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Rutgers has eyes set on Big Ten Championships in East Lansing

Six Knights pre-seeded heading into competition

After a grueling regular season, the Big Ten Championships is finally here for the Rutgers wrestling team. 

The No. 19 Scarlet Knights (8-7, 3-6) who finished 11th out of 14 teams in the conference — just showing how loaded the Big Ten conference is — will head to East Lansing, Michigan over the weekend to take part in the two-day festivities.

“That’s the greatest thing about the Big Ten wrestling championship, so many guys are at the same level, and it’s whoever really wants it or whoever puts together the best 7 minutes in that moment ends up advancing,” said head coach Scott Goodale.

Heading into the championships, Rutgers boasts six pre-seeded wrestlers, including No. 1 seed sophomore 125-pounder Nick Suriano who will be ready to compete after missing the final two weeks of the season with the flu. Goodale said Suriano has been training for the last couple of weeks and is “locked in.”

Joining Suriano in their respective weight classes are teammates fifth-year senior 133-pounder Scott DelVecchio (No. 5 seed), No. 12 fifth-year senior 149-pounder Eleazar DeLuca (No. 6 seed), No. 18 junior 157-pounder John Van Brill (No. 8 seed), No. 7 fifth-year senior 165-pounder Richie Lewis (No. 4 seed) and No. 9 fifth-year senior 184-pounder Nicholas Gravina (No. 5 seed). 

“I know it’s the individual part of the season,” Goodale said. “But if everybody — you know we went through this a couple years back at Iowa when the Big Tens were there — you kind of get rolling so it’s important that we get going at (1)25, and everybody follows suit and it becomes a team effort and that’s kinda what we’re looking to do. (sic)”

And Goodale has high hopes that this team can get on a roll and thinks he has a good tournament team.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t think the Knights will sneak up on anybody — not during the Big Ten Tournament.

For DelVecchio — and his fellow graduating seniors — this tournament is especially important as it means one final chance to get on the podium and to go out on top.

“It’s all on you,” he said. “You’re not worried about a team score or anything like that. There is a team score, but it’s all individual matches so you just have to go after it, attack it.”

But for those who will be making their championship debuts, DelVecchio has one piece of advice — just enjoy it.

Of those making their debuts will be redshirt freshman Joseph Grello who took over the reigns of the 174-weight class midway through the season from junior Jordan Pagano.

With a 14-8 record, Grello has quietly had a very nice season, but to get over the hump Goodale wants him to be more aggressive. If he does that, Goodale wouldn’t be surprised if he and classmate 141-pounder Michael Van Brill make a deep run.

“You’ll see upsets going on in the first round so it wouldn’t shock me to see Grello and Michael Van Brill make moves and really have big tournaments,” Goodale said.

As for another graduating senior looking to make a deep run, Lewis is ready to take on possibly the toughest weight class in the country, let alone the Big Ten, Goodale said.

But as a 2017 U23 World Champion, Lewis has the experience of being in the big moment, which can only serve to help him over the weekend.

Another wrestler to keep an eye out for is Gravina who Goodale said is traditionally at his best this time of year.

“He’s wrestling the best he’s ever wrestled in five years here,” he said about Gravina.

No matter what, though, the Big Ten Championships is a whole different animal. The regular season stats go out the window and there’s only one thing to do.

“Now you kind of just switch your mentality,” DelVecchio said. “Whatever happened over the season, good, bad, whatever it’s kind of like a whole new season. You just gotta go out there and wrestle.”

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

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