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The Indiana Daily Student

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No. 21 Indiana wrestling falters against No. 14 Rutgers, No. 1 Penn State


The Big Ten wrestling dual meet season kicked off Friday night, with No. 21 Indiana facing a challenge on the road against No. 14 Rutgers at Jersey Mike's Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey. 

Head Coach Angel Escobedo’s team cracked into the national rankings for the first time after it defeated Rutgers a year ago. The Hoosiers finished last year's dual season with an 8-5 record, their best mark under Escobedo's leadership and could’ve returned every wrestler from last year's lineup.  

However, Escobedo and the staff have made the strategic decision to keep a couple potential starters on the bench by redshirting them this season. Without the same firepower of last year's lineup, it was difficult for the Hoosiers to match last year's performance. 

Indiana Defeated by Rutgers in the Season’s First Big Ten Dual

Last season, the Hoosiers defeated the Scarlet Knights for the first time since 2008. Indiana failed to recapture that magic Friday night, as Rutgers emerged with a commanding victory after taking 7-of-10 matches, defeating the Hoosiers 30-11.  

The Scarlet Knights dominated to start the dual, winning the first two matches by fall and technical fall, respectively, and taking an early 11-0 lead. However, Indiana graduate students No. 23 Dan Fongaro at 141 lbs. and No. 14 Graham Rooks at 149 lbs. fought back — they earned victories and narrowed the deficit to 11-8. Fongaro, a New Jersey native, returned home and secured a tech fall win over freshman Max Hermes, while Rooks won by decision (8-2) against junior Michael Cetta. 

Indiana snagged its last points of the night with redshirt freshman No. 22 Tyler Lillard winning by decision (4-1) over Scarlet Knight junior Anthony White, bringing the team score to 15-11 in favor of Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights closed out the dual by winning the final four bouts.  

Notable performances included Fongaro's second tech fall win of the season, Lillard improving his season record to 14-4 with a victory and Rooks maintaining a strong season record of 12-4.  

Hoosiers Go Scoreless Against Penn State 

Despite the loss in New Jersey, Indiana wrestling looked ahead to its next challenge: No. 1 Penn State on Sunday inside Rec Hall in University Park, Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions dynasty proved why they are the top ranked team in the nation, shutting out the Hoosiers 46-0.  

The Penn State squad delivered a hail of attacks on the Hoosiers and put up bonus points in 9-of-10 matches. Penn State’s lone decision came when Fongaro faced No. 2 Senior Beu Bartlett at 141 lbs. The two grapplers were tied 1-1 going into the final seconds of the bout before Bartlett won a scramble as time was expiring and picked up the takedown and back points to win 8-1. 

Notably, Lillard returned to the mat on Jan. 12 and Jan. 14 after being injured in the southern scuffle holiday tournament on Jan. 2. In the dual against Penn State on Jan. 14, Lillard unfortunately had to default early in the match against redshirt freshman No. 10 Mitchell Messenbrink. 

Indiana wrestling will take the mat again in a week when it hosts Maryland for a dual meet at 2 p.m. Jan. 21 inside Wilkinson Hall.

Follow reporter Aidan Pollitt (@pollitt_52) for updates throughout the Indiana wrestling season.

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