Rutgers ends regular season with trips to Wisconsin, Princeton
Lewis moves up into top 10 at No. 7
With the Big Ten and NCAA Championships on the horizon, the Rutgers wrestling team will wrestle its sixth ranked opponent in its last five weekends, when it goes head to head with No. 18 Wisconsin tonight in Madison. All five teams the No. 21 Scarlet Knights have faced during that span are in the Big Ten, as are the Badgers.
Friday’s match also signifies the end of the Big Ten portion of its regular season for Rutgers (6-7, 2-6), who dropped three spots in the top-25 rankings after losing to then-No. 21 Minnesota last Friday night at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).
Meanwhile, the Big Ten Conference features 11 teams in the top 25.
The Knights go into Friday’s bout with five ranked wrestlers — No. 1 sophomore 125-pounder Nick Suriano, No. 20 fifth-year senior 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio, No. 11 fifth-year senior 149-pounder Eleazar DeLuca, No. 7 fifth-year senior 165-pounder Richie Lewis and No. 12 fifth-year senior 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina.
Out of the five, the biggest — and only — jump comes from Lewis, who climbed four spots after his upset win over No. 8 Nick Wanzek at the RAC on Senior Night.
On the Wisconsin side, the Badgers (7-3, 4-3) will throw out three ranked wrestlers — with two intriguing matchups set for a couple of fifth-year seniors on Rutgers.
After his impressive victory last week, Lewis will have another challenge in No. 11 Evan Wick. Gravina will also have a tough matchup, as he is set to take on No. 9 Ricky Robertson.
Junior 157-pounder John Van Brill will try to get back in the win column and the rankings this weekend, when he faces Wisconsin’s final ranked wrestler, No. 14 Andrew Crone.
The Knights will also be looking for their first win over Wisconsin, as the Badgers own the all-time series between the two programs, 3-0.
After Madison, Rutgers will return to New Jersey to face Princeton inside the Dillon Gymnasium in an inter-state showdown. The Tigers (3-8, 2-2) also feature three ranked wrestlers of their own.
Van Brill will be tested once again as he faces No. 17 Mike D’Angelo. But before that, DeLuca will go toe to toe with Matthew Kolodzik in a matchup between No. 11 and No. 12.
No. 17 197-pounder Patrick Brucki rounds out the ranked trio for Princeton.
The all-time series between the two New Jersey programs has some history to it, as it dates back all the way to 1931, with the Knights leading 42-33-5, including 21 straight victories — the longest win-streak against any one opponent for Rutgers.
Last year, both teams participated in the inaugural “Battle at the Birthplace,” the Knights’ first meet outside at High Point Solutions Stadium. Then-No. 10 Rutgers snuck by with the win, 19-16, in front of 16,178 fans — its largest crowd ever for a wrestling match.
The match drew parallels to the “Birthplace of College Football” where the Knights defeated the then-College of New Jersey (now Princeton), 6-4, in the first ever intercollegiate football game on Nov. 6, 1869.
After this weekend, Rutgers will have two weeks off before heading to East Lansing, Michigan for the Big Ten Championships from March 3-4 and then Cleveland, Ohio for the NCAA Championships 11 days later from March 15-17.
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