Rutgers Wrestling, the No. 17 ranked program nationally will head to University Park, PA Sunday afternoon to take on No. 1 Penn State in Big Ten dual action. The Scarlet Knights are coming off a Big Ten win Friday night where they took out No. 15 Illinois, 21-13.
The Nittany Lions (10-0, 2-0) have nine wrestlers currently ranked in their lineup via Intermat with a whopping six ranked in the top-four (including four ranked at No. 1).
The Scarlet Knights (12-1, 2-1) will be thoroughly tested throughout the dual, but it should be noted that Penn State also sports an incredibly deep lineup in spots, so they mix and match their entries throughout the regular season normally.
Leading off the action should be Rutgers’ No. 31 Dylan Shawver up against returning All-American and currently 9th ranked Drew Hildebrandt. Hildebrandt comes to Penn State after spending his first five (what a time to be alive) collegiate years at Central Michigan. Shawver had another impressive win Friday night where he took out No. 26 Justin Cardani of the Illini.
Next up, new varsity starter and No. 20 ranked Joey Olivieri will continue his trial by fire as he could draw returning National Champion and No. 1 ranked Roman Bravo-Young. Olivieri had a rough go Friday night as he fell by major decision to returning All-American and No. 6 ranked Lucas Byrd. Bravo-Young is 8-0 on the season with bonus point victories in six of those matches.
The marquee matchup of the afternoon could be at 141lbs where undefeated and No. 3 ranked Sebastian Rivera would be up against returning National Champion and No. 1 ranked Nick Lee (8-0) of the Nittany Lions.
Lee won the two meetings between the wrestlers last year, including in the semifinals of the national tournament, but Rivera has never looked better as he picked up his 100th collegiate win Friday night and has secured bonus points in all of his bouts this season. This should be a fun match.
Another match between closely ranked opponents could be in the cards at 149lbs as Rutgers’ No. 18 Mike VanBrill will see No. 19 Beau Bartlett. VanBrill took out Illinois’ Christian Kanzler Friday night in a close decision.
Barlett, a second year freshman that chose Penn State after a stellar high school career at national powerhouse Wyoming Seminary, is 8-2 on the season.
At 157lbs, we should see our only match of the dual featuring no ranked wrestlers as Rob Kanniard of the Scarlet Knights up against Tony Negron. However, it should be noted that two-time national qualifier Brady Berge has rejoined the Penn State roster and is listed at this weight.
Kanniard took out his opponent from Illinois Friday night and looks like he may be rounding into form. If Berge ends up the starter here, he should be ranked in the top-15 to start and Kanniard’s night is going to be tough.
The match at 165lbs should feature Andrew Clark of Rutgers taking on No. 24 Creighton Edsell. I like Clark to keep this one close despite Edsell’s ranking as the Penn State wrestler has scored under seven points in all but three of his 10 matches on the year.
Clark is coming off a decision loss Friday night to No. 27 Dan Braunagel of Illinois and will look to rebound here.
At 174lbs, Rutgers will send out Connor O’Neill to take on defending National Champion and No. 1 ranked Carter Starocci of Penn State. Before Friday’s match, No. 26 Jackson Turley announced he will be undergoing season-ending surgery in the near future so this spot is now Connor O’Neill’s.
Starocci is 10-0 on the season with bonus point victories in all but two matches, so keeping it as close as possible here will be the goal for O’Neill.
Another marquee matchup could take place at 184lbs as Rutgers returning All-American and 5th ranked John Poznanski will take on defending National Champion 2nd ranked Aaron Brooks of Penn State. These two met in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament last season where Brooks scored the major decision victory.
This is a different Poznanski and he is much improved, but Brooks is a tremendous talent wrestling in probably the most competitive practice room in the country, so odds are he’s improved as well. This is a huge test for Poznanski to see where he stands with the elite at 184lbs.
A Poznanski upset win would put the country on notice but I like Brooks to take the decision here. These two will likely meet many more times throughout their Big Ten careers as both have four years of eligibility remaining.
Poznanski is coming off a decision win over No. 19 Dan Braunagel and he’ll likely get No. 1 ranked and Olympic Bronze medalist Myles Amine next weekend in the dual at No. 3 Michigan.
Up at 197lbs, Rutgers’ undefeated No. 7 ranked Greg Bulsak will have another big test as he’ll likely meet two-time All-American and No. 2 ranked Max Dean of the Nittany Lions.
Bulsak has been a stud so far this season, rising to the occasion in each match he’s had, but Dean will be a huge test for the Scarlet Knight.
With regards to Penn State’s depth, they have another wrestler here that would likely be ranked in the top-10 in Michael Beard, who possibly could get the nod here. No matter how you slice it, a big challenge awaits Bulsak Sunday afternoon.
The conclusion of the dual should see Rutgers heavyweight Boone McDermott taking on No. 4 Greg Kerkvliet of Penn State.
McDermott has struggled lately and seeing the returning All-American here is not ideal. McDermott will do his best to keep it close, but Kerkvliet will be looking for bonus points in this spot.
Odds are this will be a rough Sunday for the Scarlet Knights with regards to the team score as they couldn’t possibly match up worse, but also a huge opportunity to show out against the perennial powerhouse that is Penn State.
I have Rutgers taking three matches in the dual if Penn State sends out their best lineup and falling by a score of 25-9. The action starts Sunday afternoon at 5:00PM and will be available to watch on ESPNU.