This Friday, No. 12 Rutgers Wrestling finally heads back to Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway for the first time since the season opening quad meet on November 7th. This time around, the Black Knights of Army West Point are coming to town, and it’s bound to be an exciting dual to start off the weekend.
Intermat released their updated rankings earlier this week, and once again, there was little movement among the Scarlet Knight starters. The only big change occurred at 149lbs where Mike VanBrill moved from No. 25 to No. 21 after starting the year 8-0.
The other big ranking news of the week was at 157lbs where Rob Kanniard is back in the fray, coming in at No. 32 after spending a few weeks out of the top 33. With Kanniard’s return, Rutgers once again has 9 of 10 starters listed on Intermat’s rankings.
The Black Knights of Army (0-3) have had a incredibly difficult schedule to begin the season, with duals against No. 1 Iowa, No. 2 Penn State, and No. 24 Iowa State. They have a solid squad with six of their wrestlers ranked on Intermat as of this week, which could produce some fun matchups Friday night.
At 141lbs, Corey Shie comes in at No. 29 and is a former national tournament qualifier. He’ll likely compete against Rutgers #4 ranked Sebastian Rivera, where Rivera will be heavily favored. Since bonus points could be a factor in the overall outcome of the dual, I expect Rivera to pour it on during this match, and it will hopefully be a raucous crowd at Jersey Mike’s Arena urging him on.
The marquee matchup of the dual should be up next at 149lbs as Army’s No. 19 P.J. Ogunsanya will square up against No. 21 Mike VanBrill of Rutgers. Ogunsanya is another national qualifier (lost in the Round of 16) who’s already faced some tough competition this year, beating Iowa State’s No. 25 Jarrett Degen but falling to Penn State’s No. 23 Beau Bartlett. VanBrill is 8-0 to start the season and has never looked better, specifically in his last four matches, where he has scored bonus points for the team in each.
Another exciting matchup could take place at 157lbs as Army will potentially send out No. 29 Markus Hartman to take on Rutgers’ No. 32 Rob Kanniard. Hartman is a two-time national qualifier who has had a tough start to the season, already facing off against two top-ten opponents this year, falling to both No. 8 Kaleb Young of Iowa and No. 1 David Carr of Iowa State. Kanniard has had more ups than downs to begin the year, and a win against Hartman would be among the best of his young career.
165lbs won’t feature a ranked matchup, but it could potentially be a rematch from the Shorty Hitchcock Memorial Tournament back in November that saw Army’s Dalton Harkins take out Rutgers’ Andrew Clark by decision, 3-0. Clark is coming off his biggest win and best performance as a Scarlet Knight against American last Friday and he’ll look to build on that here.
The matchup at 174lbs could possibly be a ranked bout and a rematch as Army has the No. 25 ranked wrestler at the weight in former national qualifier Ben Pasiuk. Pasiuk bowed out of the national tournament last year in the round of 16, losing by fall to Jackson Turley of Rutgers, who comes in ranked at No. 16.
Turley, as most Scarlet Knight fans know, has been dealing with an injury in the early part of the season, so it wouldn’t be surprising if we saw Connor O’Neill out there. A win here would be huge for O’Neill, a young wrestler who’s had some early season success while the ranked Pasiuk has struggled in limited action so far.
Army has the No. 30 ranked wrestler at 184lbs in Brad Laughlin, who has faced several ranked opponents this season, including losses to No. 1 Aaron Brooks of Penn State and No. 13 Marcus Coleman of Iowa State. For Rutgers, it’ll be No. 5 John Poznanski, who comes into the dual 9-0 having wrestled in every match thus far. The two share a common win over Hofstra’s No. 26 Charles Small but this contest should be all Poznanski, early and often.
The final ranked matchup we could see Friday would have Army’s two-time national qualifier and No. 27 ranked J.T. Brown square off against No. 13, Greg Bulsak of the Scarlet Knights. Bulsak has looked so incredibly well-rounded in each of his matches this year and there’s no reason to think that’ll change against Brown.
While the match against No. 18 (at the time) North Carolina was supposed to be the first real test for the squad this year, they decided not to send out most of their best wrestlers, so this Friday night dual at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway is the next best thing and should be a good indicator of where the team stands heading into the second semester. I should note the projected lineups came out today, and Army is bringing a lot of wrestlers to the banks, so some of the ranked matchups may not be in the cards, we’ll have to see.
I still expect Rutgers to take 6-8 matches here and come away with another win to improve to 10-0 and finish up a perfect first semester on the banks. Tickets are still available for the dual and they can be found here. If you have to stay home, you can stream the dual via BTN+ ($$). Action begins at 7:00PM.