Rutgers begins Big Ten slate with Maryland
The last time the Rutgers wrestling team prepared for a dual meet was three weeks ago when the Scarlet Knights geared up for a historic Battle at the Birthplace against Princeton three weeks ago.
In their toughest affair up to that point, the Knights cleaned up with a 19-16 victory over their in-state rivals.
But since then, Rutgers has found itself shrouded in tournaments and double-dual meets and it has been a while since the team has been able to do battle against another program, matching its best with the opponent’s best.
“I don’t think it’ll be an issue, trying to switch over from tournament and double dual meet style to dual meet,” said sophomore 157-pounder John Van Brill, who recently crept into the national rankings at No. 20 this week. “I’m pretty good at being able to get up for it, especially if it’s just one dual meet, so I don’t think it’ll be a very tough adjustment. I’m sure the coaches will have us ready for it.”
Simple adjustment or not, head coach Scott Goodale will need to have his wrestlers up to task Sunday as they make their way to College Park to take on Maryland (1-3) to open up the Big Ten slate.
“We’ll be amped up because it’s a dual meet and it’s a Big Ten duel meet,” Goodale said. “And it’s Maryland.”
Often thought of as rivals, the Knights (5-1) and the Terrapins will meet in a fixture that historically has gone Rutgers’ way, leading the series 8-5-1. In the years since the two programs joined the Big Ten, the Knights have won both of the dual meets, including last year’s 30-3 rout.
In an event where Rutgers only dropped one match, six current Knights — including No. 6 Anthony Ashnault and No. 12 Nicholas Gravina — picked up wins.
Though neither side has squared off so far this season, both did participate at the Grapple at the Garden two weeks ago at Madison Square Garden. Both Maryland and Rutgers finished 1-1 on the day with decisive victories over Columbia.
Double-dual meets like the Grapple at the Garden have enabled Goodale to throw different competitors into the mix in hopes of figuring out his starting lineup as the team saunters into conference play.
But heading into Sunday’s competition, Goodale still has a lot to decipher.
“(Junior 133-pounder Scott) DelVecchio gets the nod against Maryland, and then that’s it really,” Goodale said. “We’ve gotta figure out 125 and then 149, 157. Great wins by Van Brill today, he had a big day so obviously he’s going to wrestle. But we’re still kind of up in the air on some weights.”
In the early season, DelVecchio and junior Tyson Dippery have been fighting for their spots at the 133 division.
“I’m just wrestling the same, trying to put myself in the best position to win the matches,” DelVecchio said. “I know I have to wrestle for the spot now, but I just have to keep wrestling the way I’m wrestling and I think I’ll be alright.”
Though DelVecchio was slated to face No. 11 Tyler Goodwin, Goodwin’s injury may carry through Sunday’s affair.
But Maryland boasts sophomore 149-pounder Alfred Bannister, who will do battle with senior Ken Theobold in what looks to be the sole ranked matchup in College Park this weekend. No. 12 Bannister and No. 15 Theobold are on the docket Sunday in their first ever bout.
Two wrestlers who are certainly not strangers to one another are senior 125-pounder Sean McCabe and junior Michael Beck, who square off Sunday in a rematch from last year, where McCabe downed Beck with a 13-4 major decision.
With only the Midlands Championships separating this bout and the other Big Ten competitions, the Knights cannot afford a slip up Sunday, especially if they want to impress come Midlands, in which many Rutgers wrestlers will surely meet Big Ten opponents.
As Goodale holds, Big Ten wrestling is unlike anything else, and the fact that the Maryland fixture has come so soon will do wonders for the team’s mentality heading into the weekend.
“We’ll get fired up because it’s a Big Ten duel in the first semester and it’s our next competition,” Goodale said. “That’s what we’ll be excited about.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.