The Rutgers wrestling team (9-6, 3-5) will conclude its home dual schedule with a Friday night tilt against No. 25 Northwestern (4-6, 2-5) at 7 p.m. The match is also senior night, where five Scarlet Knight wrestlers will be recognized.
Seniors Christian Colucci (HWT), Zach Firestone (141), Anthony Olivieri (174) Willie Scott (174) and No. 17 Jordan Pagano (197) will all be honored prior to the match. Sam Cali, a member of the team who passed away after his redshirt freshman season in 2016, will also be honored during the ceremony.
The Wildcats enter this match with seven ranked wrestlers, but have struggled in the Big Ten, beating only Indiana and Michigan State. Rutgers is fresh off a dominant win over in-state rival Rider on Sunday night, where they took eight out of ten bouts.
This should be a tight dual throughout, with a couple of great ranked matchups and toss-ups that will decide the match.
125 - No. 25 Nicolas Aguilar (19-8) vs. No. 11 Michael DeAugustino (15-6)
The first toss-up match of the night. Aguilar snapped out of his losing streak against Rider, beating Jonathon Tropea 11-6 in a back and forth match. DeAugustino and Aguilar have wrestled common opponents in similar fashions, but DeAugistino will be the favorite on paper and look to put three points up on the board for Northwestern.
133 - No. 9 Sammy Alvarez vs. No. 3 Sebastian Rivera (7-2) OR Dylan Utterback (2-8)
Rivera, a Jersey kid, is the returning Big Ten Champion at 125 pounds, up this season at 133. However, he has not wrestled in nearly two months due to injury, and his status still remains unknown heading into Friday. If Alvarez has Utterback, he should definitely be looking for a major decision at the very least. A good spot for some Rutgers bonus points if Rivera remains sidelined.
141 - JoJo Aragona (11-8) OR Zach Firestone (5-7) vs. Alex McKenna (5-7)
It is senior night, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Firestone wrestles here, but if Rutgers is serious about winning the match Aragona is the clear choice. Fresh off his win over No. 25 Pete Lipari of Rider, Aragona should have a boosted confidence heading into this one. I have Aragona in a decision here over McKenna.
149 - Gerard Angelo (13-10) OR Nick Santos (7-2) vs. No. 18 Yahya Thomas (11-5)
Northwestern is the slight favorite here. Expect Thomas to pick up a decision over Angelo or Santos.
157 - Michael VanBrill (16-14) vs. No. 1 Ryan Deakin (15-0)
Deakin is a returning All-American having placed sixth last year at 157. It will be important for VanBrill to try and keep this one to only a decision, as Deakin will be hunting for bonus points.
165 - Brett Donner (16-12) vs. No. 13 Shayne Oster (14-8)
Oster will be the slight favorite here on paper against the unranked Donner. If Donner can pull off the upset, it will be huge for the Scarlet Knights. Oster is 9-7 against Donner’s common opponents, while Donner is just 2-13 against Oster’s common opponents.
174 - Willie Scott (7-7) OR Anthony Olivieri (5-1) vs. No. 22 Tyler Morland (9-8)
Another match where Northwestern is the slight favorite. Scott or Olivieri are certainly capable of beating Morland, but Morland is the favorite on paper. Look for a big performance from Scott or Olivieri in their last ever dual meet at the RAC.
184 - No. 15 Billy Janzer (18-6) vs. Jack Jessen (12-14)
Janzer is the clear favorite on paper, but picking up bonus points will be important for a Rutgers win. However, Janzer is only earning bonus points in 8% of his matches this season, so don’t count on it.
197 - No. 17 Jordan Pagano (21-6) vs. No. 9 Lucas Davison (12-5)
In order for Rutgers to win the dual, Pagano will need another big upset over a top-10 opponent. He did it against Rider, knocking off No. 7 Ethan Laird in overtime. Pagano will be fired up for his last ever dual meet match at the RAC, so expect an inspiring performance.
HWT - Alex Esposito (16-12) vs. Jack Heyob (0-12)
Esposito should win this match. Heyob is winless on the season, so the real question is whether or not Esposito will be able to score bonus points for the team.
If Rivera doesn’t wrestle, Northwestern is favored in six matches. They should win at 125, 149, 157, 165, 174 and 197. It will be up to one of the Scarlet Knights at those weights to pull off an upset to tilt the balance back to 5-5. The wrestler who has the best shot of doing that is Pagano at 197. He beat the 7th ranked kid in the country last week on the road, so who’s to say he can’t beat the 9th ranked kid in the country on his senior night at home? If the matches are split 5-5, I see a 16-16 tie match, with a major for Rutgers at 133 and one for Northwestern at 157. If the match goes to chalk, Northwestern wins 19-13.