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No. 14 Rutgers wrestling prepares for uphill battle against No. 1 Penn State

Sophomore 184-pounder Brian Soldano will look to build off his pin against Minnesota when the Rutgers wrestling team clashes with Penn State on Monday night.  – Photo by Anushka Dhariwal

The Rutgers wrestling team will head down Interstate 80 to face Penn State on Monday night. The Scarlet Knights (10-4, 3-3) are on a three-match losing streak and will have their toughest match of the season against the Nittany Lions (8-0, 5-0).

No. 1 Penn State has been the best team in NCAA wrestling all season. The Nittany Lions remain undefeated and have not lost a dual match since Jan. 31, 2020. Last season, Penn State won the Big Ten Championship and the NCAA Championship, with No. 1 Carter Starocci and No. 1 Aaron Brooks both named national champions for their respective weight classes.

Overall, No. 14 Rutgers has never defeated the Nittany Lions in 24 matches and most recently lost to them 33-8 last season in front of a sold-out crowd at Jersey Mike's Arena on Livingston campus.

The Knights are coming off a 22-12 loss to Ohio State. Rutgers only landed five takedowns in the match but had impressive performances from No. 10 junior 133-pounder Dylan Shawver, No. 26 junior 149-pounder Michael Cetta and No. 19 sophomore 184-pounder Brian Soldano. Shawver won against a ranked opponent, Cetta earned an upset victory and Soldano landed a pin.

Penn State's entire starting lineup is currently ranked in the top 10, with five of them being ranked No. 1 nationally.

No. 19 junior 125-pounder Dean Peterson has struggled with consistency against Big Ten opponents. Peterson owns a ranked win over No. 12 Patrick McKee but has lost to three ranked conference foes. Peterson will go up against No. 2 Braeden Davis.

No. 19 graduate student 141-pounder Mitch Moore, who struggled in his loss against No. 3 Jesse Mendez, will have an even tougher contest against No. 1 Beau Bartlett.

After graduate student 149-pounder Jacob Butler's knee injury was aggravated, the starting spot at 157 pounds will likely be junior 157-pounder Al DeSantis. DeSantis will face his most harrowing bout of the campaign against No. 1 Levi Haines.

No. 13 senior 174-pounder Jackson Turley's nine-match winning streak came to an end against the Buckeyes (13-2, 5-1). He will look to bounce back on Monday, but it will not be easy against Starocci.

No. 22 junior 197-pounder John Poznanski and No. 8 graduate student 285-pounder Yaraslau Slavikouski will close out the dual with top-ranked contests against Brooks and No. 1 Greg Kerkvliet, respectively.

The Knights will need to wrestle perfectly to earn an upset win that would send shockwaves throughout the college wrestling world. Rutgers does not fare well against top-10 ranked teams, though, as it has not defeated once since Jan. 11, 2019.

Head coach Scott Goodale does not think the Knights are too far off from the top programs like No. 6 Ohio State and the Nittany Lions.

"I think it's to, maybe, getting our guys to believe. It's one of these, 'you have to get over the hump,'" Goodale said. "I think once we get over the hump once, it kind of opens the door."

The dual will begin at 7 p.m. on Monday in University Park, Pennsylvania, and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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

To view more of Matthew Mangam's work, follow @matthewmangam on X.

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