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Rutgers prepares to open season at home

When the Rutgers wrestling team welcomes Centenary, LIU and Pitt-Johnstown to the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) for a quad meet, it will mark the Scarlet Knights' sixth season in the Big Ten. 

But, head coach Scott Goodale will be without one of his top wrestlers of last season, the University's first-ever national champion, Olympic redshirt 133-pounder Nick Suriano. Suriano, who compiled a 29-3 record during his junior year, is not enrolled at Rutgers as a student. He also is not listed on Rutgers Athletics' website as a wrestler for the upcoming season.

Suriano's 6 pins and 10 major decisions will certainly be missed on the mat, but off the mat alumnus 149-pounder and NCAA champion Anthony Ashnault could step in as a graduate assistant.

After the Knights lost to Michigan on senior day on Feb. 17, Goodale was quick to point out that he and the South Plainfield, New Jersey, native would be "together for a long time," in his post game press conference.

Ashnault, who compiled an undefeated 32-0 record including his five wins in Pittsburgh at the NCAA Division I (DI) Wrestling Championships, could split his time between the new RWJ Barnabas Health Athletics Performance Center (APC) and training for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

But, without its top two wrestlers, Rutgers returns some a majority of its starters from last year. Junior 174-pounder Joseph Grello was ranked by FloWrestling in its early ranking as the 17th top wrestler in his weight class. He compiled an 18-11 record with 6 pins.

Fifth-year senior 141-pounder Peter Lipari, who checks in at 24 on FloWrestling's preseason rankings, could be poised for a breakout season. Lipari qualified for his first national championship, winning the first bout 7-5 against Northern Colorado's Chris Sandoval. 

Rounding out FloWrestling's early rankings was fifth-year senior heavyweight Christian Colucci, who appeared at the 22nd spot in his weight class. Colucci posted a 15-13 record last season, highlighted by a match-clinching major decision against Princeton's Kendall Elfstrum on Super Bowl Sunday earlier this year.

Like last season, the Knights will host three other teams in a quad meet this season. The Cyclones, based in Hackettstown, New Jersey, were a part of the event in 2018, where Rutgers won 48-3 in which Ashnault earned a fall over his opponent.

The Knights will be competing against the Sharks in their first season in the NCAA Division 1 field. They boost a line of mostly in-state New Yorkers along with several New Jersey natives.

The Cougars, from Pittsburgh's Jamestown campus, will have participated in one match prior to entering Piscataway. They will face off against East Stroudsburg the day before, on Nov. 1. 

Rutgers also brings in one of the top recruiting classes in the country. The class was ranked 12th best and features several recruits ranked in the top 10 of their weight classes.

True freshman 141-pounder JoJo Aragona was FloWrestling's best recruit at his weight class. Hailing from Mantamoras, Pennsylvania, Aragona was a decorated wrestler at Pope John XXIII, earning three NJSIAA medals. As a 138-pounder in his junior season, he amassed 41 wins and two losses. 

Aragona could see the mat in a variety of different ways. With Lipari likely to remain as the 141-pound starter, Aragona could be moved up a weight to Ashnault's old stomping grounds at 149 pounds. This could benefit the team, especially if Ashnault stays on as a graduate assistant coach. 

Along with Aragona, true freshman 157-pounder Robbert Kanniard could slide into the lineup. The Knights lost their starter, alumnus 157-pounder John Van Brill, who amassed 21 wins last season and appeared in the national tournament of the third straight year. 

Like Aragona, Kanniard also was a multiple medal winner, winning three NJSIAA hardware medals. He was the seventh wrestler at 165 pounds and was ranked inside FloWrestling's top 70 as an overall recruit.

Last season's starter, sophomore 165-pounder Stephan Glasgow, only recorded seven wins in 16 bouts of action. He was sidelined during the middle of the season due to injury. At the Big Ten Tournament, he went 1-2.

Kanniard could compete with Glasgow for the 165-pound starters spot. At Wall High School, he attained a 45-1 record.

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

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