Wisconsin Knocks Off Rutgers in Dramatic Fashion; Minnesota up Next

Wisconsin Knocks Off Rutgers in Dramatic Fashion; Minnesota up Next

Two dual wins over highly ranked Big Ten opponents propels the Badgers into the Top 10

By Kirk Nelson | January 12, 2022

The Wisconsin / Rutgers dual came to the final match at heavyweight. You could feel the buzz of the crowd. First, Boone McDermott of Rutgers was introduced to a few polite claps. And then to walkout music, the announcer stated in a booming voice, for the Badgers, Trent HILLGER! It has been a couple years for fans to witness in person an exciting finish, and Sunday was the day. Thanks to a bonus win by Austin Gomez and regular decisions by Eric Barnett, DJ Hamiti, Garrett Model, and Andrew McNally, the Badgers led 16-14. When asked after the dual what is your level of confidence when you need a win the final match and you have Trent Hillger coming out to wrestle, Coach Chris Bono quickly stated ”100%”!

Back to the big match. Early in the 1st on a quick scramble, Trent got in on a low single, rolled to his back momentarily, and in continuing action, rolled through and got the takedown. Rutgers challenged. They felt McDermott scored the takedown before Hillger. After further review, the call was confirmed. 2 Takedown Hillger! McDermott escaped. 2-1 after 1. McDermott escaped again in the 2nd. 2-2 after 2. You could feel the anticipation in the air. Trent chose down and escaped quickly to lead 3-2. Trent got in on the legs again in a similar position to the first period scramble. Hillger prevented the roll through this time and earned the decisive takedown. The crowd screamed “TWO” in unison! Trent rode and locked up riding time. McDermott escaped late. Trent Hillger won 6-3! Wisconsin defeated Rutgers 19-14!

What did we see in the dual? Mat savviness. High level wrestling IQ. Shifting strategies. Being opportunistic. Shots. Re-shots. Patience. Power rides. Toughness. Aggressiveness. With the victory against Rutgers, combined with the Friday win over Northwestern, the Wisconsin Badgers have surged into the Top 10 in college wrestling.

Wisconsin vs Rutgers weight by weight breakdown:

125 Eric Barnett (SO, Greenville, WI, Hortonville HS)scored quickly on Dylan Shawver (FR) on a low single. In a sequence near the edge of the mat, Shawver ended up on his back but no points were awarded. Wisconsin challenged. After review, Barnett was awarded a 2 point near fall. After the restart, Shawver escaped. 4-1 after 1. In the 2nd period, Barnett rode the whole period. In the 3rd, Barnett earned a stall point and was given an intentional escape after 30 seconds. Barnett shot low but did not control a leg; Shawver spun around for the takedown. Barnett escaped. In the last 30 seconds, Eric gave up a stalling point while protecting the lead. With the riding time point Barnett won 8-4. Nice win by Eric after a tough loss on Friday. Coach Bono said about Eric: “He does a great job. He’s one of our captains. He was fired up today. He was embarrassed by what happened Friday night.  He felt he let his team down. I knew he was going to turn around and have a great performance.” Coach Bono further added “He’s dangerous, he wants to win, he’s committed and dedicated. He was ready to go today right off that whistle. I’m proud of him. He responded in a great way and gave us a lot of momentum.”

133 Kyle Burwick (RFR, Hettinger, ND)wrestled Joey Olivieri (FR) for the 2nd time in 10 days. Kyle forced a stalling on Olivieri; No scoring in the 1st. In the 2nd, Olivieri reversed Burwick with a standing granby roll. Kyle quickly escaped. Olivieri added a sweep single takedown; Kyle quickly escaped again. 4-2 after 2. In the 3rd, Kyle added yet another escape just before riding time was earned by Olivieri. Kyle could not secure a takedown, however. Olivieri won 4-3. Much closer than the 9-1 loss the first time they wrestled. Kyle had good movement on the bottom to get loose; he needs to generate more offense on the feet. Better set ups, pushing the pace more and slightly refined takedown skills. Kyle is close to turning the corner; he can get there!

141 Joe Zargo (FR, South River, NJ / Bergen Catholic HS) ran into buzzsaw with All-American Sebastian Rivera (SR). Rivera had 2 takedowns and a tilt in the 1st, a takedown and 4-point near fall in the 2nd, and 2 takedowns in the 3rd for the tech fall. Joe got ridden too much, especially by leg rides. Takedown defense is an area to work on also. Obviously, Rivera is very good, but Joe needs to figure out a way to keep the match close next time. He’s learning to compete with the best – just needs to keep working on his skills every day. Trust the process!

149 Austin Gomez (SO, Carol Stream, IL / Glenbard North HS) took on Mike Van Brill (SR) and controlled the action in a dominating 11-1 victory, including two nice leg shots and a 6-point body lock throw to close out the match and earn the major decision. He kept looking for more points until the match ended. Coach Bono has high praise for Austin. “His technical skills are world class. His mindset is there now. He believes he can be a National Champion. It’s hard to get there after you have had so much time off the mat with injuries. He’s going to be one tough cookie the rest of the year. He’s got the skills to compete with the best in the country.” Coach Bono further added “He’s well rounded. He can do it all. A good wrestler in all positions. What a breath of fresh air he has been to me and the team. What an awesome kid and awesome family. I am just glad he is in our life”.

157 Garrett Model (R-JR, Stoughton, WI / Stoughton HS) took on Robert Kanniard (FR). Garrett gave up an early takedown when he briefly let up on the hip pressure when adjusting his position. Garrett escaped. Kanniard shot again; this time Garrett used better hip pressure to secure the takedown. Kanniard escaped, and Garrett hit a beautiful double leg and led 5-3 after 1. In the 2nd, Garrett got a quick reversal; Kanniard escaped. Garrett went for a double and was briefly tossed to his back. Kanniard scored the takedown. Rutgers won a challenge for 2 back points. Model escaped, and in a quick flurry, got a low single which turned into a double leg takedown. Garrett then hit a quick tilt and took the 12-8 lead in after 2. In the 3rd, Kanniard chose down. Things settled down as Model rode out the entire period and finished with a 13-8 win and over 2:30 minutes of riding time. Garrett’s pace is always incredible. When he puts it all together, he is very difficult to beat. He is on the cusp of even bigger wins. 

165 DJ Hamiti (FR, Joliet, IL / Joliet Catholic Academy HS) controlled the match against Andrew Clark (FR). After quite a bit of action near the edge of the mat, DJ hit a low double, secured a takedown with less than a minute in the 1st, and rode out the period. In the 2nd, DJ quickly escaped and hit another double for the score. DJ gave the escape, Clark got in on a high single but could not finish. 5-1 after 2. DJ scored two more takedown in the 3rd period and finished with a 10-4 win, almost getting a major as time expired. Hamiti’s quickness, body position, endurance and fight until the very end was impressive. DJ credits his success to getting acclimated to college early last summer. Coach Bono has high praise for DJ. “He shows up every day with a smile on his face. He’s the first one in and last one to leave – for everything. Whether it’s the weight room, the wrestling room or the classroom. He’s unbelievable. It all translate into a little success when you do all the right things all of the time. He has amazing skills, an amazing mindset. He’s long and tough to wrestle.”

174 Andrew McNally (R-SR, Uniontown, OH / Lake HS) faced Jackson Turley (SO) in a rematch of the blood round at the NCAA’s last March, which Turley won to become an All-American. After a long scramble, McNally secured a takedown late in the 1st; Turley escaped. 2-1 after 1. In the 2nd, Turley almost escaped early, but McNally took control and held him down flat with a punishing leg ride the rest of the period. In the 3rd, Andrew quickly escaped. After the 2nd Turley double leg attempt, Andrew countered and secured the takedown and rode out for the 6-1 win. Riding in the 2nd period was a key to the victory. Coach Bono stated “Andrew is good on top; it’s just a matter of putting in the effort. He was willing to do anything to win that match.” Excellent weekend for Andrew. 2 big wins. His intensity was off the charts!

184 Chris Weiler R-SR (Biglerville, PA / Wyoming Seminary HS)faced returning All-American John Poznanski (FR). Poznanski controlled the match, scoring two takedowns in the 1st, a takedown and near fall in the 2nd (on a 4-point move) and a takedown in the 3rd.  A late escape by Chris averted the major decision as Poznanski won 12-5. Weiler temporarily lost position in the 2nd period 4-point move sequence which was the key to the match. Changed the strategy afterwards. Chris seemed quicker this weekend. Needs to ready to battle again next week!

197 Braxton Amos (FR, Mineral Wells, WV / Parkersburg South HS) had a rematch with Greg Bulsak (SR), who he lost to 6-2 at the Matmen Open. Early in the match, Amos shot in low, Bulsak crunched him down and spun around for the takedown. After being ridden for over a minute, Amos got the reversal on a nice leg ride counter. Bulsak escaped late in the 1st. 3-2 Bulsak after 1. Starting neutral in the 2nd, Braxton hit a strong double for the takedown. Bulsak escaped and tried a double of his own. Excellent counter finish by Amos for the takedown. Bulsak escaped with one second left in the period. 6-5 Amos after 2. In the 3rd, Bulsak escaped after 30 seconds. Amos shot in, Bulsak forced a quick stalemate. Amos shot in again, Bulsak had good hip pressure to spin around and score. Amos escaped with 12 seconds left. Braxton almost pulled off the late takedown as Bulsak was on his back as time ran out. No takedown after the Wisconsin challenge. Bulsak won 8-7. Braxton wrestled Bulsak much better this time around and definitely learned from the first matchup. While he showed improvement, Coach Bono said “That’s a match we have to have. Braxton needs to get that match.” I like his chances next time!

285 Trent Hillger (R-JR, Holly, MI / Lake Fenton HS) facedBoone McDermott (SO) and secured the team win in the match chronicled above. Great win by Trent! When asked what his focus is when the dual meets come down to him, Trent looks at it as “Just another match. Go out there and wrestle to the best of my ability, and whatever the results are, the results are. Usually I am going to assume, especially in Big Ten wrestling, all of the matches are close, and it will come down to me. And I will need to win my match to win the dual. I don’t put any extra pressure on it. I use it as motivation. It adds a little excitement to my matches. It’s fun!” McDermott proved to be a very tough, crafty wrestler with some funky moves. Trent was forced to adjust on the fly during the match. The big man known as Thor to his growing legion of fans delivered again!

The Golden Gophers are Next
Wisconsin battles Minnesota on Sunday, January 16th at the Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota campus. The dual meet will be live on BTN Plus (via subscription) at 1:00PM. The match looks to be a great battle at many weights. All starters for both teams are ranked.

Two projected matchups feature returning All-Americans:
Eric Barnett (1X All American) vs Patrick McKee (1X All American)
Trent Hillger (3X All-American) vs Gable Steveson (3X All-American, NCAA & Olympic Champ)

Here are the expected lineups for the Border Battle:

9 Wisconsin vs #14 Minnesota*

125 #13 Eric Barnett (SO) vs #8 Patrick McKee (SO)
133 #27 Kyle Burwick (FR) / Ethan Rotondo (JR) vs #24 Jake Gliva (SO)
141 #33 Joe Zargo (FR) vs #17 Jake Bergeland (JR)
149 #10 Austin Gomez (SO) vs #24 Michael Blockhus (SO)
157 #33 Garrett Model (JR) vs #4 Brayton Lee (SO)
165 #8 DJ Hamiti (FR) vs #19 Andrew Sparks (FR) / Cael Carlson (FR)
174 #17 Andrew McNally (SR) vs #23 Bailee O’Reilly (JR)
184 #33 Chris Weiler (SR) vs #28 Isaiah Salazar (FR) / Sam Skillings (FR)
197 #24 Braxton Amos (FR) vs #30 Michial Foy (SR)
285 #8 Trent Hillger (JR) vs #1 Gable Steveson (JR)

*Intermat Rankings, January 11th, 2022

Even though wrestling is often looked at as an individual sport, a key to the Badgers success this year is team chemistry. They are wrestling for each other during matches and picking each other up when they are down. No one is bigger than the team.  

It should be a great dual with epic matchups. Another big test for the Badgers. Remember to send your positive vibes Wisconsin Wrestling’s way in their battle against archrival Minnesota!

Photos: Stacy Schiesl