he and DeLuca traded escape points in the next two periods and Heilmann earned an extra point for riding time.
The victory for Heilmann pulled UNC within seven points at 10-3. Heilmann is 22-3 this season. DeLuca is the reigning NCAA wrestler of the week after he stormed back to defeat Ohio State’s ranked Ke-Shawn Hayes last weekend.
It would have been interesting to know if DelVecchio and Heilmann were rooting for each other or their teammates in this one.
Rutgers and UNC would go on to split the 10 bouts, 5-5. Up 17-7 with three matches to go, Rutgers lost all three, but in the final bout of the night at heavyweight between the Scarlet Knights’ Razohnn Gross and the Tar Heels’ Cory Daniel, Gross just needed to not give up any bonus points (major decision, technical fall, or a pin) in order to win it for his team.
Gross wrestled smart according to Goodale and the home team pulled it out.
Also earning wins for Rutgers were No. 12 Richie Lewis at 165 (15-5 major decision over Josh McClure) and Joseph Grello at 174 (10-3 decision).
"We thought it would be a five-five split, and sure enough it was," Goodale said. “They were probably favored at 141, and we were probably favored at 184, so that's why you wrestle the matches. Anything can happen. We pulled out a good team win and one we needed.
"Somebody always has a tough bout, so yeah, it's building for March, but it's also good to get out of here with wins. It is important, because you get back in the practice room on Monday and you are coming off a win and not a loss. I just think that's what we're doing and what we're preaching to these guys."
Rutgers returns to mat next Friday night when they take on Hofstra at the RAC.
No. 17 Rutgers (4-3, 1-2) 18, No. 24 North Carolina (6-8, 0-0) 17
Dual decided by criterion 3.15.3, 70-64
Dual started at 125 pounds
Location: Rutgers Athletic Center, Piscataway, N.J.
Official: Nick Grosso
125: No. 2/2/2 Nick Suriano (RU) major decision over James Szymanski (UNC), 12-3; RU leads, 4-0
133: No. 16/14/13 Scott DelVecchio (RU) decision over No. 20/19/16 Zach Sherman (UNC), 6-2; RU leads, 7-0
141: Michael Van Brill (RU) decision over No. 17/17/15 A.C. Headlee (UNC), 7-5; RU leads, 10-0
149: No. 5/5/5 Troy Heilmann (UNC) decision over No. 12/12/11 Eleazar DeLuca (RU), 4-1; RU leads, 10-3
157: Kennedy Monday (UNC) major decision over No. 12/18/10 John Van Brill (RU), 16-4; RU leads, 10-7
165: No. 12/12/11 Richie Lewis (RU) major decision over Josh McClure (UNC), 15-5; RU leads, 14-7
174: Joseph Grello (RU) decision over Adis Radoncic (UNC), 10-3; RU leads, 17-7
184: Chip Ness (UNC) decision over No. 10/11/12 Nicholas Gravina (RU), 4-3; RU leads, 17-10
197: No. 17/14/19 Danny Chaid (UNC) major decision over Kevin Mulligan (RU), 18-8; RU leads, 17-14
HWT: Cory Daniel (UNC) decision over Razohnn Gross (RU), 5-3; Dual tied, 17-17
Rutgers wins dual, 18-17, by criterion 3.15.3, 70-64.