This year the Rutgers wrestling team looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2022 campaign. The Scarlet Knights added a few power transfers, and start the season ranked 15th according to WrestleStat. It should be an exciting season on the Banks, and that includes a great schedule this year. The Scarlet Knights have marquee matchups on the road and at home. Here are my picks for the top 5 matches this year in no particular order.
Dec 8th Princeton at Jersey Mikes Arena
Rutgers and Princeton’s epic wrestling rivalry continues this year at Jersey Mike’s arena. This matchup brings the juice every time and this year should be no exception. One of the loudest I personally have ever heard the RAC was during Anthony Ashnault’s major decision victory over Matthew Kolodzik. It was an epic match. Princeton's team this year should be solid as always but only rank as the preseason 49th dual match team. The Tigers bring in a highly ranked freshman class and are headlined by Luke Stout, who is ranked 13th at 197, and Hudson Hightower who is ranked 20th at 157. Princeton is also replacing long time coach Chris Ayers this year with new head coach Joe Dubuque. This should bring in new energy to the rivalry this year.
Jan 27th Minnesota at Jersey Mikes Arena
The Golden Gophers are a team that bring in a solid Big Ten lineup, but they are a team Rutgers needs to beat if it wants to move up in the pecking order of the Big Ten. Minnesota lost their best wrestling in Aaron Nagao to Penn State in the transfer portal, but bring back two former All-Americans, Mitch Mckee and Brayton Lee. Minnesota also had four other wrestlers qualify for the NCAA’s last year. The dream scenario for Minnesota and this match would be the return of two time NCAA champion and Olympic champion Gable Steveson for his Covid year of eligibility, but it appears that is unlikely to happen at this point.
November 17th Virginia Tech at Jersey Mikes Arena
Virginia Tech is Rutgers premier out of conference opponent this year and brings a stacked lineup to Piscataway. Virginia Tech is preseason ranked 7th for Dual matches and 4th for tournament teams. They bring in 4 returning all Americans (Eddie Ventresca, Sam Latona, Bryce Andonian, Mekhi Lewis) and qualified 11 wrestlers for the NCAA’s last year. The headliner of that group is New Jersey native Mekhi Lewis who was the National Champion in 2019. There is some debate as to whether or not he returns for another season, but it would be awesome to see the former national champ back on the mat. Sam Latona is another New Jersey wrestler who has a win over last years champ, Vito Arajau, under his belt. If Rutgers could defeat Virginia Tech it would be an upset over a great program. Get your popcorn ready for this matchup!
February 12th Penn State at State College
Penn State is the best wrestling program in the country. They have won the national championship as a team 10 times since 2011. Their coach is the legendary wrestler Cael Sanderson, and he has turned out to be as good as coaching as he was competing. The team is headlined by three time National Champions Aaron Brooks and Carter Starocci, and the rest of the team is great at every weight class except 125. This match is always a must watch for me regardless of the generally lopsided scores. It is the ultimate measuring stick matchup, and it will be fun again to see how Rutgers matches up against the Penn State wrestling machine this year.
February 4th Ohio State at Jersey Mikes Arena
Another of the nations premier wrestling teams will be making the trip to Piscataway this year. The Buckeyes hit major adversity this summer when multiple time All-American Sammy Sasso was tragically injured. Thankfully he is on the road to recovery. The rest of the lineup is very strong and Ohio State still has a preseason dual match ranking of 13th. The lineup for Ohio State is largely unproven going into the season due to Olympic redshirts, bumping up in weight classes, or starting redshirt freshmen, but all of their wrestlers were high level recruits and project to have stellar seasons. This is one of the more vulnerable Ohio State teams I've seen, and a win over them would be a first for the Scarlet Knights. This is a match I would love to see in person.
To conclude if you have never been to a wrestling match at Jersey Mikes Arena(The Rac) you are really missing out. The matches average around 5,000 fans at it is truly one of the great places to see a match in the country. The crowd is loud and the energy is electric! I could not recommend it more.