Rutgers welcomes No. 9 Nebraska, No. 20 Princeton this weekend
After snapping its two-match losing streak against Michigan State last Friday, the Rutgers wrestling team will end its short homestand this weekend as it welcomes Nebraska and Princeton to the Rutgers Athletics Center (RAC).
The No. 18 Scarlet Knights (8-4, 2-2) will face their fifth and sixth-ranked opponents of the year, as they host the No. 9 Cornhuskers (9-3, 3-2) and the No. 20 Tigers (4-4).
Between its two opponents, Rutgers will face 11 ranked wrestlers on Friday and Sunday, making this weekend a difficult one for the team.
One of those 11 is Princeton’s No. 1 Matthew Kolodzik, who will face No. 2 graduate student 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault this Sunday. Dubbed the highlight match of this weekend, both Ashnault and Kolodzik have not lost this season.
“I think we’re both looking forward to it,” Ashnault said. “Even if we weren’t ranked No. 1 and No. 2, I think we’d both be looking forward to this matchup if we get the opportunity.”
The two wrestlers have each captured two wins against the other, putting the overall series score at 2-2.
Last time out against the Spartans (5-6, 2-4), the Knights captured six individual matches, including No. 4 junior 133-pounder Nick Suriano’s technical fall victory over Michigan State's Logan Griffin to snap his own two-match losing streak.
Suriano will likely face Nebraska’s Jevon Parrish in the 133-pound match Friday evening. Parrish dropped a 10-7 decision to Illinois’ No. 17 Dyan Duncan in the Cornhuskers’ 30-6 win against the Fighting Illini (2-5, 1-4) last week.
The last time Rutgers wrestled Nebraska, the Knights lost a close 19-13 match on the road. In that match, then-No. 18 graduate student 157-pounder John Van Brill came back from being down 4-2 to the Cornhuskers' then-No. 8 Tyler Berger.
Van Brill captured some riding time points and a stall call to tie the match at 4. He would eventually drop the match on a takedown in the fourth period.
This season, Van Brill has tallied 14 wins and has a 2-2 record in Big Ten dual matches this season. He has not had a conference record above .500 since his sophomore season on the Banks, when he racked up a 5-3 Big Ten record.
“Previously, I’ve had some high scoring chaotic matches,” Van Brill said. “My match with Berger last time came down to stalling and riding time. Those are the kind of points you need to find against these Big Ten guys.”
A wrestler who has been struggling is sophomore 125-pounder Shane Metzler, who faltered in a 16-0 decision to the Spartans' No. 7 RayVon Foley last weekend. Metzler, who has not won a dual match since defeating Hofstra’s Dylan Ryder back in November, will face another tough task this weekend.
Metzler will face his second and third-ranked opponents in two weeks, as he first takes on Nebraska's No. 16 Zeke Moisey, who has compiled a 9-6 record this season. Moisey recently lost to Illinois’ No. 15 Travis Piotrowski in a close 6-5 decision last weekend.
A big question mark for Rutgers this weekend is the injury-ridden 174 and 184-pound weight classes. Junior 174-pounder Willie Scott was forced to make a medical forfeit against the Michigan State's Cameron Caffey.
Sophomore 174-pounder Joseph Grello was able to finish his match against the Spartans' Drew Hughes, but dropped a 4-3 decision and left immediately following the match with an apparent injury.
After that match, head coach Scott Goodale mentioned that there could be a possibility that sophomore 165-pounder Anthony Olivieri could be moved up to replace the injured Grello. The 174 and 184-pound starters will be a game-time decision on Friday.
Junior 141-pounder Peter Lipari has proved to be a force in his weight class for the Knights. He defeated Michigan State's Alex Hrisopoulos 4-2, but will face a tough task this weekend when he lines up against the Cornhuskers' Chad Red Jr., who bolsters a 12-8 record on the season.
Lipari, who has started each Big Ten dual meet for Rutgers, has a 6-7 record.
Goodale acknowledged that this weekend could be a tough one for the Knights. But, he mentioned that if the team can stick to how it's been playing, it will be fine.
“Let’s go wrestle,” Goodale said.