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Postseason tournaments rapidly approaching for Rutgers

With just two matches remaining before closing out its dual meet season, the Rutgers wrestling team is beginning to gear up for the postseason. 

The Big Ten Tournament will take place in Minneapolis, Minnesota from March 9 to 10, and just two weeks after that, the NCAA Tournament starts in Pittsburgh from March 21 to 24. 

Last season, the No. 16 Scarlet Knights (11-5, 4-3) had six qualifiers for the NCAA Tournament, and are looking to at least match that number of qualifiers this season. 

The shoe-ins are obvious. No. 4 junior 133-pounder Nick Suriano, consensus No. 1 graduate student 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault and No. 14 graduate student 157-pounder John Van Brill. All three wrestlers are heavily favored to make the tournament. 

As far as the rest of the team goes, it will be up to its individual performances at the conference tournament to see if they will receive an at-large bid to be eligible for the tournament. 

There are a few more wrestlers on the bubble, as well. Sophomore 174-pounder Joseph Grello currently has a 12-7 record, including a close loss last week to Purdue's then No. 11 Dylan Lydy. 

If Grello can win the next two dual meet bouts and put together a solid showing at the Big Ten Tournament, he has a solid chance to be wrestling at the end of March in Pittsburgh. 

Graduate student 184-pounder Nick Gravina, who has qualified for the NCAA Tournament three times before, will likely miss the tournament this year, having only posted a 3-2 record in what has been an injury-riddled season for him.

At 197 pounds, sophomore Matthew Correnti has posted a 12-12 record so far. He’s qualified for NCAA’s before, during his freshman season when he finished the season 16-13. If Correnti can finish in the top six of Big Ten's, he’ll be another wrestler likely to qualify for Rutgers. 

Finally, for the heavyweight class, junior Christian Colucci is 13-9 this season and putting together a strong case to qualify for his first-ever NCAA Tournament. Pending his performance in Indianapolis, Colucci should be another qualifier for the Knights. 

Now, to take a look at Rutgers’ hammers — the athletes who legitimately have a chance at winning a national title, and can become the Knights’ first-ever national champions. 

Starting at 133 pounds, Suriano is currently ranked No. 4 in the country. He already has losses to Oklahoma State's No. 2 Daton Fix and Iowa's No. 3 Austin DeSanto. Suriano could square off against No. 1 Stevan Micic of Michigan in the upcoming dual meet this Sunday. 

The Big Ten Tournament will be a great tune-up and measuring stick for Suriano heading into the end of March. He will likely have to get through DeSanto in the semifinals and will most likely see Micic in the finals if both wrestlers make it. 

This could set up for some interesting rematches in Pittsburgh depending on the outcomes of the conference tournament bouts.

Ashnault, Rutgers' only No. 1-ranked wrestler, will be looking to cap off his storied career on the Banks by becoming an NCAA Champion. Ashnault is already a three-time All-American, but his highest finish was in fourth place during the 2015-2016 season as a sophomore. 

Ashnault is 20-0 on the season thus far with wins over six ranked opponents. No win was bigger than his win over Princeton's then No. 1 Matthew Kolodzik, who he beat in decisive fashion with a 10-2 major decision victory, on Feb. 3.

Ashnault also has wins over Ohio State's No. 3 Micah Jordan and the Cowboys' No. 5 Kaden Gfeller.

This postseason will be a huge one for head coach Scott Goodale, as he has a chance to coach two wrestlers in the national finals. After coming up just short of notching his first-ever national champion last year with Suriano, winning an individual title this season would be a huge program booster in terms of recruiting for the future. 

The remaining question is how many other wrestlers will be along for the ride in Pittsburgh with Ashnault and Suriano? These last few weeks will be extremely important. 

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

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