It’s April and if you’re like me the withdrawals deriving from the end of the 2021-22 NCAA wrestling season are beginning to hit in full force. With that in mind, I’ve decided to take a stab at a “way too early” lineup preview for next season’s starting squad.
This preview is only my opinion on how things will shake out when November rolls around and will probably (definitely) end up being inaccurate in some instances. We’ll break this down into three parts and get it started with the lightweights. Let’s have some fun.
Quick note, when you see (3) next to a wrestler’s name, that denotes how many years of eligibility they have remaining.
Last season’s starter: Dylan Shawver (3)
2022-23 possible starters: Dylan Shawver, Dean Peterson (4)
Thoughts: The lightweight group is filled with talented wrestlers and not enough spots to fit them all, so it will be interesting to see where everyone ends up. Shawver had a strong campaign last season, qualifying for the national tournament where he picked up two wins before bowing out in the round of 16.
Dean Peterson, a former two-time NJ State Champion and three-time finalist (who had to sit out his senior year season with an injury) transferred to the banks after originally committing to Princeton.
Peterson was the No. 1 ranked recruit at 126lbs coming out of St. John Vianney High School and was a huge pickup for Coach Goodale.
It should be noted that Peterson only competed in one open tournament during his redshirt season this past year and it was up at 133lbs, so this spot may end up being Shawver’s by default.
Last season’s starter: Sammy Alvarez (2), Joe Olivieri (3)
2022-23 possible starters: Joe Olivieri, Dean Peterson, Nick Raimo (3)
Thoughts: This is a real logjam on paper for the Scarlet Knights. Joe Olivieri took over the starting duties midway through the season after Sammy Alvarez could no longer make the weight and true freshman Olivieri looked strong against some of the best competition in the country.
He qualified for and picked up a win at the national tournament, a good showing for a wrestler that was competing for state championships just a year before.
Olivieri will have some tough competition in-house for the starter role next season though, as the aforementioned Peterson and another former two-time NJ State Champion and three-time finalist in Nick Raimo wait in the wings.
Raimo, who picked up his titles while representing Hanover Park during his high school career, comes to banks after spending his first two years at Arizona State. He didn’t see any action this past season at Rutgers due to an injury but should be ready to go in November.
The trio of Olivieri, Peterson, and Raimo account for seven(!) state titles in their high school careers and fans should be excited for nine years of eligibility remaining between them.
Last season’s starter: Sebastian Rivera (0)
2022-23 possible starters: Sammy Alvarez (2), Nick Raimo, Asia Garcia (3), Michael Cetta (3)
Thoughts: Departing the banks after a stellar career is Sebastian Rivera, a four-time NCAA All-America that will be incredibly hard to replace. Sammy Alvarez, a super talented wrestler who’s had some heartbreaking ends to his collegiate seasons so far, on paper would be the favorite to start here.
After Alvarez could no longer make 133lbs, we didn’t see him on the bench for any match that I personally saw, so I was nervous that the grind of weight-cutting and missing year-end tournaments was catching up to him but he is still training with the team as per an Instagram story a few weeks back.
It’s possible Raimo bumps up to 141lbs as well due to the logjam at 133lbs which would give us a fun wrestle-off between him and Alvarez. Indiana transfer Asa Garcia and 2021-22 backup Michael Cetta add depth here, along with incoming freshman Joe Fongaro.
Stay tuned next week for the middleweight “way too early” preview.
In actual wrestling news, some Olympic-style wrestling action is in the cards this weekend at the Bill Farrell Memorial International Open in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Rutgers fans will specifically want to check out the 70kg men’s freestyle bracket where former National Champion and current assistant coach Anthony Ashnault will be competing.
The Scarlet Knight champion will look to qualify for the 2022 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament here by either winning the weight class or being the highest placing athlete that is not already qualified for the challenge tournament.
The men’s freestyle portion of the tournament will take place on Saturday and all the action will be streamed on FloWrestling.