The Rutgers Scarlet Knights Wrestling team will face it’s first true dual-meet test tonight as they travel to Columbus, Ohio for a Friday night Big Ten showdown with the No. 5 Buckeyes of Ohio State.
With a new NWCA Coaches Poll out, Rutgers finds themselves ranked for the first time all season, coming in at No. 24 after jumping out to a 6-0 dual meet record. They are also 1-0 within the Big Ten with a win over Maryland back on December 7th.
Ohio State will be a huge challenge for the Scarlet Knights, as they come into tonight’s match with eight nationally ranked wrestlers in the starting lineup including two No. 1 ranked wrestlers in senior Luke Pletcher at 141 lbs. and red-shirt senior Kollin Moore at 197 lbs.
Rutgers, on the other hand, will enter tonight’s bout with four ranked wrestlers.
The Buckeyes are coming off a strong second place team finish in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, as well as a tight 17-16 dual meet win over then No. 4 Arizona State.
In the new year Rutgers most recently competed at the Southern Scuffle tournament in Chattanooga, Tennessee where they had an impressive showing.
The Scarlet Knights placed five wrestlers, including crowning a champion. True freshman Sammy Alvarez went 5-0 and knocked off two top-10 ranked wrestlers en-route to his title.
No. 9 Alvarez will need to build on that momentum heading into tonight’s match, as he will face his third straight ranked opponent, true freshman No. 16 Jordan Decatur.
Decatur, also a true freshman, just had his red-shirt removed and wrestled in his first dual meet on Monday against Arizona State, where he picked up a 5-3 decision over No. 15 Josh Kramer. Expect Alvarez and Decatur to be the featured bout of the evening.
Some other weight classes the Scarlet Knights can capitalize on are at 125 and 157. At 125, red-shirt freshman Nicolas Aguilar checks into the rankings at #14 in the country. He will be wrestling unranked sophomore Malik Heinselman.
At 157, red-shirt junior Michael Van Brill has a great chance to put some team points up on the board by securing a win over one of the few unranked wrestlers in the Buckeyes lineup, Elijah Cleary. Van Brill placed eighth in the Southern Scuffle tournament.
If the Scarlet Knights can pull off the upset, it will be Head Coach Scott Goodale’s 180th career coaching victory on the banks.
After the match Friday night, the Scarlet Knights will stay in the Midwest to take on Michigan State on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Realistically, I believe Rutgers can win four bouts, at 125, 133, 157 and 184. If they can pull off one upset and split the bouts at 5-5, they will need some serious bonus points to keep up with the Buckeyes, as Pletcher and Moore will certainly look for more than just a decision.