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PREVIEW: Rutgers Wrestling heading to the Land of Lincoln

Is it a must win situation for Rutgers? You could make the case

Roy DeBoer with permission

This was a team that opened the season at No. 11 in the national rankings. Two-plus months later, it sits at No. 19. And in a rather unusual position, its record is only .500 and is on a two match losing streak. Rutgers needs some wins.

The Northwestern Match

The Knights head west to Illinois for a pair of Big Ten matches, both against ranked teams. It starts off Friday night in Evanston with No. 17 Northwestern (8-2, 3-2 B1G). The Wildcats have three New Jersey products in their lineup so there may be motivation on both sides as the teams square off.

At 174, No. 17 Johnny Sebastion (20-7) will face Joe Grello. The Bergen Catholic product was a high school teammate of Grello....and Nick Suriano.

The Northwestern match figures to have two bouts pairing ranked wrestlers:

126: No. 1 Nick Suriano vs. No. 10 Sebastian Rivera (20-1)

149: No. 12 Eleazer DeLuca vs. No. 5 Ryan Deakin (24-3)

Rivera’s lone loss was to Suriano (7-6 decision) in the Midlands. Rivera is from Jackson and attended Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft. As noted, the Cats also have one other ranked wrestler in Sebastian at 174.

Two weeks ago, Northwestern lost at home to Nebraska, 19-18 on criteria. RU dropped a 19-13 match to the Huskers on the road.

On Sunday, the Widcats traveled to Minnesota and took down the then-No. 14 Golden Gophers. It was Ryan Deakin’s pin at 149 that locked up the win.

Ranked Wrestlers (Intermat rankings)

126: No. 1 Nick Suriano vs. No. 10 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern)

133: No. 20 Scott DelVecchio

149: No. 12 Eleazer DeLuca vs. No. 5 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern)

157: No. 17 John VanBrill

165: No. 11 Richie Lewis

174: No. 17 Johnny Sebastian (Northwestern)

184: No. 12 Nick Gravina

The Wildcats have two other wrestlers ranked by The Open Mat in 184-pounder, No. 19, Mitch Sliga and No. 17 Conan Jennings at heavyweight. Both are prior NCAA qualifiers.

The Illinois Match

There’s no New Jersey connection on the Illinois (5-3, 4-2 B1G) squad. The match on Sunday with the No. 14 Illini should feature three bouts between ranked wrestlers. Suriano again will face a ranked opponent in No. 18 Travis Piotrowski (13-5). But it will be at 165 and 184 where RU will face its toughest challenges. Three time All American No. 2 Isaiah Martinez (8-0) takes on Richie Lewis while 16-1 Emery Parker (No. 6) will go up against Nick Gravina. Parker won their semifinal bout in the Midlands, 2-1. At 141, redshirt freshman Mike Carr is ranked 12/20 by FloWrestling and The Open Mat. And while only 8-7, redshirt senior Kyle Langenderfer is a two-time NCAA qualifier at 157.

In their 25-18 win over Maryland on Sunday, the Illini scored bonus points in each of their six wins. Illinois has won four of its last five Big Ten Conference duals.

Ranked Wrestlers

126: No. 1 Nick Suriano vs. No. 18 Travis Piotrowski

133: No. 20 Scott DelVecchio

149: No. 12 Eleazer DeLuca

157: No. 17 John Van Brill

165: No. 11 Richie Lewis vs. No. 2 Isaiah Martinez

184: No. 12 Nick Gravina vs. No. 6 Emery Parker

Rutgers leads the all-time series against Northwestern, 2-0, with both wins coming in Big Ten action. Rutgers and Illinois are tied at 1-1 in the all-time series, with the Scarlet Knights winning their matchup with the Fighting Illini last season at the RAC.

This week in the Big Ten

Feb. 2, 2018

Illinois at Indiana (BTN Plus) 7:00 p.m.

Nebraska at Michigan (BTN Plus) 7:00 p.m.

Michigan State at Purdue (BTN Plus) 7:00 p.m.

Rutgers at Northwestern (BTN Plus) 8:00 p.m.

Minnesota at Iowa (BTN) 9:00 p.m.

Feb. 3, 2018

Maryland at Messiah Open, Grantham, Pa.

Ohio State at Penn State (BTN) 8:00 p.m.

Feb. 4, 2018

Northwestern at Iowa (BTN Plus) 10:00 a.m.

Purdue at Indiana (BTN Plus) 1:00 p.m.

Nebraska at Michigan State (BTN Plus) 1:00 p.m.

Rutgers at Illinois (BTN Plus) 2:00 p.m.