On Saturday, the Rutgers wrestling team will travel north up the turnpike and begin February with a Big Ten showdown at the world’s most famous arena. In what is known as “Big Ten Super Saturday,” the wrestling team will battle against Michigan at 1 p.m. before the men’s basketball team takes on the Wolverines at 4:30 p.m.
No. 23 Rutgers (8-4, 3-3) will look to start off the month of February strong with a win over No. 25 Michigan (5-3, 4-1) in front of what should be a pro-Rutgers crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Each team comes into the dual with four ranked wrestlers. Michigan has three wrestlers on Olympic redshirt, including Stevan Micic at 133 pounds, who Nick Suriano beat in the NCAA semifinals last March.
Michigan’s ranked wrestlers check in at 149, 157, 184 and heavyweight. The Scarlet Knights’ ranked guys are at 125, 133, 184 and 197, making 184 pounds a critical toss-up match in the dual.
In order for Rutgers to win the dual, a few things need to happen. First, No. 16 Nicolas Aguilar needs to snap his two match losing streak and pick up a win over Michigan’s Jack Medley. Medley is a tough redshirt sophomore, and has wrestled similar matches against common opponents of Aguilar’s.
Second, JoJo Aragona needs to respond on the mat to Coach Goodale’s post match comments after Purdue. Goodale wasn’t pleased with the way Aragona couldn’t get off the bottom for the entire third period and was also not happy with his overtime effort. Aragona has a toss up match against Cole Mattin, and a win would show Goodale that Aragona heard him loud and clear.
Next, Gerard Angleo and Mike VanBrill can’t give up bonus points at 149 and 157. They are wrestling two of Michigan’s better wrestlers, so holding the Wolverines only to a decision will be very important.
The next two matches at 165 and 174 will also be toss-ups. I expect Jackson Turley to get the nod in the lineup at 165 from Coach Goodale after high praise after his pin in the Purdue match. At 174, Willie Scott or Anthony Olivieri will be taking on Max Maylor who is just 3-10 on the season, so a decision there would be big for the team.
At 184 pounds, the only ranked matchup of the night will be extremely important for the Scarlet Knights. No. 23 Billy Janzer will wrestle No. 15 Jelani Embree in what should be a fantastic match. Janzer has wrestled ranked opponents tough all year, and this could be his highest ranked win yet.
No. 19 Jordan Pagano should clean up with a win at 197, and either Alex Esposito or Matt Correnti will wrestle Michigan’s best wrestler at heavyweight, No. 2 Mason Parris who is 21-0 on the season. Regular Rutgers starter Christian Colucci announced on Twitter earlier this week that he is getting season ending surgery.
PREDICTION: Michigan 18 Rutgers 15
If Rutgers wrestles their best, I think a 5-5 match split is very doable. However, because of Michigan’s hammers in soft spots of the Rutgers lineup, I think bonus points will be in play for the Wolverines, which will win them the match at MSG.