Following a slightly disappointing 2022/ 2023 season, the Scarlet Knights are looking to rebound in a big way this year. The return of John Poznanski to the lineup after a redshirt year, and transfer portal acquisitions in Mitch Moore, Jacob Butler, and Yaraslau Slavikouski add fire power at the upper weights and provide quality Big Ten level depth to the roster. Rutgers looks to be improved this year and begins the season with a preseason ranking of No. 12 after finishing 22nd last year. Let’s take a look at the projected lineup:
125 lbs: At 125, we have the wrestler with potentially the highest ceiling on the team in Dean Peterson. Last year Peterson finished with a record of 25-11 and just missed out on All-American status validating his place as the top overall recruit in the 2021 class at 125 lbs. He starts the year as the preseason No. 9 ranked 125-pounder with the potential to become an All-American this year, if not more.
133 lbs: At 133 is Dylan Shawver. He narrowly lost out on the 125 spot last year to Dean Peterson. This didn’t stop him from turning in a strong 2022 campaign where he advanced to the round of 16, finished with a record of 23-1, and just missed out on All-American status. This year Shawver is preseason ranked No. 28 in the country. Depending on how he adjusts to the bump in weight class Dylan could finish the season ranked considerably higher than that. I don’t see an All-American for him this year, but I expect him to qualify for and win some matches in the NCAA tournament.
141 lbs: There are two options to start at the 145lb spot this year. Rutgers could start Joey Olivieri, or they can attempt to red shirt him for a third time and start Oklahoma transfer Mitch Moore. Last year Moore went 19-9 and was a national qualifier at 149 pounds. This year he will return to 141 where he wrestled for two years at Virginia Tech. At VT he finished ranked No. 12 and No. 14 and twice qualified for the national tournament. With the benefit of another year’s experience he can improve on his preseason rank of No. 19 and push for the Blood Rounds.
149 lbs: We have our second Oklahoma transfer in Jacob Butler. Butler is an experienced Big Twelve starter who finished 14-8 last season. He has national tournament experience from the 2022 season and is expected to repeat that performance at Rutgers. Increased competition in the Big Ten may require some adjustments, but Butler has the potential to qualify despite the higher quality of opponents.
157 lbs: Last year Andrew Clark manned the 157-pound weight class. While it is possible he gets a red shirt here and Tony White takes over, it should be Clark again this season. Last year Andrew compiled a record of 20-17 and was a national tournament qualifier. He is ranked No. 25 in the preseason field and should qualify for the national tournament without being featured in the pig tail matches at the NCAA’s this year.
165 lbs: Last year multiple wrestlers got matches at 165 and solidifying this weight class would help the team immensely. This year someone needs to step up and claim 165. I would like to see this be Connor O’Neill. He had the most matches at 165 last year and finished with a record of 10-16. With another year of starting experience under his belt O’Neill can get his record to .500 and will need to limit bonus points as often as possible in Big Ten dual matches.
174 lbs: The starter at 174 should be Jackson Turley. He burst onto the scene as a sophomore earning All American honors and had an incredible run in the NCAA tournament. Last year he was set back by injuries, though he was swinging back into form by the end of the season. Turley finished with an 11-14 record and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament. Hopefully this momentum carries into his senior season and we can see an improved record and another trip to the national tournament.
184 lbs: Rutgers coaching staff has the best kind of problem for 184 and 197 lbs this year. Both John Poznanski and Brian Soldano are elite wrestlers who could start in the weight class. Best for the team would be to have Soldano start at 184 this year. He finished his True Freshman campaign with a record of 25-12 and an appearance in the Round of 16 at NCAA’s. He has an electrifying style and is never out of a match with his ability to pin opponents from any position. With a preseason rank of No. 6 overall, expectations are high. If he can harness his unique pinning ability without getting himself into too much trouble, he can improve upon that ranking by the end of the season.
197 lbs: At 197 pounds we have the return of John Poznanski to the Rutgers wrestling lineup. Poznanski took his red shirt in 2023 to improve and grow as a wrestler in the program. His last full season he had a record of 20-8 and made it to the round of 16 at nationals. The year prior, he finished with a record of 11-4 and finished 4 th in the country. Poznanski will begin the 2023 campaign with a preseason rank of No. 20 at 197, and if he handles the increase in weight well he can finish much higher in the rankings. His return will greatly improve the upper weights and push Rutgers towards regaining a spot as a Top 10 wrestling team.
HWT: Finally at heavyweight we have Harvard transfer Yaraslau Slavikouski. Last year Slavikouski had a great season finishing with a record of 30-6. He reached the blood round in the NCAA tournament and is expected to repeat the performance. His transfer gives Rutgers a presence at heavyweight that’s been lacking for years. I am looking forward to seeing him compete this year.
On paper the team looks good enough to push for a Top 10 dual match ranking. With the addition of strong transfer portal acquisitions and the extra year of seasoning on the young talent, its going to be a fun season on the banks!