The last Big Ten dual weekend is upon us, and it’s a split road/home weekend. First up for the defending champs are the Scarlet Knights on the road in New Jersey; yet again, the crowd will be big to see the country’s best squad, as Rutgers has announced a sellout of their wrestling arena for Friday night. It’s the second sellout ever for Rutgers wrestling, with the other being against the Nittany Lions in the 2017-2018 season (when Nick Suriano had just transferred to the program).
Rutgers had its first individual champions the season after that, in 2019, with Suriano and Anthony Ashnault; the program has decidedly gotten better over the course of head coach Scott Goodale’s tenure in Piscataway - but I still can’t get over Jason Nolf’s injury vs the Knights in 2019 because I can be immensely petty and though Nolf himself likely holds no ill will (especially since he won another title while wrestling on only one leg).
The Scarlet Knights are a good dual team, better in this format than projected tournament points solely because of number of ranked wrestlers that they bring to the table. They’re definitely solid, but this is Penn State wrestling, after all - so the question won’t be if they win, but by how much.
How To Watch
What: #1 Penn State vs #23 Rutgers*
Where: Jersey MIke’s Arena, Piscataway, NJ
When: Friday, February 10, 7:00 PM EST
Audio: Free (via GoPSUSports)
|#1 Penn State||WT||#23 Rutgers|
|#1 Penn State||WT||#23 Rutgers|
|Gary Steen (Fr., Hermitage, PA) OR Marco Vespa (So., )||125||#16 - Dean Peterson (Fr., Barnegat, NJ)|
|#1 - Roman Bravo-Young (Sr., Tucson, AZ)||133||#14 - Joe Heilmann (Jr., South Plainfield, NJ)|
|#6 - Beau Bartlett (Jr., Tempe, AZ)||141||#19 - Joe Olivieri (So., East Hanover, NJ)|
|#13 - Shayne Van Ness (Fr., Somerville, NJ)||149||Tony White (So., South Plainfield, NJ)|
|#8 - Levi Haines (Fr., Arendtsville, PA)||157||#33 - Andrew Clark (So., Collingswood, NJ)|
|#9 - Alex Facundo (Fr., Essexville, MI)||165||Robert Kanniard (So., Wall, NJ)|
|#1 - Carter Starocci (Jr., Erie, PA)||174||Jackson Turley (Jr., Chester, VA)|
|#1 - Aaron Brooks (Sr., Hagerstown, MD)||184||#14 - Brian Soldano (Fr., Wantage, NJ)|
|#3 - Max Dean (Sr., Lowell, MI)||197||Billy Janzer (Jr., Elk Township, NJ)|
|#2 - Greg Kerkvliet (So., Grove Heights, MN)||285||#21 - Boone McDermott (Jr., Dubuque, IA)|
There just don’t seem to be any solid choices for the Nittany Lions at this weight, the clear void in an otherwise stellar lineup, since Robbie Howard’s been out with an injury. It’s tough to be a 125er in college, and even tougher to do it for a fan base with such lofty expectations. Good luck to either Steen or Vespa today, as they take on yet another ranked Big Ten foe.
Prediction: Peterson by major decision
Score: PSU 0, Rutgers 4
Rutgers is likely a tougher out than Maryland, this weekend’s other Big Ten foe, and the wrestler for the Knights is ranked, so that likely means RBY wrestles Friday and not Sunday. He’s deep in the honing-his-craft portion of the schedule, so expect big points here.
Prediction: RBY by major decision
Score: PSU 4, Rutgers 4
If you had told me two years ago that this Beau would have a faster pin than the previous great Nittany Lion Bo, I’dve thought you were crazy. But Bartlett looked keyed in very quickly in his last outing, locking up the cradle and getting the fall in near-record time. This bout shouldn’t be quite as quick, but I expect Bartlett will be in control and barely miss bonus.
Prediction: Bartlett by decision
Score: PSU 7, Rutgers 4
The last time SVN faced an unranked wrestler, he got the pin (versus MSU). I originally had this one pegged as a major decision for the Nittany Lion freshman, but I don’t know - something about being in front of his hometown crowd makes me think there’s going to be some fireworks in this one. I’m going big on this prediction, and PSU is going home to Rec on Friday.
Prediction: Van Ness by fall
Score: PSU 13, Rutgers 4
Yes, Haines is barely an AA by current rankings. But with 157 so wide open this year, it would be far from shocking to see him challenge for the title - and that road continues on Friday. He gets it done in less than seven minutes.
Prediction: Haines by tech fall
Score: PSU 18, Rutgers 4
Alex Facundo seemingly had a light switch on a third of the way through his bout in Bloomington last week, when all of a sudden he looked like Nolf, playing with his food continuously. That burst of offense is encouraging and the freshman will likely build on it this weekend.
Prediction: Facundo by major decision
Score: PSU 22, Rutgers 4
Starocci actually gave up TWO takedowns in two bouts last weekend, and it no doubt pissed him off. Let’s hope the fireworks are isolated to on the mat this weekend, where he’ll play heel but do it in the most satisfying (for us fans) way possible.
Prediction: Carter by tech fall
Score: PSU 27, Rutgers 4
This bout is the most exciting on paper, but since this is Aaron Brooks, likely won’t be in actual practice. I think Soldano, a good freshman with only a handful of losses, will keep it within striking distance late but AB’s defense prevents any real threat. A few late points makes the final score look more one-sided than many fans likely think it should be.
Prediction: AB by decision
Score: PSU 30, Rutgers 4
Max Dean’s been feeling it the last few weeks, and I feel bad for Janzer having to face him. The only starter for Rutgers with a losing record, and you have to face the archer? Woof.
Prediction: Dean by fall
Score: PSU 36, Rutgers 4
Boone McDermott has the fewest losses of any Scarlet Knight starter this year, with two. That absolutely will not help him against Greg Kerkvliet, who is really just eyeing another pair of matchups against Michigan’s Mason Parris. There’s a possibility this doesn’t go the full seven, too.
Prediction: Kerk by major decision
Score: PSU 40, Rutgers 4
Overall score prediction: Penn State 40, Rutgers 4
*The Penn State athletic department, in its official capacity, uses Intermat Tournament Rankings in all its match literature; I’m using Intermat’s Dual Meet rankings because this happens to be a dual. Penn State is #1 in both rankings; Rutgers is #23 in the dual meet rankings, and unranked in the tournament rankings.