It’s the Midlands Championships’ fourth place team against the fifth place team. It’s the nation’s No. 11 versus No. 12.
It’s Rutgers facing Illinois on Friday night at the RAC starting at 7:00 pm.
With an early season schedule filled with tournaments, the Illini are just 1-0, a 30-10 victory over SIU-Edwardsville in early December. The Knights wrestled both tournaments and duals, entering Friday’s contest at 6-1, 1-0 B1G.
Illinois has five ranked wrestlers in its projected starting lineup, including No. 1 Isaiah Martinez (165) and No. 2 Zane Richards (133).
At 125 Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale will look for a spark to kick off the match. Against Maryland he plugged in true freshman Brandon Paetzell and secured an early major decision win. He could also go with redshirt senior Sean McCabe to face Illinois freshman Travis Piotrowski (UNR 8-6). McCabe is 6-4, Paetzell is 9-3.
At 133, both Tyson Dippery (12-3) and Scott DelVecchio (13-5, 6th at Midlands) competed at the Midlands, but whichever one gets the call gets to face the nation’s No. 2 wrestler at the weight in Richards (12-1). Richards took second at Midlands and did not face either RU wrestler. He lost in the finals to No. 4 Eric Montoya of Nebraska.
Rutgers puts its top wrestler out at 141 with No. 6 Anthony Ashnault (14-3). His likely opponent, sophomore Mousa Jodah, is 8-8.
Ken Theobold likely comes out at 149 for the Knights. No. 14 Theobold is 12-4, having finished 3-2 at Midlands, could face R-Fr Eric Barone. At 157, John Van Brill will be the last RU wrestler to not face a ranked Illini for a while. At 14-6, the redshirt sophomore has had a nice season and will have a chance to improve his record against Nick Gasbarro (3-8). And improving his record will be important as this is what the Illini throw out over the last five bouts:
165 No. 1 Isaiah Martinez (12-0) vs. Anthony Pafumi or Willie Scott
174 No. 12 Zac Brunson (17-3) vs. Phil Bakuckas
184 No. 15 Emery Parker (16-3) vs. No. 11/12 Nicholas Gravina
197 Andre Lee (7-5) vs. Matthew Correnti
HWT No. 10 Brooks Black (5-3) vs. Marc McDonald or Razhonn Gross
Certainly the 184 pound match will be the showcase match of the night. Gravina went 4-2 at the Midlands, finishing sixth. Parker only went 2-2.
The key to the match, as with all matches, id to win big and lose small. Getting the bonus points where you can and avoiding big losses will make the difference. Rutgers has five ranked wrestlers as well, but none as high as 1 and 2 the way Illinois does.
Prediction: I don’t dare, except to to say we’re looking at a one or two point match.
NEW - UPDATE WITH VIDEO
Quick Ranking Update
These rankings came out today and may not be reflected in the post content. Rankings for Illinois wrestlers noted in the story may have changed as well.
Ranked by @theopenmat:— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) January 4, 2017
Ashnault (141) - #6
Theobold (149) - #15
Giraldo (149) - #19
Van Brill (157) - #17
Gravina (184) - #10
#RUWR ranked by AWN:— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) January 4, 2017
DelVecchio (133) - #17
Ashnault (141) - #6
Giraldo (149) - #16
Theobold (149) - #20
Gravina (184) - #12
Ranked by @WINWrestlingMag:— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) January 4, 2017
Dippery (133) #19
Ashnault (141) #5
Theobold (149) #15
Van Brill (157) #17
Pagano (174) #18
Gravina (184) #11
Around the Big Ten
Big Ten Co-Wrestlers of the Week
Thomas Gilman, Iowa 125 pounds – Sr.
- Helped lead the Hawkeyes to a first-place finish at the Midlands Championships
- The top-ranked wrestler picked up a pin, three technical falls and a decision before claiming a major decision in the championship over seventh-ranked Tim Lambert of Nebraska
- Named the Dan Gable Most Outstanding Wrestler
Ethan Lizak, Minnesota 125 pounds – So.
- Led the Golden Gophers to a fourth-place finish at the Southern Scuffle
- Picked up three major decisions over ranked opponents en route to the 125-pound title
- Earned bonus points in all five wins, surrendering just two takedowns
The Knights hit the road for their next two matches, starting with the Buckeyes on Sunday.