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Every match at the RTC Cup could be the difference in which team wins these highly competitive duals. This was incentive enough for four of the six RTCs to pick up 57kg wrestlers for their rosters in the weeks leading up to the event.
NCAA finalist Jack Mueller will represent Ohio RTC, Darian Cruz will compete for Wolfpack RTC, Seth Gross is on the Cliff Keen WC for the weekend, and Nahshon Garrett is the newest member of the Southeast RTC, not just for the RTC Cup, but for the foreseeable future. Will any of these moves make the difference in crucial duals?
Four RTCs are bringing multiple wrestlers at 57kg. Of the 10 guys competing, three are NCAA Champions and a fourth was a finalist. All four of those athletes, Gross, Mueller, Cruz, and Garrett, were late additions to these RTC Cup rosters, and only Nahshon Garrett is a permanent addition to the Southeast RTC.
We also have Vito Arujau and Dylan Ragusin, this year's Senior Nationals champ and runner-up respectively, along with multiple Gopher WC's All-American Sean Russell, and four-time All-American Zach Sanders. NC State freshman Jakob Camacho was the #10 seeds this year at NCAAs and rounds out a very tough group of 9. JD Rader ranked the wrestlers on all of this weekend's rosters.
|1||Seth Gross||Cliff Keen WC|
|2||Vito Arujau||Spartan Combat RTC|
|4||Dylan Ragusin||Cliff Keen WC|
|5||Jack Mueller||Ohio RTC|
|6||Darian Cruz||Wolfpack RTC|
|7||Sean Russell||Gopher WC|
|8||Zach Sanders||Gopher WC|
|9||Jakob Camacho||Wolfpack RTC|
Day 1 Matches
Nahshon Garrett vs Jack Mueller - Our first match of the day will be between Jack Mueller who's filling in for the Ohio RTC and Nahshon Garrett, the newest member of the SERTC. Nahson's and Mueller haven't met, and both are accomplished freestylers. Garrett made the 2018 World Team at 61kg but was unable to compete due to injury. The same year, Mueller finished 5th at 57kg at the U23 World Championships. If this match were being contested at 57kg, it might be a bit of a toss-up as Nahshon hasn't had consistent success at that weight, but it's +3 kilos which puts it right in his sweet spot. Garret is the favorite, but he'll have to be ready for Mueller.
Vito Arujau vs Jack Mueller - Vito and Mueller wrestled a wild match in the semis of the 2017 Junior World Team Trials and just put up 17 points in the Senior Nationals semis in October. Vito has been on the winning end of both of those matches, but Mueller has shown the ability to score significant points. Mueller is certainly capable of making the adjustments here, but Vito is the favorite.
Nahshon Garrett vs Vito Arujau - The final 57kg match in Pool A will feature Vito against former training partner Nahshon Garrett. Nahshon's senior level accomplishments make him the favorite over Vito, but the familiarity factor makes this a must-watch match. According to Nahshon in a recent interview on The Bader Show, his size and explosiveness are a bad matchup for Vito, but we'll know for sure on Friday.
Seth Gross/Dylan Ragusin vs Zach Sanders/Sean Russell - Cliff Keen is the favorite on paper no matter what combination of athletes we see after his runner-up performance at Senior Nationals that included a technical superiority win over Sean Russell. If Cliff Keen uses their mercenary, Seth Gross, he would also be a favorite.
Seth Gross/Dylan Ragusin vs Darian Cruz/Jakob Camacho - Wolfpack WC was the most recent squad to pick up an NCAA Champ at 57kg, and he will probably get the nod over Camacho. If Cliff Keen uses Ragusin, we'll see a rematch of his breakout 7-6 win over Cruz at Senior Nationals. If they use Gross, we'll see a rematch of last year's Bill Farrell semis where Gross topped Cruz 12-1.
Darian Cruz/Jakob Camacho vs Zach Sanders/Sean Russell - Wolfpack WC's decision to add Cruz could pay off big time in their dual against Gopher WC. Cruz has gone 2-1 with Sanders and 1-0 with Russell in freestyle. Sanders' 2018 win over Cruz and Russell's tight 4-2 loss will give the Gophers hope, but the Wolfpack expect a W from Darian.
Day 2 Dream Matches
Nahshon Garrett vs Seth Gross - It has been over two years since Garrett and Gross wrestled. Garrett had two wins over Gross in 2018, and unsurprisingly, they were action-packed. They put up 59 points between their 18-13 bout at the US Open and 16-12 match at the World Team Trials. Since that time, Gross has seen strong freestyle results including a title at the 2019 Bill Farrell in a bracket that included Garrett.
This rematch could be one of the most exciting matches of the weekend already, but there's also a chance that it happens with the $50,000 grand prize on the line in the finals on Saturday night. After the news that Kyle Dake and the Dean brothers were out for Spartan Combat RTC, SERTC/NJRTC is probably the on-paper favorite to make the finals from pool A, and Cliff Keen is projected to be the strongest team in pool B.
Seth Gross vs Vito Arujau - Both Gross and Vito have positioned themselves as contenders in the US at 57kg, but we have yet to see them hit. In JD Rader's most recent Domestic Men's Freestyle Rankings, Gross is currently #5 and Vito is #6 making this match potentially important for seeding at the 2021 US Olympic Trials. On top of that, these two are incredible scrambles who are sure to create a ton of action.
Vito Arujau vs Darian Cruz - These were the top two seeds at this year's Senior Nationals. We missed out on the match when Dylan Ragusin busted that bracket, but we could see it depending on how the pools cross over. Cruz's speed and surgical attacks are a fascinating contrast to Vito's positional savvy. Vito's freestyle success makes him a clear favorite, but if Cruz could keep this to a few key exchanges, he could make it interesting.
Nahshon Garrett vs Darian Cruz - Nahshon got the better of Cruz when they met last year at the Bill Farrell, so this match would teach us a lot about Darian's progress since that time. Any time you have a matchup between NCAA Champions, it's worth watching.