For the first time ever, No. 16 Rutgers Wrestling will enter the Big Ten Conference tournament with all three of their lightweights (125-141lbs) ranked nationally.
The group, which features two freshman and a graduate student, has been a catalyst for the Scarlet Knights throughout the season and they look to do the same this Saturday and Sunday in Lincoln, Nebraska.
All three wrestlers earned seeds that put them within the automatic qualification window to get to nationals if they wrestle to their anticipated placings this weekend.
You can read more about the auto-qualification process here.
125lbs: Rutgers Entry – No. 27 Dylan Shawver
Overall Record: 18-7
Big Ten Record: 4-4
No. 22 Justin Cardani (Illinois) 3-1 dec.
Jacob Moran (Indiana) 13-2 major dec.
Tommy Capul (Maryland) 16-0 tech. fall
No. 1 Nick Suriano (Michigan) 16-0 tech. fall
No. 2 Patrick Glory (Princeton) 13-3 major dec.
No. 5 Drew Hildebrandt (Penn State) 4-2 dec.
No. of Pre-Allocations: 10
Prediction: Former Rutgers’ National Champion and No. 1 ranked Nick Suriano is the favorite to bring home the 125lbs title here for Michigan, as he looks to close out his nomad-like college career with a second National Championship in a few weeks.
His top contender here is likely Penn State’s No. 5 Drew Hildebrandt, whom Suriano took out via a close 2-1 decision back in January, but the weight features seven wrestlers ranked 5th-13th nationally, so odds are it will be tightly contested.
Rutgers’ Shawver picked up a 9th seed here, and his results this season show that he can compete with the vast majority of the Big Ten, outside of Suriano, whom he fell to via technical fall during the Scarlet Knights’ dual meet with Michigan.
Shawver will see Suriano in Rd. 2 if he can get past Patrick McKee of Minnesota, a wrestler Shawver took out in upset fashion at last season’s conference tournament.
I like Shawver to finish top eight here, earning his auto-qualification for the National Championships in Detroit.
133lbs: Rutgers Entry – No. 15 Joe Olivieri
Overall Record: 5-4
Big Ten Record: 2-4
Kyle Burwick (Wisconsin) 9-1 major dec.
Brady Koontz (Ohio State) 10-2 major dec.
No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) 11-5 dec.
No. 6 Lucas Byrd (Illinois) 13-2 major dec.
No. 7 Rayvon Foley (Mich State) 1-0 dec.
No. 8 Dylan Ragusin (Michigan) 3-1 dec.
No. of Pre-Allocations: 10
Prediction: Defending National Champion and No. 1 ranked Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State is the favorite here, as he brings an unblemished 14-0 record, including a win over likely No. 2 seed Austin Desanto of Iowa, a wrestler Bravo-Young has now defeated four times in a row.
Outside of his major decision loss to No. 6 Lucas Byrd of Illinois, Rutgers’ No. 15 Joe Olivieri has looked strong in his ranked losses, keeping it close with No. 1 Bravo-Young, No. 7 Rayvon Foley (Mich State), and No. 8 Dylan Ragusin (Michigan).
Olivieri will square off against No. 23 Matt Ramos of Purdue for his first round bout, with a rematch against Bravo-Young looming in Rd. 2 if the Rutgers’ freshman can advance.
Olivieri represents one the Scarlet Knights best chances to out-perform his seed and I like him finishing top six at the conference tournament, punching his ticket to nationals in the process.
141lbs: Rutgers Entry – No. 3 Sebastian Rivera
Overall Record: 22-0
Big Ten Record: 8-0
No. 17 Dylan D’Emilio (Ohio State) 20-6 major dec.
No. 22 Joe Zargo (Wisconsin) 11-1 major dec.
No. 14 CJ Composto (Penn) 18-3 tech. fall
No. of Pre-Allocations: 7
Prediction: This one should be a doozy. The top three ranked wrestlers nationwide, including defending National Champion Nick Lee (Penn State), runner-up Jaydin Eierman (Iowa), and Rutgers’ 3x All-American Sebastian Rivera, lead the fray here.
On top of that, the weight class only received seven pre-allocations for nationals, but there should be ten ranked wrestlers competing this weekend and I doubt any of them outside of the aforementioned top-three want to leave their potential trip to Detroit hanging on the hopes of receiving an at-large bid.
Rutgers’ No. 3 Rivera suffered a knee injury against Princeton on February 18th, but hopes are high he’ll be in fighting shape come tournament time.
If seedings hold, Rivera will have an interesting second round matchup against Stevan Micic of Michigan, who didn’t weigh in for the dual between Rutgers and Michigan back in January, but is a former 3x All-American in his eighth year of college.
A healthy Rivera is my pick here to win Big Tens, but he’ll have his work cut out for him regardless of how he recovers from the knee injury.
Coach Goodale indicated during his Monday afternoon press conference that Rivera looked “very good” in the room that day, but he also didn’t rule out Rivera weighing in for the tournament and injury defaulting prior to his first match, which would buy him an additional two weeks to recover from his injury.
This would require Rivera to receive an at-large bid for the national tournament, which he would be all but guaranteed to obtain.
That does it for the lightweights, look for my middle and upperweight previews as the week goes on.
Information on viewing the Big Ten Tournament this weekend can be found below:
From 11 a.m. ET to 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 5, BTN will once again carry the opening session on television with whip-around coverage and quad box views highlighting the most compelling matchups. On B1G+, individual mat cameras, as well as the quad box, will also be available to provide a comprehensive look at session one. For session two on Saturday night, coverage of the wrestleback matches begins at 6:30 p.m. ET and will be streamed exclusively on B1G+. Television coverage resumes for Saturday night’s semifinals from 8:30 p.m. ET through 10:30 p.m. ET, while B1G+ will continue with individual mat coverage for the semifinals and wrestleback matches.
On Sunday, March 6, competition begins at noon ET on B1G+ with individual mat cameras for the consolation semifinals. At 4:30 p.m. ET, television coverage resumes as Big Ten champions are crowned while streaming coverage of the third and fifth-place bouts will be available on B1G+.