original photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
The Open Mat’s College Wrestler of the Week award goes to Rutgers true freshman Sammy Alvarez. Sammy captured a Southern Scuffle title while competing at the 133 lb weight class and upset a pair of top-ten opponents along the way. Alvarez entered the tournament with a 10-4 record and was ranked 19th in the nation. While he had already defeated three national qualifiers, Sammy did have a few losses that may be typical from a freshman looking to establish himself. Still, Alvarez was given the fifth seed at the Scuffle and started the tournament with an 11-2 major decision win over Jacob Allen (Navy). The rest of his matches would be considerably closer, as he won a pair of one-point decisions and another by two-points. Interestingly enough, Alvarez’s biggest margin of victory after the major came in the semifinals against #5 Micky Phillipi (Pittsburgh). Takedowns in the second and third period, against the normally stingy Phillipi, gave Sammy a 6-3 win. It happened to be the first loss of the year for the 2019 ACC champion, Phillipi.
For the championship, Alvarez faced eighth-ranked Cam Sykora (North Dakota State), a three-time NCAA qualifier for the Bison. Sykora had crushed the field on his way to the finals with two techs, a major, and an injury default when he was cruising. Sammy survived a first-period that saw Sykora notch a takedown and over a minute and a half of riding time. In the second, Alvarez used a slick counter to grab his first takedown of the match and then ran riding time under a minute. Sammy clinched the win when he locked up a cradle with the score knotted at three in the third period. The clock expired as Alvarez was defending a Sykora attack, giving the Scarlet Knight grappler a 5-4 win.
Wins over two opponents like Phillipi and Sykora will certainly give Alvarez a boost in the next set of national rankings. He is now won eight straight matches heading into the dual season. During the ensuing two weeks, Alvarez will get challenged with bouts against two undefeated opponents (Roman Bravo Young – Penn State and Chas Tucker – Cornell), along with fellow freshman Jordan Decatur (Ohio State) and Garrett Pepple (Michigan State). Pepple is responsible for Alvarez’s most recent loss, which came at the Navy Classic.