Spartan wrestlers rally late, fall to Rutgers in Big Ten home opener


MSU wrestler Drew Hughes/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Aidan Champion, General Assignment Reporter

EAST LANSING — There was not much that seemed to go in Michigan State’s favor on Sunday afternoon when the Spartan wrestling team fell to Rutgers University 25-12 in the Big Ten home opener at Jenison Field House. 

Loss after loss came against the Spartans for the majority of the dual meet. It was not until the 133-pound weight class dual between MSU’s redshirt senior Garrett Pepple and the Scarlet Knights’ freshman Sammy Alvarez that hope began to settle in for the Spartans. 

Their dual went to overtime, but Alvarez ultimately won the decision 5-3 with a takedown. The two competitors had faced off previously this season at the Navy Classic where Pepple came out on top in a 6-2 decision. 

MSU head coach Roger Chandler said there was a reason for the two wrestlers’ competitive duals.

“Garrett Pepple and Sammy Alvarez are very comparable wrestlers,” Chandler said. “They wrestle kind of the same style. They can score from their offense, but they’re very good defensively. I think Garrett at the end of that match … he thought he needed a reversal to win. He didn’t know he was going to overtime. He’s a fifth-year senior; he needs to understand where the match is at that point in time.”

MSU was faced with hardship once again after intermission when redshirt sophomore Jaden Enriquez was defeated by injury default. 

“Sometimes you can’t prevent injuries,” Chandler said. “It was his first match at 141 pounds in a couple years. We were excited for him. It was just a tough moment for him.”

Rutgers would lead 25-0 before redshirt junior Jake Tucker, MSU’s team win leader, took to the mat and won by fall. His spark fueled a late rally by the Spartans that included decision wins from redshirt junior Drew Hughes and redshirt freshman Layne Malczewski. 

The victories came too late, though, as MSU had already got itself too deep in a hole.

“It was kind of a tale of two halves,” Chandler said. “We have to figure out a way to get started faster early in dual meets. We have to go out and strike first blood.”

The Spartans will look to get back in the winning column when they host Minnesota at 6 p.m. on Friday night at Jenison Field House.

Follow Aidan Champion on Twitter at @champion_aidan.