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Rutgers wrestles at RAC for one last time in 2018

No. 18 Knights face-off against No. 21 Gophers in Big Ten showdown

After a week of rest, the Rutgers wrestling team is ready to get back in action as it takes on Minnesota at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) one final time this season on Friday at 7 p.m.

The No. 18 Scarlet Knights (6-6, 2-5) moved up one spot in the top-25 rankings after beating then-No. 17 Northwestern and losing to No. 14 Illinois with a shell of their regular lineup over the weekend.

Now, Rutgers is set to host the No. 21 Golden Gophers (5-6, 2-4) inside its own building in front of its own fans — on Senior Night, no less. 

“Of course they’re gonna come out and wrestle hard,” senior heavyweight Razohnn Gross said.  “Any Big Ten team who comes in here is gonna come in here and wrestle hard.”

The weekend should see plenty of intriguing matchups as both the Knights and Minnesota carry five ranked wrestlers — most in the same weight class.

At 125, No. 1 sophomore Nick Suriano will take on either No. 6 Ethan Lizak or Steve Polakowski. Immediately after that, at 133, No. 20 fifth-year senior Scott DelVecchio is set to face No. 12 Mitch McKee. 

“You always want to win,” DelVecchio said. “Obviously it’s Senior Night, so you wanna get a win on Senior Night both individually and as a team, but at the same time it’s just another match, just go out there and wrestle.”

The 141-weight class features the Gophers’ No. 14 Tommy Thorn going up against redshirt freshman Michael Van Brill. Conversely at 149, Rutgers will send out No. 11 fifth-year senior Eleazar DeLuca versus either Ben Brancale or Miles Patton.

After a 157-weight class match that will see junior John Van Brill evenly matched against No. 17 Jake Short, the crowd will be treated with possibly the match of the night.

At 165, Minnesota will go with No. 8 Nick Wanzek, while the Knights will counter with No. 11 fifth-year senior Richie Lewis. 

The last four bouts will feature just one ranked wrestler, No. 12 fifth-year senior 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina.

The Gophers lead the all-time series against the two programs, 2-0. In 2016, Minnesota defeated then-No. 6 Rutgers 17-16 in Minneapolis. Before that, the then-No. 2 Gophers handled the Knights, 23-12, at the RAC in 2015. 

But this time around, Rutgers will be looking for the last laugh. 

Friday will also serve as Senior Night, with DeLuca, DelVecchio, Gross, Lewis and 197-pounder Anthony Messner set to be honored before the match. 

“Emotions are gonna be pretty high, but at the end of the day the season’s not over,” DelVecchio said. “There is still a lot to be done so it’s not gonna be end-all be-all for us. It’ll be a good time, but there is still work to be done.”

DelVecchio is right, as the Knights still have two more road matches left after Friday’s contest against No. 20 Wisconsin and Princeton.

But for now, Rutgers is just looking forward to wrestling at the RAC one last time.

“Minnesota is a good program,” Gross said. “ ... but I’m extremely excited to go out there and wrestle hard for the fans on my last night.”

For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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