Despite the uncertainty as to when and if there is a college wrestling season in the next few months, multiple preseason polls continue to be released. Three major publications include Rutgers in the 2020-2021 preseason rankings. Win Magazine is the latest poll to be released and has Rutgers at no. 11 nationally. In addition, FloWrestling has the Scarlet Knights at no. 17 and The Open Mat lists the program at no. 22.
Once again, the Big Ten is loaded and the Win Magazine poll has Iowa (1), Michigan (2) and Nebraska (5) in the top five, as well as Ohio State (7) and Penn State (9) in the top ten. Four other programs from the conference are ranked behind Rutgers, including Minnesota (12), Northwestern (13), Michigan State (20) and Purdue (23).
Rutgers enters this season looking to continue a 14 year streak of winning campaigns, 13 of which have come under head coach Scott Goodale. Last season, RU went 10-7 in dual meets and produced five NCAA championship qualifiers, which is the sixth straight year that at least that many have qualified. The program is poised to compete at the highest level, both as a team and in individual weight classes this season.
Nick Suriano re-enrolled at Rutgers this summer and it was reported that he will in fact wrestle with Rutgers if a season does take place. The 2019 national champion at 133 pounds and two-time national finalist is ranked no. 1 in that weight class by Win Magazine. Pat Mineo of The Wrestling Room reported over the weekend that Suriano is dropping down to 125 pounds with an anticipated shortened season ahead. He qualified for the US Olympic Trials last spring at that weight and it could set up a potential showdown against Iowa’s Spencer Lee, who defeated Suriano in the 2018 national championship bout in that weight class and repeated for the title in 2019. It would also help give Rutgers a tremendous lineup at the top.
Sammy Alvarez earned All-American status at 133 pounds last season, earning wins over eight ranked opponents. Preseason rankings for Alvarez include FloWrestling at no. 7 and The Open Mat at no. 17.
Northwestern grad transfer Sebastian Rivera joined the program in June and is a three-time All-American. He is expected to compete at 141 pounds this season and is listed high in the preseason rankings with FloWrestling having him at no. 2, followed by Win Magazine and The Open Mat listing him at no. 4.
Two more Rutgers wrestlers were included in Win Magazine’s preseason rankings, including Joe Grello at no. 16 for 174 pounds and Billy Janzer at no. 17 for 197 pounds. Grello had an injury shortened season a year ago and is also included in preseason rankings for his weight class by The Open Mat (18) and FloWrestling (24). Janzer earned an at-large selection as an NCAA qualifier and is also ranked by FloWrestling (16) and The Open Mat (19).
The Scarlet Knights also add a talented freshmen class led by John Poznanski, who could start at 184 pounds. He is a year removed from producing a dominant 40-0 campaign as a high school senior at Colonia, winning the state title at 182 pounds and being named the NJSIAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
At heavyweight, Rutgers will have a tremendous battle between sixth year wrestler Christian Colucci, who is returning from injury, JUCO national champion Boone McDermott and Alex Esposito, who started after Colucci was hurt.
The biggest question mark for this season is when it will begin? It’s been reported that it is most likely to begin in January 2021 and have a condensed schedule. With the Big Ten mulling over a decision to start football later this fall and the NCAA voting on beginning the college basketball season in late November, a decision on the wrestling season should follow soon after. Whenever it does take place, Rutgers fans have legitimate reasons to be as excited as ever for this program to take to the mat.