More Sports Now welcomes Bob Piermattei as college wrestling correspondent
Rutgers wrestling will be competing in the toughest wrestling conference tournament there is – the Big Ten tournament, March 4th -5th in Bloomington, Indiana – looking to qualify as many weight classes as they did last season, all 10. Though qualifying 10 again is highly doubtful, we’ll break down RU’s chances at each weight, using a 3 tiered approach:
Certain to both place at Big Tens and qualify for Nationals:
141 – Anthony Ashnault is the best wrestler in the program and a defending Big Ten champion at this weight. He’s going to St. Louis, is the conference’s #1 seed and looks like a repeat winner here (9 auto-qualifiers, as if it mattered).
184 – Nick Gravina – seeded 7th in an incredibly deep weight class. Nick has the potential to exceed his seeding, but with 3 (yes 3) national finalists and the defending BIG champion from 2016 in front of him in this tournament, he has got a serious lift ahead of him. Thankfully for Gravina and RU, the conference scored 9 auto-qualifier slots to Nationals, so if Nick places, he’s in.
A good chance, but performance/placing is key:
149 – Ken Theobold – seeded 5th, and with a punchers chance to place as high as 4th. The conference only has 6 auto-qualifying slots, so Ken is going to have to bring it on Saturday.
157 – John Van Brill – the 7th seed in a weight class with 9 auto-qualifying slots, I think Van Brill has a great chance to exceed his seeding, could place as high as 4th, and should qualify for Nationals.
174 – Jordan Pagano – with 9 auto-qualifiers to St. Louis, if Jordan can perform up to his seeding, he’s in. Even if he falters slightly, he is certainly talented enough to finish top 8 and qualify. His last bout vs national #4 ranked Priesch of Lehigh was a great upset victory, so Pagano is on a roll!
On the Bubble, 133 Scott Delvecchio – based upon his number 9 seed, and in a weight with 9 auto-qualifiers, there is no room for error for Scott. His body of work over the season would probably get him considered for an at-large slot at Nationals (17-11, 4-5 Big 10) should he fail to place, but there is no guarantee there.
Bring your lunch pail – you’ve got serious work to do:
125 – Brandon Paetzall – Mr. P. is unseeded in a weight class with 7 auto-qualifying slots. He’s going to have to have a great Saturday in order to place. Brandon’s 14-8, 5-4 record could get him a look for an at-large slot, but don’t count on it.
165 – ?? RU has 3 possibilities to weigh-in for this weight, none of whom are considered potential place winners. Willie Scott probably has started the most bouts. It would take a minor miracle for the Knights to qualify this weight, especially with just 7 auto-slots.
197 – Matt Correnti – here is the “feast or famine” weight class for RU. Correnti has the talent and athleticism to place in the top 7, though he is unseeded. If Matt catches fire, this is the weight class where Rutgers gets a surprise qualifier for Nationals. I like his chances.
285 – Razhonn Gross – seeded 8th, but certainly strong and quick enough to finish higher. The “shaved bears” of the 285 lb class are tough to predict (except for 1st – Kyle Snyder). Razhonn will probably need to place higher than his seed to qualify, as the conference only has 5 auto-slots. He has a reasonable record (11-9, 6-1 BIG) but has not faced top competition. Qualifying will be difficult, but in this weight class, who the heck knows what could happen (except for 1st. Did I mention Olympic Gold medalist Kyle Snyder?).
Other noteworthy information:
Defending Conference Champion: Penn State
Predicted 2017 Conference Champion: Penn State (as long as 125 Suriano wrestles). With 9 wrestlers seeded 1st through 4th, and a track record of scoring bonus points, PSU just has to hold serve and the repeat is theirs. Ohio State with 133 Tomasello (ranked #1 in the nation) and some guy named Snyder at 285 will be nipping at the Nittany Lion’s heels, and Iowa is always lurking. RU will not be able to replicate last season’s 5th place showing; 8th is more realistic.
Predicted 2017 Individual Champions:
125: Thomas Gilman, Iowa
133: Nathan Tomasello, OSU
141: Anthony Ashnault, RUTGERS
149: Zain Retherford, Penn State
157: Jason Nolf, Penn State
165: Isaiah Martinez, Illinois
174: Mark Hall, Penn State
184: Bo Nickal, Penn State
197: Brett Pfarr, Minnesota
285: Hmm, let me think…Kyle Snyder, Ohio State