After losing their last two dual meets, the No. 22 Rutgers wrestling team (7-3, 2-2) will look to get right this weekend with a pair of Big Ten foes home at the RAC. First up is Indiana (0-5, 0-4) on Friday night beginning at 7 p.m.
The Hoosiers have wrestled a gauntlet of a schedule thus far, as Rutgers will be their fifth straight dual meet against a ranked team. Their lineup features two ranked wrestlers, at 149 and 174.
At 149 pounds, Indiana will send out redshirt freshman, No. 22 Graham Rooks. Rooks is coming off a weekend where he picked up multiple ranked wins over No. 14 Yahya Thomas of Northwestern as well as No. 6 Griffin Parriott of Purdue. Those wins earned the redshirt freshman Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors, the second time this season he has received that award.
This will be a great spot for the Scarlet Knight’s own redshirt freshman, Gerard Angelo, to bounce back and pick up a ranked win after being pinned in last Friday’s Cornell match. Angelo was benched in favor of Nick Santos in Rutgers’ match on Sunday against Penn State. Of course, Goodale could opt to stick with Santos here, so keep an eye on who is sent out at 149.
Indiana’s 174-pounder, redshirt junior Jacob Covaciu, is the Hoosier’s only other ranked wrestler, checking in at No. 25. Covaciu is a returning NCAA qualifier, and will be favored in his match Friday night against either Willie Scott or Anthony Olivieri of Rutgers. One of the two will be in the lineup due to a knee injury suffered by regular starter Joe Grello in his match with Mark Hall of Penn State.
For the remaining eight matches, Rutgers will be favored on paper. At 125 pounds, Indiana’s Liam Cronin is coming off a shocking upset win, beating then No. 5 Devin Schroder of Purdue, 3-1. This is a match to keep an eye on given light of recent events, but I fully expect Nicolas Aguilar to continue to wrestle at a fervent pace and pick up the win, which would be his seventh straight.
PREDICTION: Rutgers 28, Indiana 6
On Sunday, Rutgers welcomes a much tougher test, No. 13 Purdue (9-2, 2-1). The Boilermakers have six ranked wrestlers in their lineup according to FloWrestling.
The Scarlet Knights are 4-0 all-time against Purdue, but this has the potential to be their closest dual meet yet. In order for Rutgers to pull off the upset, they will have to lean on (as they have all season long), their freshmen in the lineup.
This dual meet has the potential of featuring four, possibly five toss up matches on paper. Rutgers will need to win almost all of the toss-ups to win the match, as Purdue will be the clear favorite at 149, 157, 174 and 197 pounds.
The first three weight classes will be crucial for a Rutgers win. Starting off at 125 pounds, No. 14 Nicolas Aguilar will take on No. 6 Devin Schroder. As mentioned earlier, Schroder dropped a decision to unranked Liam Cronin of Indiana, who Aguilar will wrestle on Friday night ahead of this match. Aguilar’s match vs. Cronin should be a good measuring stick of how well he will match up against Schroder.
At 133 pounds, No. 10 Sammy Alvarez will be the favorite against another true freshman, Travis Ford-Melton. The key for Alvarez here will be trying to pick up a bonus point for the team via a major decision.
Next up at 141 is JoJo Aragona vs. Parker Filius. This is a huge match in the dual meet, as it will be crucial for Aragona to beat the redshirt sophomore in order for Rutgers to win the dual. If all three freshman win down low, a 9-0 start for the Scarlet Knights will have them off to a promising start having won two toss up matches.
After 141 pounds, it gets tricky. Purdue will be clear favorites in the next two matches, sending out No. 15 Griffin Parriott at 149 and super talented redshirt freshman No. 8 Kendall Coleman at 157.
The next match at 165 pounds will be another important toss up. Brett Donner will take on Purdue’s Tanner Webster. Webster is just 3-6 on the season and has wrestled in all three of Purdue’s Big Ten duals, going 1-2. Donner is 13-11 but has struggled in Big Ten duals, going 0-4. Expect a super tight bout.
At 174 pounds is Purdue’s best wrestler, redshirt junior No. 4 Dylan Lydy. It will be important for Willie Scott or Anthony Olivieri to not surrender any bonus points here.
Rutgers’ last freshman in the lineup, No. 22 Billy Janzer should have a good match with Max Lyon. Lyon, a junior, is a returning NCAA qualifier. Although he is unranked, this should be a close match that Janzer will have to be sharp in to pull out a win.
The second and final ranked matchup of the afternoon will take place at 197 pounds, as No. 18 Jordan Pagano takes on No. 5 Christian Brunner. This should be another tight match, with the edge going to Brunner on paper. If Pagano can pull off the upset here and if the Scarlet Knights take care of business in the aforementioned toss-up matches, the upset will be at hand heading into heavyweight.
The final bout of the match (pending they start at 125 which Rutgers usually does at home), will be yet another toss-up. Alex Esposito will take on No. 25 Thomas Penola. Penola will be favored on paper because of the ranking, but this dual could very well come down to this final match, and the RAC will surely be rocking if that’s the case.
In order for Rutgers to win the dual and pull off the upset, they are going to have to win nearly every toss up match, and not surrender any bonus points in matches where they aren’t favored. This will be a super tough task, as they will need nearly everything to go right.
In the best case scenario, Rutgers wins six out of ten matches, winning at 125, 133, 141, 165, 184 and HWT. In a more likely scenario, Rutgers splits matches 5-5 and the dual will come down to bonus points.
Purdue could just as easily win six out of ten matches, if they get toss-up match wins. The four to five swing bouts will be incredibly important in deciding a winner. I think each team will win five matches, but Purdue picks up a major decision win at 174 to seal the match.
PREDICTION: Purdue 16, Rutgers 15