Head coach Scott Goodale has made a habit of bringing in top-tier talent (and guys with tons of upside) to the banks on a yearly basis and the incoming freshman class is no exception.
Matscouts, in their annual recruiting class rankings, pegged the incoming Scarlet Knight group as the 8th best in the country. The recruits mainly hail from the Garden State, but standouts from California and Pennsylvania are also joining the fray.
We’ve already talked about three-time NJ state champion Brian Soldano, the prize of the class and what his signing means to the program, so let’s dive into his fellow recruits/transfers and get to know them a little better.
In order to keep things from running too long, we’ll split the introduction into two parts, with four wrestlers highlighted in each.
PJ Casale - Delbarton/Passaic Valley - Little Falls, NJ - 215lbs
Casale, a two-time NJ state finalist, picked up his lone state championship title in 2020 while representing Delbarton as a sophomore.
The standout wrestler chose not to compete at the 2021 state tournament, opting instead to represent the USA at the Pan-American games (where he would earn a silver medal) while attempting to earn a spot on the national team.
Casale is a upperweight ‘tweener,’ meaning he’s in between the collegiate weights of 197 and 285lbs respectively, but I imagine he attempts to make the cut to 197lbs where he would much better suited weight-wise.
I like him to redshirt this season and challenge Billy Janzer for the starting role in the 2023-24 year.
Brandan Chletsos - Notre Dame Green Pond - Easton, PA - 138lbs
Chletsos wrapped up an impressive high school career that saw him earn sixth, third, and second place medals with a state championship his senior season.
Wrestling at a hyper-competitive class AA school in Pennsylvania, Chletsos saw top competition regularly which should help him adjust to the rigors of college wrestling well.
His fortitude was on full display during his state final match as he rode out Lehigh recruit Owen Reinsel in the final seconds to secure the 1-0 victory and his gold medal.
I also like Chletsos to redshirt this season as Rutgers plans to start NWCA All-American Sammy Alvarez at 141lbs.
Eric Freeman - Paramus - Paramus, NJ - 165lbs
Freeman, our second of six New Jersey natives that will be featured in this two part preview, hails from Paramus high where he was a two-time third place finisher at the NJ state wrestling championships.
Although not a fixture in the national rankings, Freeman’s coach at Paramus Chris Falato, thinks the best is yet to come for the young Scarlet Knight.
“Eric has been a tremendous asset to our program over the years and played a big role in helping Paramus get back to the top,” Falato said while speaking to Nick Gantaifis of northjersey.com.
“He’s been a role model for our younger guys and a great teammate. He has so much untapped talent and potential and he’s only going to get better from here,” Falato said.
Freeman is currently listed at 174lbs on the official Rutgers roster, so he’ll also likely redshirt this year while training with the likes of 2021 All-American Jackson Turley.
Stratos Kantanas - Livingston - Livingston, NJ - 174lbs
Kantanas was a three-time NJ state qualifier for Livingston high who finally broke through to the podium during his senior season with a sixth place finish at 175lbs.
It wasn’t easy and Kantanas showed true grit, sneaking out a one point win in the “blood round” followed by another in the consolation quarterfinals, guaranteeing himself a top-six finish in the process.
Listed at 184lbs, Kantanas will have incredible training partners on the banks including All-American John Poznanski and incoming standout Brian Soldano, but will have difficultly cracking the lineup early on in his career.
That does it for our preview of the first four incoming Scarlet Knight freshmen and of the four, I see Casale and Freeman with the best shots of seeing mat time during the upcoming season, though it is likely that they all end up deferring their eligibility and taking redshirts this year.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our preview coming later this week!