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No. 17 Rutgers Wrestling vs No. 8 Ohio State Match Preview

Will this be the year that the Scarlet Knights finally take out the perennial powerhouse Buckeyes?

Syndication: Asbury Park Press Peter Ackerman / USA TODAY NETWORK

No. 17 Rutgers Wrestling (13-4, 2-4), off a 36-3 thrashing of in-state rival Rider on Thursday night will have a tough test Sunday against the No. 8 Buckeyes of Ohio State (6-3, 2-3).

The Buckeyes fell to No. 1 Penn State Friday night, 32-7 but were missing some key starters which could make this dual meet very interesting for the Scarlet Knights. Ohio State’s lineup features nine ranked wrestlers, including five ranked in the top-ten, but two of their highest ranked wresters, No. 4 Carson Kharchla at 165lbs and No. 6 Kaleb Romero at 184lbs, both didn’t go for the Buckeyes on Friday.

The eighth ranked Buckeyes have had a difficult Big Ten schedule so far, squaring off against each of the three top ranked teams in the conference (and the nation for that matter) in Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan, and falling in each of those matches.

Their two conference wins were against No. 16 Michigan State and Maryland along with strong out of conference wins over No. 10 Virginia Tech and No. 18 North Carolina. The Buckeyes also took second at the always competitive CKLV tournament back in early December.

Straight off the bat, Rutgers’ No. 29 at 125lbs Dylan Shawver should see No. 10 Malik Heinselman of the Buckeyes in a huge test for the Scarlet Knight freshman. Shawver is coming off a win Thursday night, while Heinselman fell to No. 6 Drew Hildebrandt in his Friday night matchup.

If Shawver can pull the upset here, it could be a significant factor in the outcome of the meet.

Next up, No. 18 Joey Olivieri, himself off an impressive major decision win Thursday night will likely see Brady Koontz in a matchup that should be a win for the true freshman Olivieri.

Any bonus points he could gain here would be icing on the cake, but a win is needed if Rutgers has a shot at the upset.

The hammer of the lower weights for the Scarlet Knights, No. 3 Sebastian Rivera, looked uncharacteristically human against No. 25 Quinn Kinner of Rider Thursday night, as he failed to secure a bonus point victory for the first time this season.

Regardless of that, Rivera has looked dominant at 141lbs overall, but his opponent here, No. 20 Dylan D’Emilio, generally keeps his matches close, outside of his major decision loss on Friday to No. 1 Nick Lee of Penn State (his other five losses were by a total of 12 points), so hopefully Rivera can copy his Nittany Lion counterpart and do the same for Rutgers in this spot.

Depending on who Ohio State sends out in the upperweights, our matchup at 149lbs could be the highlight matchup of the dual, as Rutgers will send out No. 16 Mike VanBrill, fresh off a major decision win Thursday night, set to square off against No. 2 ranked and returning national runner-up, Sammy Sasso.

These two met in last year’s dual meet and despite VanBrill opening the scoring with an early takedown, it was Sasso who collected the 11-5 win. VanBrill is a different wrestler this year, and seems to be in a great place mentally, so this will be an exciting spot to see where he stands with the elite at his weight class.

The matchup at 157lbs is another huge one for the Scarlet Knights, as they will send out Rob Kanniard to possibly take on No. 33 Jashon Hubbard of Ohio State. Hubbard has gained eight of his eleven wins this season from open tournaments, and he didn’t wrestle on Friday, so his status is up in the air.

The Buckeyes have three other wrestlers listed at this weight that have seen mat time this year, but whoever it is, a win from Kanniard here would go a long way with regards to the team score.

At 165lbs, as I stated earlier, Ohio State’s No. 4 Carson Kharchla didn’t go on Friday against Penn State, so his availability here, where he would take on Rutgers’ Andrew Clark, is unknown. If Kharchla gets the nod, Clark’s goal would be to limit the damage to a regular decision, if not, Clark would likely be favored against anyone else they send out.

Connor O’Neill, looking to rebound from a tough loss Thursday night, will get the nod at 174lbs where he’ll likely see No. 7 ranked Ethan Smith of the Buckeyes.

The former All-American Smith is 13-4 on the year, with his four losses coming to top-six ranked opponents, so this will be a tough spot for O’Neill.

What should be the marquee matchup of the day would be at 184lbs where Rutgers’ No. 7 John Poznanski and Ohio State’s No. 6 Kaleb Romero are due to square off, but Romero didn’t weigh in on Friday and could possibly be hurt, so we might see two-time national qualifier Rocky Jordan in this spot instead.

Jordan, a name that should be familiar to Scarlet Knight fans as his brother fell three times, including in the national final, in the 2018-19 season to former Rutgers’ hammer and now Assistant Coach Anthony Ashnault. Poznanski owns a 9-6 win over Jordan from last season’s dual and would be the favorite here if Romero can’t go.

At 197lbs, Rutgers will send out No. 6 Greg Bulsak, off a dominant second period technical fall on Friday to take on No. 21 Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State. Hoffman doesn’t have any big, ranked wins so far this season but generally keeps matches close as he comes into the dual standing at 8-6, with all but one of those losses coming by three points or less.

At heavyweight, Rutgers’ Boone McDermott, who lit up Jersey Mike’s Arena Thursday night when he tossed David Szuba of Rider to his back for a pinfall, will likely see returning All-American and No. 13 ranked Tate Orndorff.

The implications of this match could be gigantic for the team score, as it could be close to tied when this bout kicks off. Could Rutgers throw a curveball here and send out Kyonte Hamilton? I don’t think it’s likely, but it will be a looming question for the remainder of the season.

With all that said, I’m going to go off the assumption that Ohio State sends out Kharchla but holds back Romero on Sunday and if that’s the case, I have the teams splitting the bouts five to five with Ohio State squeaking out a 17-16 win on the back of major decision wins at 165 and 174lbs. If Clark and O’Neill can keep their results to regular decisions, I like Rutgers to take the dual.

It’s going to be an exciting Sunday afternoon any way you slice it and action will kick off from Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway at Noon on BTN Plus ($$).