The nationally ranked No. 12 Rutgers Scarlet Knight Wrestling team (11-0, 1-0) will head to Madison, Wisconsin for a Big Ten showdown with the No. 16 Badgers Sunday at 1:00PM.
The Scarlet Knights are coming off a dominant 29-7 win over Big Ten foe Indiana on Friday night at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway.
Wisconsin (5-0, 1-0) also recorded a win in their first Big Ten dual Friday, taking out No. 23 Northwestern, 19-15. The Badgers represent the toughest test yet for Rutgers as they have a wrestler ranked nationally in every weight class heading into Sunday’s dual.
At 125lbs, Rutgers’ No. 30 Dylan Shawver, fresh off his 13-2 major decision win over a ranked opponent from Indiana on Friday, will have No. 4 Eric Barnett, who was upset by No. 17 Michael DeAugustino in his Friday dual.
I asked Shawver how important it was to start the Big Ten schedule with a win over a ranked opponent, “It was huge for me, I didn’t get the major on him last year, and it’s just showing how much I’m improving,” Shawver said.
Wisconsin’s Barnett, an All-American last year at this weight, will be a huge mountain for Shawver to climb, but he’s wrestling well and it’ll be good to see where he stands with the elite of the Big Ten.
No. 16 at 133lbs, Rutgers’ Sammy Alvarez didn’t wrestle Friday night, so his status is up in the air for Sunday where he would likely see No. 25 Kyle Burwick, a 2021 national qualifier. If Alvarez can’t go, it should be Devon Britton getting the nod here, who wrestled to a tough decision loss filling in on Friday.
No. 4 at 141lbs Sebastian Rivera will be up next against No. 24 Joey Zargo of the Badgers. Rivera has been stellar this season, gaining bonus point victories in every bout he’s wrestled in and any bonus points he can secure here will be huge in determining the final outcome of the dual.
At 149lbs, a huge ranked matchup could take place as No. 19 Mike VanBrill will potentially square off with No. 11 Austin Gomez, a former national qualifier. VanBrill, who will need to bring his A-game to pull off the upset here, is undefeated so far this season (10-0) while Gomez has a single loss to his name.
Rob Kanniard of the Scarlet Knights, coming off a big win on Friday, could see No. 33 Garrett Model in their clash at 157lbs.
Coach Goodale mentioned how he liked seeing Kanniard gut out a tough win against Indiana, “there was a lot of fight there, which was really good to see, “ Goodale continued, “it was a really big win for Robbie, these Big Ten matches don’t come easy and he’s got another big one Sunday… no rest for the weary.”
At 165lbs, it will be Andrew Clark, also coming off a gutsy win on Friday, taking on talented freshman and No. 8 ranked Dean Hamiti. Hamiti brings a 12-0 record into Sunday’s dual and will be a tough out for Clark, who has struggled with consistency at times this season.
We could see a rematch from the blood round of last year’s NCAA tournament as Jackson Turley, ranked No. 26 at 174lbs will face off against No. 17 Andrew McNally. McNally, who transferred to Wisconsin during the off-season after competing for Kent State, is a three time national qualifier who fell to Turley last year one match shy of earning All-American honors.
Turley looked strong Friday night, muscling his way to a 20-2 technical fall win in what was only his second dual of the season.
At 184lbs, No. 5 John Poznanski will look to keep his undefeated season going strong as he’ll potentially square off with No. 33 Chris Weiler of the Badgers. Poznanski is coming off a huge top-10 win over Indiana’s No. 8 Donnell Washington Friday night where he was able to ride Washington for the entire second period, earning two points off stalling calls in the process.
“That’s a big time win over a very dangerous wrestler who’s won a lot,” said Coach Goodale. Much like Rivera down at 141lbs, if Poznanski can secure any bonus points in this spot, it will be huge for the Rutgers team score.
Another rematch could be on our hands at 197lbs as No. 7 Greg Bulsak will see No. 24 Braxton Amos of Wisconsin. These two met at the MatMen Open two weeks ago where Bulsak used a tough ride to earn a 6-2 win over Amos.
It should be noted that Amos scored the only takedown of that match, and he will be a game opponent for the undefeated (13-0) Bulsak.
To conclude the dual, Rutgers will send out either Boone McDermott or Alex Esposito as both appear to be traveling with the team. McDermott, the normal starter who was ranked at several points in the first semester, has struggled lately, including a major decision loss Friday night.
It won’t be easy for whomever gets the nod here as they will face off against Wisconsin’s No. 5 Trent Hilger, a two-time All American. In a dual meet that may come down to who scores the most bonus points, keeping this match close will be huge to give Rutgers the best chance to win.
When it comes down to it, the availability of Alvarez here is huge. Without him, I don’t see a firm path to victory for the Scarlet Knights as they will only be favored in 3 or 4 matches. Bonus points will be huge, but I see Wisconsin taking this one in by a very tight score of 18-17 if Alvarez isn’t available. With Alvarez, I like Rutgers to win 20-15.
The match will start Sunday at 1:00PM and will be available to stream via BTN Plus ($$).