Midway through the Big Ten portion of their schedule, the No. 23 ranked Scarlet Knight wrestling team sits at 9-4 with a 1-3 mark in conference action. Last weekend, Rutgers took out No. 22 Michigan State before falling to No. 3 Michigan on Sunday at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway.
This Sunday, the Scarlet Knights are back in action at home against the No. 14 ranked Northwestern Wildcats at 4:00PM. The Wildcats boast a very strong lineup that features a ranked wrestler at all but one weight (184lbs) and as a team, they took home the title at this season’s Ken Kraft Midlands Championships back in December.
The Scarlet Knights have five wrestlers currently ranked by Intermat, led by redshirt freshman Dean Peterson, who comes in at No. 11 and is 4-0 in Big Ten action so far this season.
Peterson could be in line for a tough test Sunday if Northwestern’s No. 6 ranked Michael DeAugustino weighs in, but the Wildcat has only wrestled in six matches this season so far, although he did wrestle Friday night, falling to No. 8 Eric Barnett of Wisconsin.
Another fun matchup could follow at 133lbs where No. 16 Joe Heilmann should see the Wildcats’ No. 13 Chris Cannon. The two haven’t yet met in their college careers, but share a common loss to No. 10 Lucas Byrd of Illinois this season. Heilmann also has a 3-2 win over No. 8 Michael Colaiocco of Penn though, while Cannon lost to Colaiocco at the Midlands Championships, 3-2.
The match I’m definitely the most excited about will be at 141lbs where Rutgers’ No. 17 Joe Olivieri should square off against No. 11 Frankie Tal-Shahar.
Olivieri has been a spark plug for Rutgers since taking over for Sammy Alvarez at 141lbs and the Wildcats’ Tal-Shahar represents a big opportunity for a statement win for the young Scarlet Knight.
Tal-Shahar also hasn’t competed a ton this season and comes into the dual at just 4-4 but has wrestled some top ranked guys when he’s been out there.
Up at 184lbs, Rutgers’ No. 15 ranked Brian Soldano finds himself on a three match skid after seeing the No. 5, No. 14, and No. 8 ranked wrestlers in successive matches.
I would say the true freshman gets a respite here against an unranked Evan Bates, however these two met at the Midlands Championships where Soldano picked up a thrilling victory via second period pin, but was trailing Bates 14-6 at the time.
At heavyweight, Northwestern has the No. 4 ranked wrestler in the country in Lucas Davison, so the availability of Rutgers No. 26 Boone McDermott will once again loom large in this dual.
Davison defeated Boone via technical fall at last year’s Big Ten Championships, but before his leg injury, Boone has looked like a much improved wrestler throughout this season.
Much like last week against Michigan and Michigan State, I can see a path to five wins here for Rutgers (maybe even six) but they will once again have to limit bonus points if they want a shot to win on Sunday.
This is a solid opportunity to pull off an upset for the Scarlet Knights and what happens at heavyweight could be the deciding factor in the dual.
Action kicks off from Piscataway at Jersey Mike’s Arena at 4:00PM and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.