Save the best for last. In their final dual meet of the season, No. 25 Rutgers wrestling (10-6, 4-5) will make the short trip down Route 1 to Jadwin Gym to take on No. 14 Princeton (8-4).
Before I take a deep dive into this match, let me first revisit some long history between these two New Jersey programs. Rutgers and Princeton have been wrestling since 1931 and Sunday night’s match will be the 83rd meeting of the two teams.
Rutgers leads the series 44-33-5, and has won the last 23 matches against the Tigers. In last year’s match, No. 18 Rutgers beat No. 20 Princeton by a score of 19-18 at the RAC and will forever be remembered by then No. 2 Anthony Ashnault majoring No. 1 Matt Kolodzik by turning him twice.
Now back to the present. Princeton has it’s best team in years and will be licking their chops at possible revenge against the Scarlet Knights at home in front of their fans. Sunday night’s match will wrap up a great weekend for New Jersey wrestling fans, with the NJSIAA District tournaments taking place on Saturday.
Princeton has six ranked wrestlers, including an impressive four which are ranked inside the top five. Rutgers has four ranked wrestlers, with true freshman Sammy Alvarez checking in at No. 9, the Scarlet Knights highest ranked member.
This will be the best Princeton team that Rutgers has arguably ever wrestled. There are a few ways the Scarlet Knights can win, and it will depend on an upset or two and not giving up any bonus points.
125 - No. 23 Nicolas Aguilar (20-8) vs. No. 3 Pat Glory (19-0)
Glory, a sophomore, is coming off the most impressive freshman season in Princeton history. The 125 pounder went 30-7 last season and took sixth at NCAA’s. He is unbeaten this season, and should be a lot to handle for Aguilar. In fact, Glory beat Aguilar way back in November via tech fall, 15-0. The key here will be holding Glory to less than five team points.
133 - No. 9 Sammy Alvarez (22-7) vs. Ty Agaisse (6-6)
Sammy “The Bull” will be the clear favorite on paper here. Agaisse is a junior who has dealt with injuries that have kept him from competing the last two seasons. Alvarez needs to score a major decision here.
141 - JoJo Aragona (11-9) vs. Marshall Keller (12-13)
This is an incredibly important toss up match. Both wrestlers are around similar skill and are both 0-2 with similar scores against common opponents. In order for Rutgers to escape Jadwin with a win, Aragona must win his match. It is the only path to six wins.
149 - Gerard Angelo (14-10) vs. No. 4 Matthew Kolodzik (9-0)
Kolodzik is fresh off his olympic redshirt, returning to the Princeton lineup just a few weeks ago. He is a returning three time All-American, the first in Princeton’s history. He will be happy to have Anthony Ashnault gone for Rutgers, as the two had some epic scraps over the years. This time around he will be heavily favored against Angelo, and will be looking to score some major bonus points for the Tigers.
157 - Mike VanBrill (16-15) vs. No 4 Quincy Monday (20-3)
Another match where Princeton will be heavily favored on paper. Monday is a talented sophomore and VanBrill is just 1-10 against common opponents between the two. VanBrill will need to try and keep this to just a decision.
165 - Brett Donner (16-13) vs. No. 21 Grant Cuomo (15-5)
A match where Princeton is favored on paper, but certainly a winnable match for Rutgers. Donner will need to bring it in order to knock off Cuomo, who recently beat Jake Brindley of Cornell by a score of 8-1. Donner lost to Brindley 5-3. This is an upset Rutgers will need to win to secure the dual meet victory.
174 - Willie Scott (8-7) or Joe Grello (6-5) vs. Kevin Parker (13-7)
This could be the match where Joe Grello returns from injury, and it would certainly benefit the Scarlet Knights if he did so. Grello has not wrestled since January 19th, where he was injured in a match against Penn State’s Mark Hall. Either way, this is a must win toss up for Rutgers. On the path to six wins, 174 is necessary.
184 - No. 14 Billy Janzer (19-6) vs. No 25 Travis Stefanik (13-4)
A must win for Janzer in a match where he will be the favorite. Bonus points would be an additional help to the Scarlet Knights cause.
197 - No. 18 Jordan Pagano (21-7) vs. No. 3 Patrick Brucki (17-3)
Brucki is a beast. The junior placed fourth last year at 197 and will be a tough match for Pagano. That being said, Pagano has pulled off upsets before and will surely give Brucki a battle.
HWT - Alex Esposito (17-12) vs. Aidan Conner (6-14)
Esposito is the clear favorite. Conner is a freshman who has struggled as a starter. Esposito should be looking for bonus points.
The most likely path to victory for Rutgers will be winning six matches at 133, 141, 165, 174, 184 and HWT. For that to happen, Rutgers will need to win the toss up matches at 141 and 174, and also pull off a moderate upset at 165. If Joe Grello returns to the lineup this could sure up the match at 174.
If Rutgers wins five matches, they will need to match the bonus points likely coming from Princeton’s hammers at 125, 149 and 157. This will be hard to do, because there aren’t a lot of matches where I see the Scarlet Knights scoring bonus points. Their best chance to do this is at 133.
Ultimately, I see a 5-5 match split. I think Rutgers wins at 133, 141, 174, 184 and HWT. Princeton gets bonus points at 125, 149 and 157 en route to an 18-16 win, snapping their losing streak against Rutgers. If Aragona loses at 141, and Rutgers drops both toss-ups at 165 and 174, this match could get ugly. It’s also entirely possible that Rutgers comes out and gives a performance similar to Rider, where they won every toss up match on their way to a big 25-6 win. However Princeton is better than Rider, with much tougher wrestlers. One thing is for certain, and that is New Jersey wrestling fans are in for a treat with this dual meet to end the regular season.