The biggest dual in the history of Rutgers' wrestling program gets underway tonight at 8 Eastern.
A sold-out crowd at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) in Piscataway, NJ, hopes to see the No. 12 Scarlet Knights knock off the legendary Iowa program, currently ranked eighth in the country. You'll want to make some warm beverages (or purchase some cold ones) and get ready to watch the dual LIVE on Flo.
Since Rutgers just lost to Lock Haven, the premise of the No. 12 Scarlet Knights beating the eighth-ranked Hawkeyes may seem a bit silly. Rutgers just lost to an EWL school: How could the Scarlet Knights possibly topple a team from the vaunted Big Ten? Well, first of all, that is a very solid Lock Haven team, and second of all, this is wrestling, where matchups reign supreme.
Here's the blueprint for Rutgers beating the Hawkeyes:
1) Richie Lewis Has To Wrestle...
...At 165. In case you missed it, the braggadocios Rutgers senior won a world title over Thanksgiving break. He then proceeded to not wrestle against Lock Haven, a big part of why the Scarlet Knights lost that dual. You might think, why not wrestle the champ against #2 Michael Kemerer at 157? Because whether coach Scott Goodale and his staff send out Lewis or John Van Brill at 157, the Hawkeyes will be the favorite. So hold it to a decision against Kemerer, then have Lewis spoil the varsity debut of Alex Marinelli at 165. It goes from 6-0 in favor of Iowa to a 3-3 wash.
2) Bonus Points From Suriano And Gravina
Iowa will be hard-pressed to win six matches in a hostile environment. It's certainly not an impossible feat given the Hawkeyes' lineup, but one I wouldn't bet the farm on. Given that it's looking like a 5/5 match split, the Scarlet Knights are counting on their horses to run.
When we first talked about the match on FRL on Tuesday, I was unsure if Rutgers sophomore Nick Suriano was likely to bonus Iowa freshman Justin Stickley. Looking back on some results now, I'm leaning towards a tech. Similarly, Scarlet Knights redshirt senior Nick Gravina could major Hawkeyes junior Mitch Bowman, which should be just enough for Rutgers to pull off the upset, as long as our final step also happens.
3) Win The Swing Matches At 141 And 174
Aside from getting fired up about Iowa's lack of respect for the Scarlet Knights and Marinelli comparing Blair Academy's gym to Rutgers', Goodale also very plainly stated to the media on Thursday that 141 and 174 were swing matches. At 141, Rutgers will roll out Mike Van Brill to take on Vince Turk. The two have never wrestled before and have no common opponents in college. At 174, we won't know until match time if Goodale and his staff send out Jordan Pagano or Joe Grello to face Joey Gunther. Again, they've never wrestled each other and the only common opponent is Willie Scott.