Get ready, the RAC is going to be rocking. Hammers are coming down and loud BOOMS will be shouted.
Rutgers Wrestling is back.
There is a lot to digest as far as the starters, the schedule, and potential NCAA finishes so let’s dive right in with a breakdown of the starting lineup:
125 lbs - Shane Metzler
This is a little surprising considering Nic Aguilar won the “wrestle off” or “indicator” match as head coach Scott Goodale likes to call them. Goodale said Aguilar will start by wrestling in open tournaments and the plan is to have him redshirt this season, for now. So, we’ll go under the assumption of Metzler being the starter for the season. He was solid in relief of Nick Suriano including a big win over Illinois. I am excited to see what Metzler brings to the table this year with a full season. Expect some lumps along the way, but a solid contribution to the lineup.
133 lbs - Nick Suriano
Suriano is national title or bust. After winning a wrestle off at this weight, this will likely be where he stays the entire season. If so, there will be no drop off. There will be some adjustments due to the bump, like length and different types of strength, but I have no worries about this hammer. He’ll have to deal with guys like Seth Gross of South Dakota State and Stevan Micic of Michigan to win a title, but there’s no doubt Suriano is capable of beating the top guys and claiming gold.
141 lbs - Mike Van Brill
Goodale said we have a new and improved Mike Van Brill. I hope so. He was close to qualifying for NCAA’s last season and could very well get there in 2019. As long as he stays consistent, Van Brill should have no issues in climbing up the rankings. The Big Ten is loaded at 141 and Rutgers will need him to come up big in most matches in order to keep the team ranking high. I like his potential and he could explode this season.
149 lbs - Anthony Ashnault
“Shnaulty” is back. The sixth year senior has one last shot at a National Title in Pittsburgh and also the chance to become the first four-time All-American in Rutgers history. With finishes of 8th, 4th, and 6th, anything less than a title will be disappointing for Ashnault. He is moving up a weight class this season after spending his career at 141 lbs. and certainly has a chance to finally win it all. He is ranked No. 3 according to Flo and No. 2 according to Intermat so there will be little room for error.
Ashnault is coming into the season with 91 career victories and needs 27 this season to own the most in program history; a feat that’s certainly attainable.
157 lbs - John Van Brill
One last chance has been a running theme. Van Brill fell to Arizona State’s Josh Shields in the “blood round” at NCAA’s and now, he uses it as motivation to get him through any tough goings when training. I expect Van Brill to come out swinging and maintain a Top 10 ranking throughout the year. By doing so, he should be able to finally claim All-American status. His body type is probably better suited for this weight, but don’t be surprised if he switches with our next man at 165 throughout the year. But we’ll stay with the notion Van Brill will man this weight class.
165 lbs - Stephan Glasgow
There has been no wrestler in program history that has been as hyped coming in as Glasgow. Ashnault came in with the high school pedigree and became the face of the program. He also paved the way for Rutgers to become a national powerhouse. But, when discussing bringing in a top of the line recruit to continue the trend of guys like Ashnault, Glasgow is the total package.
“I think from an athletic standpoint, he could be the most gifted wrestler I have ever coached, and that is saying something,” Goodale said. “He is super athletic and super gifted. We all know there is more that goes into it, but if he can get his mind and his body working together, he is going to be really special.”
For further proof: Glasgow was the National High School Coaches Association 2016-17 National High School Wrestler of the Year.
174 lbs - Joe Grello
Grello is back and like most, Goodale said he improved over the offseason. Grello is interesting because he provides intriguing potential with his wrestling style but I find he needs to be a little more aggressive. By doing so, he could surprise a lot of people this season. If he can have good tournament showings early on, he’ll no doubt be better prepared for the Big Ten tournament in order to make NCAA’s.
184 lbs - Nick Gravina
Gravina will be sitting out until he is fully ready but is ahead of schedule. For now, Jordan Pagano will fill in and if Bill Janzer is healthy enough, could get some action before Gravina returns as well. The stone cold Italian is the man however, and will be looking to finally get on the podium. He is capable of beating any of the top guys and will actually have one less to worry about at 184: Bo Nickal of Penn State, who is bumping up to 197. Expect a big year from a healthy Gravina and possible All-American status.
197 lbs - Max Wright/Matt Correnti
Wright defeated Correnti in a wrestle off and will start off the season as the man at 197. It is unclear if Correnti will get a shot soon or later to reclaim the spot. I am fascinated to see what Wright, an Air Force Prep transfer, will offer in the first quad meet of the season. Say he goes 3-0, we might be seeing him for awhile.
HWT - Christian Colucci
Colucci is a transfer from Lehigh and brings varsity experience. He could be Rutgers’ best heavyweight since Billy Smith and has a great chance at qualifying for NCAA’s. There was no wrestle off at this weight but Colucci has been penciled in here since he enrolled. Another exciting newcomer to watch for and the opening quad meet will be telling on where his potential lies.
Schedule Breakdown and Predictions:
Nov. 3rd: Home vs. Fresno State, Centenary University, and Johnson and Wales
Fresno State is the lone challenge here. The other two are smaller schools that Rutgers will grant a match and for lack of a better term, “warm up against.” Pick: Win all three
Nov. 10: (Albany, NY) Utah Valley University and Appalachian State University
Basically the same as above. These will be tougher matches but Rutgers should handle their way to victory. Pick: Win both
Nov. 16: at Hofstra
Rutgers handled them last season and will do the same. Pick: Win
Nov. 30-Dec. 1: Cliff Keen Invitational
This tournament replaces Midlands and will be quite the challenge and we could see some intriguing Big Ten matchups as well as out of conference matchups.
Dec. 16: vs. Rider University
The in-state rivalry is back. This match will be intriguing and close in some spots, but expect Rutgers to come out on top at home. Pick: Win
Jan. 6: at Minnesota
Minnesota opens up the Big Ten schedule for the Scarlet Knights but RU has established themselves in the top tier of the conference as of late. I expect a close one, but a victory. Pick: Win
Jan. 11: vs. Wisconsin
Oh yes, now we are in the meat of the schedule. The Badgers couldn’t handle Rutgers in Madison last season and Rutgers returns a better lineup on paper. Remember, Suriano didn’t wrestle in this match in 2017-18. Wisconsin has some fantastic wrestlers in certain weights, such as Evan Wick at 165 and Ryan Christensen at 174. Overall, I’ll take the Scarlet Knights inside the RAC. Pick: Win
Jan. 13: vs. Oklahoma State
The most anticipated bout at the RAC in 2018-19. For the first time, the Cowboys make their way to New Jersey. Expect the entire wrestling community throughout the country to watch this one. We might get a Suriano vs. Daton Fix matchup if they’re both at 133. While Rutgers has a great shot to get one of the biggest wins in program history, I’m going to take Oklahoma State for now. This is still far away, but it’ll be exciting. Pick: Loss
Jan. 18: at Iowa
Tough one for Rutgers. Austin DeSanto, formerly of Drexel, is now a Hawkeye and won’t be taking on Scott DelVecchio. Instead, he’ll get Nick Suriano. We likely won’t see a Spencer Lee-Suriano NCAA finals rematch, but we are in for a fight. Carver Hawkeye Arena is one of the toughest environments to wrestle and I’d say Rutgers will probably fall short in this one. Pick: Loss
Jan. 25: vs. Michigan State
The Spartans have improved but this one is going to be all Rutgers, who traditionally handle business here. Pick: Win
Feb. 1: vs. Nebraska
This is a big match for both. Nebraska has some hammers in the lineup: Taylor Venz (184), Isaiah White (165), Tyler Berger (157), and even West Virginia and former NCAA finalist, Zeke Moisey (125). These are what you would call “swing matches.” The meet will come down these four. I think Rutgers gets it done. Pick: Win
Feb. 3: vs. Princeton
Another battle for New Jersey supremacy. At full strength, Rutgers should roll over the Tigers. One thing to watch for though: Ashnault vs. Matt Kolodzik, a possible 149 NCAA Final. Pick: Win
Feb. 8 and 10: at Indiana and Purdue
Rutgers will make their rounds around the state of Indiana and should handle both squads. If you haven’t realized by now, this is setting up to be a possible historic season for the Scarlet Knights. Pick: Both wins
Feb. 17: vs. Michigan
Michigan is loaded. This will be a tough one at the RAC but the Wolverines have the edge overall here. Expect Michigan to be in the Top 3 conversation at NCAA’s. Pick: Loss
Feb. 22: at Maryland
Another Big Ten opponent Rutgers should dispatch of easily. Like all Big Ten schools, Maryland has talent in the room and are better than most teams throughout the country, but they’re not quite in the same tier as Rutgers. Pick: Win
Final Record: 16-3 (7-2)
Shane Metzler (125) - Fringe NCAA Qualifier
Nick Suriano (133) - 2nd Place (All-American)
Mike Van Brill (141) - NCAA Qualifier
Anthony Ashnault (149) - 1st Place National Champion (All-American)
John Van Brill (157) - 8th Place (All-American)
Stephan Glasgow (165) - Fringe NCAA Qualifier
Joe Grello (174) - Fringe NCAA Qualifier
Nick Gravina (184) - 7th Place (All-American)
Max Wright//Matt Correnti (197) - Fringe NCAA Qualifier//NCAA Qualifier
Christian Colucci (HWT) - NCAA Qualifier
Team Finish: 7th Place (Best team finish)
Total: One National Champion, Two Finalists, Four All-Americans, Six or Seven NCAA Qualifiers