The Scarlet Knights enter their first year in the Big Ten with great hopes and ambitions. Under eighth year coach Scott Goodale, the Knights have steadily increased win totals, improved rankings, and recruited at a higher level than in the past. They had to, because the Big Ten is almost universally considered the best collegiate wrestling conference in the country.
The Knights finished 11-5 last season, garnering a third place finish in the EIWA tournament. Opening 2014-15, two groups put Rutgers in the top 25 of Division I wrestling. Intermat has the Knights at No. 23 while the Associated Wrestling Press (AWP) tabs them at No. 19. Individually, eight Knights earned AWP rankings in the pre-season poll in September. Redshirt junior and returning All-American Anthony Perrotti leads the way at No. 5 at 157 pounds. Also ranked was redshirt junior Billy Smith at No. 9 at 285 pounds; redshirt freshman Anthony Ashnault at No. 15 at 141 pounds; junior Andrew Campolattano at No. 18 at 197 pounds; sophomore Scott DelVecchio at No. 20 at 133 pounds; junior Ken Theobold at No. 23 at 149 pounds; redshirt sophomore Phil Bakuckas at No. 27 at 174 pounds and junior Hayden Hrymack at No. 33 at 184 pounds.
Intermat released its 2014-15 preseason rankings Tuesday, recognizing three RU grapplers as top-20 competitors in their weight class. 157-pounder Anthony Perrotti was ranked the highest at No. 6, while 285-pounder Billy Smith and 141-pounder Anthony Ashnault were ranked No. 9 and 18, respectively.
Perrotti became the Scarlet Knights' first All-American since 2002 by finishing eighth at last year's NCAA tournament with a 4-3 record. After losing his first bout he battled back to knock off three ranked opponents and record the second-fastest win by fall (10 seconds) in NCAA Championships history by collegiate rules. The West Essex product was also recently ranked No. 6 by The Open Mat and No. 7 by WIN Magazine.
Smith posted a 2-2 clip in Oklahoma City at the NCAA Championships in his second trip to nationals. The 285-pounder was ranked in all polls last season, and enters his redshirt junior campaign with his highest tab since arriving "On the Banks." He received a No. 8 preseason ranking by The Open Mat and No. 13 by Win Magazine.
Ashnault begins his first season of competition for Rutgers at the 141-pound weight class. The four-time, undefeated New Jersey state champion went 15-3 in his redshirt season, winning the National Collegiate Open and the Asics University Freestyle National Championship (65 KG) before earning a spot on the USA University World Team.
All of this sounds great. And it is. And then you look at the rest of "the competition". Here's the Intermat Top 25 team rankings for the preseason.
|2||Ohio State||88.5||Big Ten|
|5||Penn State||75.5||Big Ten|
|6||Oklahoma State||62||Big 12|
|13||Iowa State||45||Big 12|
|20||North Carolina State||26||ACC|
There are nine Big Ten schools ahead of Rutgers, and eight are on this year's schedule. Throw in Oklahoma at the Northeast Duals, and the Knights are facing nine of the top 25 teams in the country in what is undoubtedly their toughest schedule ever.
And on an individual weight class basis, the Big Ten also stacks up incredibly strong. Pick a weight class in the AWP rankings. Let's look at 157 pounds where RU returns Anthony Perrotti, its All American. Including him, there are six Big Ten wrestlers in the pre-season top ten at the weight class. At 285, where Billy Smith has been a force for Rutgers and where he is ranked 9th, there are also six B1G wrestlers among the top ten.
It will be an exciting year, one that Scott Goodale is looking forward to as the team began practice. He is an avid tweeter, and he is enthusiastic and prolific in his promotion of the team.
It's #TAKEDOWNTUESDAY! Single-match tickets for #RUWR's nonconference slate available here: http://t.co/8pGTZMVmAR pic.twitter.com/EWonG8x7JU— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) October 21, 2014
Thanks @CoachGoodale for allowing me in to a practice! @RUWrestling looking strong! pic.twitter.com/NK3nkdLdUm— Raritan Wrestling (@RaritanWrestlin) October 20, 2014
"@RUWrestling: "The Gateway to Championships" - the #RUWR 2014-15 Schedule Poster: http://t.co/jmcYEtELYr #d1wrestle" awesome poster!!— Coach Scott Goodale (@CoachGoodale) October 17, 2014
It all begins with wrestle offs on October 25. They are open to the public and free to enter. It begins at 10:00 am at the College Avenue Gym.
|10/25/14||vs. Wrestle-Offs #||College Ave. Gym||10:00 a.m. ET|
|11/02/14||Rutgers Duals vs. Centenary||College Ave. Gym||TBA|
|Rutgers Duals vs. Delaware Valley||College Ave. Gym||TBA|
|Rutgers Duals vs. Stevens Institute of Technology||College Ave. Gym||TBA|
|11/16/14||vs. Hofstra||College Ave. Gym||6:00 p.m. ET|
|11/29/14||Asics/ Journeymen Northeast Duals vs. Buffalo||Albany, N.Y.||TBA|
|Asics/ Journeymen Northeast Duals vs. Oklahoma||Albany, N.Y.||TBA|
|Asics/ Journeymen Northeast Duals vs. West Virginia||Albany, N.Y.||TBA|
|12/05/14||Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational||Las Vegas, Nev.||All Day|
|12/06/14||Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational||Las Vegas, Nev.||All Day|
|12/21/14||"Grapple at the Garden" vs. Army||Manhattan, N.Y.||10:00 a.m. ET|
|"Grapple at the Garden" vs. Davidson||Manhattan, N.Y.||12:00 p.m. ET|
|01/02/15||vs. Iowa *||RAC||TBA|
|01/09/15||at Illinois *||Champaign, Ill.||7:00 p.m. ET|
|01/11/15||vs. Minnesota *||RAC||TBA|
|01/16/15||vs. Penn State *||RAC||TBA|
|01/18/15||at Maryland *||College Park, Md.||2:00 p.m. ET|
|01/25/15||at Nebraska *||Lincoln, Neb.||1:00 p.m. ET|
|01/31/15||vs. Navy||College Ave. Gym||2:00 p.m. ET|
|02/01/15||vs. Ohio State *||College Ave. Gym||12:00 p.m. ET|
|02/06/15||at Wisconsin *||Madison, Wisc.||7:00 p.m. ET|
|02/08/15||at Northwestern *||Evanston, Ill.||5:00 p.m. ET|
|02/14/15||vs. Princeton||College Ave. Gym||2:00 p.m. ET|
|02/19/15||at Drexel||Philadelphia, Pa.||7:00 p.m. ET|
|03/07/15||Big Ten Championships||Columbus, Ohio||All Day|
|03/08/15||Big Ten Championships||Columbus, Ohio||All Day|