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Rutgers Wrestling: Meet the Freshmen Part II

We are back to wrap up our look at the incoming freshmen class.

Syndication: New Jersey Herald Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

We are finally back after an extended personal COVID hiatus (not fun) to complete our look at the incoming freshmen class head coach Scott Goodale has assembled for the 2022-23 season.

It’s another deep class and features top recruit Brian Soldano, who may end up grabbing the starting job at 184lbs for the upcoming year.

There are a few websites that rank recruitment classes, but MatScouts does the best job of keeping them regularly updated, so that’s who we’ll use for this season and beyond.

The Rutgers Wrestling class this year comes in at No. 8 in the country and in case you missed it, the first half of this preview can be found here.

Joe Fongaro - Boonton HS - Boonton, NJ - 144lbs

After qualifying for the state tournament each year of his high school career, Fongaro broke through his senior season to secure the state championship at 144lbs during the 2021-22 school year.

The Boonton Bomber Fongaro was a significant underdog in his state title match when he took on returning champion Ty Whalen of Clearview, but showed true heart and tenacity by edging out a 10-9 victory. Fongaro poured it on Whalen, who up until the finals match had surrendered just two total points in his tournament run.

Fongaro comes from a family of grapplers as older brother Dan finished 5th at the state tournament in 2018 and his younger sister Julia picked up a silver medal this past winter in the NJSIAA girls state championships.

Joe is currently listed at 141/149lbs on the official Rutgers roster and will likely redshirt this season behind Sammy Alvarez (141lbs) and Tony White (149lbs) respectively, but should have a good shot to contribute to the lineup throughout his Scarlet Knight career.

Luke Gayer - Calvary Chapel HS - Anaheim, CA - 160lbs

Coach Goodale has grown Rutgers Wrestling into a program that is recognized consistently on a national level and because of that, securing recruits from 3000 miles away isn’t unheard of.

Incoming freshman Luke Gayer is an example of that, as he hails from Anaheim, CA but still will be calling Piscataway, NJ home for the next four or five years.

Gayer, who committed to Rutgers just before the start of his senior season this past year, finished second in his state tournament while also picking up a 4th place finish at the illustrious “Super 32” tournament that annually attracts the best high school wrestlers throughout the country.

Right now it appears that Gayer will compete at 165lbs for his first season on the banks, where he’ll likely battle fellow incoming freshman Eric Freeman to see who will back up Connor O’Neill at the weight.

I expect Coach Goodale to only redshirt either Gayer or Freeman here (but not both) as he’ll likely want to have at least one backup in this spot.

Joe Heilmann - South Plainfield HS - South Plainfield, NJ - 133lbs

Definitely not a freshman, but a new face on the banks nonetheless, is local product Joe Heilmann, who arrives in Piscataway after four years with the North Carolina Tar Heels.

This past season Heilmann secured a top 16 finish while competing at 133lbs at the NCAA Championships in his first time qualifying for the year end tournament.

Heilmann followed in the footsteps of his two older brothers, Nick and Troy, as all three were standout wrestlers for South Plainfield high school who headed down to North Carolina after graduation to represent the Tar Heels.

Troy was 2018 All-American for UNC when he picked up at fourth place finish at the NCAA championships.

A graduate student this season, Heilmann will once again compete at 133lbs, but he will be thoroughly tested in his path to a lineup spot in his final run as Rutgers has significant quality depth at their lower weights this season.

2021-22 NCAA qualifier Joe Olivieri will likely redshirt though, so it will probably be between Heilmann and two-time former NJ state champion Nick Raimo for the spot at 133lbs.

Aaron Kurzer - Montville HS - Montville, NJ - 132lbs/Sebastiano Nini - Christian Brothers - Cream Ridge, NJ - 141lbs

Rounding out the incoming class for the Scarlet Knights this season are Aaron Kurzer and Sebastiano Nini, two wrestlers who will provide even more depth in the lightweights for at least the early part of their careers on the banks.

Competition breeds success and iron sharpens iron, so although these two don’t have a clear path to the lineup at the moment, they are in a great place for development and growth here at Rutgers Wrestling.

That wraps up our look at the new faces headed to the Scarlet Knight wrestling team for the 2022-23 season. Soldano is obviously the “get” of the class, but the depth Goodale achieved here shouldn’t be overlooked.

I personally picked a heck of a time to get COVID as Rutgers announced their coaching vacancy would be filled by former Director of Operations Joe Pollard the same day I tested positive, but kudos to Coach Pollard, a familiar face who has established strong relationships with the wrestlers currently on the roster and many possible NJ recruits who could call Piscataway home in the future.