No. 24 Rutgers Wrestling (8-3, 0-2) is finally back at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway this weekend for the first time in the 2022-23 season where they’ll welcome both of the Big Ten representatives from the Great Lakes State, No. 20 Michigan State and No. 3 Michigan.
Last weekend, the Scarlet Knights dropped their first two conference bouts of the year, falling to No. 21 Indiana and No. 7 Ohio State. The match against the Hoosiers was close and Rutgers should’ve probably prevailed, but a key loss at 165lbs and the lack of Boone McDermott at heavyweight turned out to be a recipe for defeat.
Conversely, against Ohio State, the Scarlet Knights were never in the match from the beginning after No. 13 Brian Soldano was pinned in the opening bout of the dual against No. 5 Kaleb Romero.
That’s life in the Big Ten and the Scarlet Knights will need to have a short memory heading into this weekend’s action if they hope to pull off a pair of upsets.
In other news around the team, Sammy Alvarez has found a new home at Oklahoma State under legendary coach John Smith. The Cowboy’s lineup is stacked with talent (and incoming talent) in the lower weights, so it’ll be interesting to see where and if Alvarez can crack the lineup down in Oklahoma.
For this weekend’s action, Rutgers will start on Friday night with No. 20 Michigan State (7-2,0-2) who also dropped their two opening Big Ten matches, falling to No. 3 Michigan and No. 13 Minnesota.
This is expected to be a tight one, and once again, the availability of Rutgers No. 24 ranked heavyweight Boone McDermott will likely play a large factor in the outcome of the dual.
The matchups I’m most looking forward to will start at 133lbs where Rutgers No. 17 ranked Joe Heilmann is slated to take on the Spartan’s No. 16, Rayvon Foley. The two wrestlers have a combined eleven years of experience at the Division I level, so I expect this one will be a low scoring, methodical match between the two veterans.
Up at 184lbs, the Scarlet Knights No. 13 ranked Brian Soldano will have another tough test on his hands against Michigan State’s No. 15 Layne Malczewski, a wrestler who caught and pinned Rutgers’ All-American John Poznanski last season.
At 197lbs, Billy Janzer, who was wrestling without a knee brace last weekend (a great sign), will likely have a rubber match against the Spartan’s No. 14 ranked Cam Caffey as the two split 6-4 decisions back in 2020.
Caffey is 13-1 coming into Friday’s dual while Janzer sits at 3-7 as he’s battled through some early season injuries.
This match is going to come down to the toss up bouts at 133, 149, 174, 184lbs and the availability of Boone McDermott at heavyweight. If the Scarlet Knights can find their way to a 5-5 match split, I really like their chances of pulling off a major decision somewhere along the line to take this dual.
On Sunday, a taller task awaits the Scarlet Knights as the No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines (7-0, 2-0) will head to Jersey Mike’s Arena for an afternoon Big Ten dual.
As the No. 3 ranked school in the country is likely to have, Michigan possesses a ranked wrestler at every weight but 197lbs, led by their No. 2 ranked heavyweight Mason Parris.
With that said, Rutgers matches up pretty decently with the Wolverines and I can see a realistic path to a 5-5 match split on Sunday, and the dual could come down to limiting bonus points in spots where Michigan is heavily favored (157, 165, HWT).
The aforementioned Parris is currently earning bonus points in over 70% of his matches, but if McDermott can go, he’s kept it close with some of the best in the country so far this season.
Be sure to get to the arena early on Sunday as the first three bouts of the dual will feature ranked matchups with No. 11 Dean Peterson taking on No. 23 Jack Medley at 125lbs, No. 17 Joe Heilmann up against No. 12 Dylan Ragusin at 133lbs, and No. 17 Joe Olivieri against No. 23 Jack Medley at 141lbs.