The No. 18 ranked Scarlet Knights (8-1, 0-0) are back in action this weekend, finally kicking off the BIG Ten portion of their schedule with a pair of road duals against Indiana on Friday and No. 7 Ohio State on Sunday.
Last weekend, Rutgers picked up wins over non-conference opponents Bloomsburg (45-0) and Rider (26-9), but the talk surrounding the team since Sunday has been the status of Sammy Alvarez.
If you somehow missed it, it appears the Sammy Alvarez tenure is over at Rutgers wrestling after he failed to make weight for the Rider dual and faced disciplinary actions for doing so.
This is the third year in a row where weight related issues have plagued Alvarez and now the talented wrestler has confirmed that he has entered the transfer portal while talking to Pat Lanni of NJ.com.
I’ve always been a big fan of Alvarez and his style of wrestling since he first arrived on the banks and it’s a shame to see it end like this, but it gets to a point where it makes sense for both parties to just move on, and we’ve reached that point.
With that said, Coach Goodale almost immediately confirmed that national qualifier Joe Olivieri will have his redshirt pulled and will be inserted into the lineup at 141lbs, although maybe not immediately as we’ll see later.
Getting back to this weekend’s upcoming action, the Scarlet Knights will travel to Indiana on Friday night to take on the Hoosiers in Bloomington.
The Hoosiers (5-1, 1-1) have a talented lineup that features five wrestlers currently ranked by Intermat, led by No. 18 DJ Washington at 174lbs. He’ll likely square off against Rutgers’ Jackson Turley, who appears to be rounding into form at just the right time, as he’ll be tested twice this weekend.
Other matches in this dual that I’m looking forward to include Tony White at 149lbs where he’ll likely see No. 33 Graham Rooks. White looked strong against both Bloomsburg and Rider, and I like him in this spot to maybe pull off the upset against the ranked Rooks.
At 157lbs, Andrew Clark could have a rematch of his consolation semifinal match at the Midlands Championships a few weeks ago against No. 18 Derek Gilcher where the Hoosier came out on top 6-2.
The availability of Boone McDermott at heavyweight could loom large in this dual as the Scarlet Knight hurt his knee and was forced to injury default out of his match against Rider.
Coach Goodale indicated that McDermott would travel with the team and likely be a “game-time” decision. If he can go, he’ll have a competitive matchup on his hands against No. 31 Jacob Bullock, who took out McDermott via major decision last season, 9-1.
Speaking of availability, although Coach Goodale said Joe Olivieri’s redshirt is pulled and he is the starter at 141lbs, just Devon Britton is listed at the weight for Rutgers on their official match preview.
If Olivieri goes at 141 and Boone at heavyweight, I like Rutgers to take it with a 6-4 match-split 19-12, but it’s going to be close regardless of who gets the nod at those weights.
On Sunday, the Scarlet Knights will head to Columbus, OH to take on the No. 7 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
This dual will be the toughest test of the season so far for Rutgers as the Buckeyes sport a ranked wrestler at all ten weight classes, including five in the top ten and eight in the top twenty.
I know it’s still early in the season with regards to rankings, but having a lineup as complete as Ohio State’s speaks wonders of their program and specifically their head coach, Tom Ryan.
All this is to say, the Scarlet Knights will need to bring their absolute best on Sunday if they want to keep it close with the Buckeyes.
The match I’m most looking forward to is at 125lbs where Rutgers No. 13 Dean Peterson could see No. 8 Malik Heinselman of Ohio State. Heinselman has been around for what feels like forever, but I think Peterson’s style in this matchup could frustrate the Buckeye into making a late mistake.
Another fun one could follow right away at 133lbs where No. 14 Joe Heilmann will square off against No. 15 Jesse Mendez. Mendez, a true freshman, had an outstanding high school career where he went 157-1, winning four Indiana state championships in the process.
Rutgers own true freshman in their starting lineup, No. 14 Brian Soldano, will likely have his highest ranked foe of the season if Ohio State sends out No. 5 at 184lbs, Kaleb Romero.
Simply put here, Rutgers does not match up well against Ohio State. If the Buckeyes send out all their starters, I could see it easily being a nine to one match-split for the home team, so it could be a long Sunday for the Scarlet Knights.