As the score sat within striking distance for Purdue trailing by four before the 149-pound bout, Ken Theobald was determined to put Rutgers ahead for good measure.
After major decision from junior 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault, Theobald delivered on his end with a dominant tech fall. The lead subsequently extended for the No. 11 Scarlet Knights before they took a commanding 15-point advantage into the break.
After a couple of early bumps out of the gate when the match resumed, Rutgers picked its momentum back up and rode to a 27-9 win over the Boilermakers in Sunday’s match at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
“Watching Ashnault go out there and dominate … that’s really big,” Theobald said after a 16-0 tech fall. “So that kind of inspired me to push pace a little bit in that first period and seek bonus points. That’s kind of what I want to do.
“I want to get back to my original self — just scoring points, being dominant on top. So this match is pretty big for me personally because I just keep doing that and keep rolling with the momentum.”
Rutgers (9-2, 3-1) followed up on its 38-3 rout of Oregon State from Friday with another strong showing against the Boilermakers (8-3, 3-2).
“That’s a good Big Ten team,” Rutgers coach Scott Goodale said of Purdue. “They’re going to win a lot down the road.”
With the 37-6 loss at then-No. 2 Penn State still fresh, Theobald said Rutgers is using that result to drive the team through its current stretch.
“We dominated these past two teams … but we’re not satisfied,” Theobald said. “So I think that hunger kind of still feeds us. Last Friday (at Penn State) didn’t really go our way, so we’re kind of feeding off that energy.”
Junior 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina, who gutted out a 4-2 decision to snap a personal two-match skid, echoed those sentiments.
“Every match is a new match,” Gravina said. “I just have to block it out and keep going. I just try to do the best I can do and forget about that kind of stuff.
A critical road stretch at Michigan and Michigan State awaits Rutgers, which improved to 3-0 at the RAC.
Goodale embraces the challenge.
“We wrestle well here,” said Goodale, who earned career win No. 150. “Our guys wrestle well here. It’s a great wrestling atmosphere. I want it to be louder, but we’ve got to give these people something to be loud about. … We’re good at home, and we’ve always been traditionally good at home.
“But let’s get on the road a little bit, too. You get to get on the road — it’s just our staff and 13 other athletes with us and sometimes that’s pretty good, too, so I look forward to getting on the road a little bit, getting out in Ann Arbor, enjoying it out there a little bit and seeing if we can get two wins.”