Rutgers hopes to end 2-match losing streak against Michigan State
Having wrapped up a stretch of four straight meets against teams ranked inside the top 10, the Rutgers wrestling team will face its first unranked opponent of 2019 when it takes on Michigan State at the Rutgers Athletics Center (RAC) tomorrow night.
The No. 13 Scarlet Knights (7-4, 1-2) are reeling after suffering three losses in their last four matches against No. 4 Iowa, No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 7 Minnesota, and will look to get their second conference win against the Spartans (4-5, 1-3).
Despite recent struggles, Rutgers has actually moved up a spot in the national rankings according to InterMat Wrestling. The Knights have moved from the No. 14 spot in the country to the No.13 spot.
The match against Michigan State will kick off a string of three straight home meets for Rutgers and will be its only non-ranked opponent over that stretch. The meet will be a much-needed opportunity for a number of Knights up and down the lineup who have struggled against higher-tier opponents.
Like Rutgers, the Spartans also had difficulty against nationally ranked opponents in recent matches. Michigan State dropped their fourth straight match to a top-20 team last Friday, as they lost a 30-10 match to the No. 6 Wolverines (8-0, 4-0).
Individual Knights who will be looking to break out recent slumps against the lower degree of competition include sophomore 125-pounder Shane Metzler who has not won a Big Ten match this season and is looking to break a seven-match losing streak dating back to the Cliff Keen Invitational.
Metzler will face the Spartans' Rayvon Foley, who has had a consistent season. He comes into Friday’s match with a 22-1 overall record in the 125 weight class. Foley was one of two Michigan State wrestlers who came away from their matches with a victory. He earned a 10-2 major decision over Michigan’s Austin Assad.
Junior 141-pounder Peter Lipari, who was inserted into the lineup for the first time back in November when defeated Hofstra's Garrett Lambert, has dropped six straight.
Lipari will most likely face the Spartans' Austin Eicher, who lost his match 13-7 against the Wolverines' Kanen Storr, despite securing a takedown. Eicher has an 11-8 overall record this season.
No. 5 junior 133-pounder Nick Suriano will be looking to break out of a minor slump himself after dropping his last two matches. Suriano, who started the season with a perfect 14-0 and a national ranking in his weight class as high as third, has since dropped to fifth. He will go up against the Spartans' Anthony Tutolo.
No. 2 graduate student 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault has been dominant in his final season, sporting an unblemished 16-0 record and reaching the No. 2 national ranking in the 149-pound weight class. Ashnault will look to tally his 17th win against Michigan State freshman Jaden Enriquez.
Another bright spot for Rutgers has been No. 13 graduate student 157-pounder John Van Brill. He has accumulated a 13-7 record on the season. He will likely face the Spartans' Jake Tucker, who dropped a 12-3 major decision last week.
The Knights have had an inconsistent lightweight lineup in their last several matches. But, maybe they can snap out of this slump with a winnable match against Michigan State, who is riding a five-match losing streak.