Rutgers returns to Corvallis, this time for real
The Rutgers wrestling team puts a lot of stock into its offseason training, viewing it as a valuable opportunity to improve from the end of one season to the start of the next.
This past summer, the Scarlet Knights added a new wrinkle to their offseason program. At the end of July, six grapplers traveled to Corvallis, Oregon, for a week to train to with a fellow top-25 program in Oregon State.
Now, No. 15 Rutgers (5-1) will travel as a whole back to Oregon State this weekend, only this time the matches between the two nationally-ranked programs will count.
Come Saturday, the Knights will face off against their fourth consecutive ranked opponent in No. 18 Oregon State (2-1) followed by a match against Utah Valley (1-2).
“Two similar programs, two very similar programs,” head coach Scott Goodale said about Rutgers’ matchup versus Oregon State. “Looking at it on paper, there’s probably seven or eight toss-up matches, that’s how evenly matched these two teams are ... We certainly didn’t shy away with this schedule, and once again we’ll take advantage of this opportunity and hopefully find ourselves on the winning end of it."
Rutgers is coming off a 2-1 finish overall at the Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals, which featured three ranked opponents.
After suffering their first loss of the season in a tight 19-18 match against No. 22 Oklahoma, the Knights followed up strong in taking down No. 13 North Carolina, 19-13, for their first upset victory of the season.
They finished the dual meet by winning seven of their final eight individual matches against No. 25 Northern Iowa en route to a dominating 28-10 victory.
With two victories over ranked opponents to add to their resume, along with being 2 points shy of adding a third, Rutgers continued its climb in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches’ Poll.
The Knights left their week long training camp at Oregon State over the summer feeling like they got the better end of the session, and they believe they have improved even more since the last time they saw the Beavers.
“I feel like we kind of jumped levels from the summer to the beginning of this season," said senior 165-pounder Anthony Perrotti. "So I’m really curious to see how the team holds up, and we’re obviously looking for the win. Having four straight ranked opponents is real good for us and it’s important to get that 'W.'”
Although it didn’t cross path with Rutgers, Oregon State was also in competition at the Northeast Duals last weekend.
The Beavers’ finish was very similar to the Knights', finishing 2-1 against three ranked opponents. They started the day with a loss to No. 9 Nebraska, but came back with big victories over No. 19 West Virginia and Northern Iowa.
Rutgers' other opponent this weekend, Utah Valley, is coming off of a 1-2 finish at the Eastern Michigan Duals.
Oregon State boasts four top-20 wrestlers in its starting lineup, according to Intermat Wrestling. The Knights will counter with a ranked grappler of their own in two matches.
In the 165-pound class, No. 9 Perrotti will face off against No. 12 Seth Thomas. In the heavyweight showdown, No. 7 Billy Smith of the Knights will take on No. 4 Austin Marsden.
Both Perrotti and Smith secured victories against top-10 opponents at the Northeast Duals. Junior 125-pounder Sean McCabe and senior 197-pounder Hayden Hyrmack will be tasked with wrestling the No. 10 and No. 15 grapplers in their respective weight classes.
Rutgers is looking to leave Oregon this weekend with two more wins and a third consecutive victory over a ranked opponent. Although a few of the Knights’ grapplers have some familiarity with their scheduled matchup from the summer sessions, it doesn’t mean they are taking the Beavers lightly.
Rutgers is aware that it has to continue to wrestle at its best if it wants to knock off another ranked opponent.
“When it comes down to it, it's just wrestling,” said sophomore 149-pounder Anthony Ashanult. “You still need to go out there and get it done. Things change, I guess we kind of know their style, they know our style a little bit. At the end of the day, it’s wrestling and who’s going to stop your best stuff and hopefully it’s no one, because it’s your best stuff. We just got to out there and wrestle like we did the last two matches today (at the Northeast Duals) and I think we’ll be fine.”
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