With all eyes in the Rutgers Wrestling room looking ahead to the 2018-19 campaign, head coach Scott Goodale has not been shy about swinging for the fences for the near future.
JoJo Aragona, a rising senior at Pope John XXIII in Sparta, NJ verbally committed to The Banks this week to become the second big name to join the class of 2019 along with Rob Kanniard of Wall Township.
“It’s like a family; it felt like the best fit for me. I grew up with a lot of the kids on the team and a lot of the kids coming into the program,” Aragona said in a statement reported by Flo Wrestling.
Aragona brings more lightweight talent to an already stacked Scarlet Knights Wrestling room. Not only is he a three time state medalist, including a trip to the finals at 120 pounds in 2017, Aragona was recently ranked 7th in the nation at 138 pounds in Flo Wrestling’s high school rankings.
Despite competing in New Jersey, Aragona is a Pennsylvania native, which could be a good sign for Goodale and company as they attempt to keep Jersey’s best and extend their reach to the best talent across the U.S.
Projected as a 141 or 149 pounder, Aragona will have one more year before enrolling at Rutgers to fine-tune his craft and possibly add some weight. A potential weight gain could see Aragona at 145 pounds next high school season with eyes on a state title.
Kanniard, who also has one more year to compete for an NJ State title, looks to be a 165 or 174 pounder at the next level depending upon potential growth. Kanniard was ranked 20th national according to Intermat this past season.
The hype is certainly real when it comes to Aragona and Kanniard, but in the meantime, the lineup for next year’s squad could be historic and set the blueprint for the 2019 class.
Projected Rutgers 2018-19 Lineup (2018-19 eligibility)
125 – Nick Suriano (Jr.)/Nicolas Aguilar (Fr.)
133 – Nick Suriano (Jr.)/Zach Firestone (RS-So.)/Malcolm Robinson (Fr.)
141 – Mike Van Brill (RS-So.)/Robert Clearly (RS-Fr.)
149 – Anthony Ashnault (6th Sr.)
157 – John Van Brill (RS-Sr.)/Stephan Glasgow (Fr.)
165 - John Van Brill (RS-Sr.)/Stephan Glasgow (Fr.)
174 – Joe Grello (RS-So.)
184 – Nick Gravina (6th Sr.)
197 – Matt Correnti (RS-So.)
HWT – Christian Colucci (RS-Jr.)
The return of Ashnault cannot be understated. It is a huge boost to a lineup that lacked an additional hammer alongside Suriano. The three time All-American from South Plainfield they call “Shnaulty” will look for his first National Title at 149 pounds in the 2019 postseason.
After a berth in the National final in 2018, Suriano will look to take it one step further with two full seasons to go to claim gold.
The only 2018 recruit with a real shot at the lineup is Glasgow, who attended St. Benedict’s for a post grad year after an all star stint at Bound Brook High School. California native Nicolas Aguilar could get a shot as a true freshman if Suriano were to move up to 133 pounds for next season.
Also, Robinson cannot be counted out to crack the lineup. Originally projected to be a 141 or 149 pounder, Robinson has slimmed down to 133 and was recently having success in open tournaments at that weight. According to Goodale, this will be the best fit for Robinson. The former Blair Academy product will at least provide some nice depth this coming season.
One big question mark is the 141-pound weight class due to Mike Van Brill’s weight situation. When talking to Goodale earlier in May, he mentioned Van Brill possibly at 149 or even 157 pounds next season. If that is the case, the younger Van Brill could be stuck behind Ashnault, Glasgow, or even older brother John.
Way too Early Look at the 2019-20 lineup
125 – Nick Surinao (Sr.)/Nicolas Aguilar (So./RS-Fr.)
133 – Nick Suriano (Sr.)/Malcolm Robinson (So./RS-Fr.)
141 – Mike Van Brill (RS-Jr.)/Robert Cleary (RS-So.)/JoJo Aragona (Fr.)
149 – Jake Benner (RS-Fr.)/JoJo Aragona (Fr.)
157 – Stephan Glasgow (So.)
165 – Brett Donner (RS-Jr./Sr.)/Robert Kanniard (Fr.)/Transfer/Other
174 – Joe Grello (RS-Jr.)
184 – Billy Janzer (RS-Fr.)
197 – Matt Correnti (RS-Jr.)
HWT – Christian Colucci (RS-Sr.)/Kyle Lightner (RS-Fr.)
It’s tough to determine a few spots due to new recruits and this lineup being a full season away from legitimate projection. At this point, Suriano might be bound for 133 pounds to make room for Aguilar.
Mike Van Brill is still projected at 141 like ’18-19 but it is entirely dependent on the weight gain or loss.
Aragona appears here due to his potential as a day one starter. Goodale and his staff love to plug in whoever is the best fit regardless of age or experience so look for Aragona to have an opportunity to fight for a spot at 141 or 149. The two-time NJ State finalist and 2017 champion Benner will also have a great chance to start after a presumed redshirt season in ’18-19.
Glasgow will firmly be slotted at 157 along with Grello, Janzer and Correnti at 174, 184, and 197 respectively.
Lightner, after a big weight gain will look to get some mat time at heavyweight after a presumed redshirt year in ’18-19. It will be an interesting development after he missed all of the 2017-18 high school season with an injury. But, Lightner comes in with credentials; he was the 2017 NJ State Champion at 195 lbs.
165 will be an open competition with Donner still around and with a clear shot to win the spot outright after sitting behind Richie Lewis this past season and having to deal with Van Brill and Glasgow, presumably. Kanniard could be a day one starter as the coaching staff sees him as a big time get for the program and will be given every opportunity. The other option is some sort of transfer or another recruit in the near future to fill that void.
Overall, Rutgers has done a good job bringing in some top of the line recruits to ensure the program rises up the Big Ten ladder. After having their best finish ever at the 2018 NCAA Championships, the progress of the 2018 and 2019 recruits could determine the long-term outlook for Goodale and his Scarlet Knights.
Since lineups need to be finalized and we are still a few ways away from the official schedules dropping, next year’s outlook is a little fuzzy. However, expect Rutgers to be in contention as a Top Ten team in the country and their first Top Ten finish at the NCAA Tournament.
A National Champion or two does not hurt either.