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Rutgers opens season with winning in mind

 – Photo by Curstine Guevarra

The Rutgers wrestling team opens its 2019-2020 season at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) for the annual RU Quad, as three non-conference foes — Centenary, LIU and Pitt-Johnstown — will visit Piscataway on Saturday with the first match scheduled for 10 a.m.

The Scarlet Knights come into this season fresh off a historic campaign. Madness was the story in March when they championed their first two wrestlers in their respected weight classes — Olympic redshirt 133-pounder Nick Suriano and alumnus 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault — at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in Pittsburgh.

As a team, Rutgers finished the national tournament with 51.5 points in ninth place, the first time the program placed in the top 10. Head coach Scott Goodale was chosen as the Division 1 National Tournament Coach of the Year while also garnering the Dan Gable Coach of the Year Award given from WIN Magazine, a publication covering high school and amateur wrestling in the U.S.

Goodale enters his 13th season at the helm of the Knights with a 173-68-1 overall record. The winningest coach in program history, he accomplished this feat by earning his 167th win against Rider last December when Rutgers was ranked No. 25 in the country. 

But, as the season's doors open on Saturday with the home quad, Goodale and the Knights will be on the outside of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NWCA) Division 1 Coaches Poll, looking in. Rutgers, which finished with a 12-6 overall record last season, checks in with 28 received votes. Penn State tops the poll with Iowa and Ohio State following behind in that order. 

The top three of the NWCA poll is made up of all Big Ten schools. Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota round out the conference's appeared members inside the top 10. Michigan (No. 19) and Northwestern (No. 20) also are ranked in the first week's poll.

The Knights begin the season with several wrestlers ranked in FloWrestling's weight class polls ahead of the season. 

Junior 174-pounder Joseph Grello checks in as the 18th-top wrestler in his weight class. He finished last season with an 11-5 overall dual record while compiling a 5-3 conference record. He was a national qualifier this past March.

Fifth-year senior heavyweight Christian Colucci is ranked as the No. 22 wrestler in the heavyweight class. Colucci's major decision win on Feb. 3 helped Rutgers secure a 19-18 victory over Princeton, a meet where Ashnault defeated Matthew Kolodzik for the top-ranking spot.

Senior 141-pounder Peter Lipari is ranked at No. 24 by FloWrestling in its preseason rankings. Lipari has a 38-30 overall record during his three seasons of competition. He had 13 wins last season.

The precursor to the wrestling season for many schools is the wrestle-offs, which the Knights hosted this past weekend. This is one of the primary considerations that Goodale uses to craft his starting lineup. 

The lighter weight classes have more competition, with the 133-pound class being a prime example since it will be without Suriano. He could very well return to the mat later on in the season, potentially for the latter portion of the conference schedule and the Big Ten Championships. The conference titles will be hosted at the RAC in March with NCAAs being held at the Minnesota Vikings' U.S. Bank Stadium.

In the 133-pound wrestle-off, true freshman 133-pounder Sammy Alvarez emerged with two victories, defeating 133-pounders juniors Shane Metzler in overtime and Zach Firestone 5-3. Metzler wrestled a weight down at 125 last season.

Alvarez initially signed to NC State in North Carolina, and was the third-best wrestler in his weight class out of St. Joseph's Regional by FloWrestling. 

Another weight class with an ensuing starters-battle is the 149-pound weight class. As Ashnault graduated this past spring, Goodale seeks a new individual to rise to the lineup.

At the wrestle-offs last weekend, sophomore 149-pounder Nick Santos captured two wins, the most out of any wrestler in that weight class. Santos defeated 149-pounders redshirt freshman Gerard Angelo and sophomore Jake Benner. 

Santos was injured last season and redshirted. He competed at St. Peter's Prep prior to arriving on the Banks.

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

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