PISCATAWAY, NJ--An outstanding season got even better for the Rutgers Wrestling team on January 12, as the latest USA Today poll ranked the Scarlet Knights #6 in the country, the highest ranking in program in history.
After a successful first season in the Big Ten in 2014-15, Scott Goodale’s team has taken huge steps in 2015-16.
The Scarlet Knights currently sit at 11-2 on the season, and are coming off their first Big Ten shutout after dominating Michigan State 34-0 at the RAC on January 8.
The team has established itself as one of the nation’s elite with their strong play against ranked opponents.
Rutgers is 5-2 against Top 25 opponents this season, with the only losses coming in a narrow 19-18 defeat to #22 Oklahoma, and a road loss to defending Big Ten co-champion Iowa, who were then ranked second in the nation.
Perhaps Rutgers’ most impressive victory came on Saturday, December 12 at the RAC when the Scarlet Knights upset the #4 Nebraska Cornhuskers 17-16. The win propelled Rutgers into the Top 10, and they have not looked back.
In addition to the big win over Nebraska, Rutgers also has wins over ranked opponents #8 Cornell, #13 North Carolina, #18 Oregon State and #25 Northern Iowa.
Rutgers’ roster holds some of the top wrestlers in the country, headlined by redshirt sophomore Anthony Ashnault, who is ranked fourth in the nation amongst 141-pound wrestlers. Ashnault, who most recently defeated Javier Gasca III of Michigan State, is 18-1 on the season.
Including Ashnault, Rutgers boasts a total of five ranked competitors: No. 10 165-pounder Anthony Perrotti, No. 15 157-pounder Richie Lewis, No. 18 133-pounder Anthony Giraldo, and No. 16 heavyweight Billy Smith.
As is usually the case, the Big Ten fared well in the latest rankings, with nine teams ranked in the top 25. In fact, the conference has four of the top seven programs in the nation: #1 Penn State, #2 Iowa, #6 Rutgers and #7 Nebraska.
The Scarlet Knights still have nearly two months to build momentum before the Big Ten Championships, which will take place at Iowa on March 5 and 6. Rutgers will hope for better results at this year’s event after finishing 11th out of 14 teams last year.
Rutgers’ next test comes on Sunday, January 17 when they visit Minnesota. The Golden Gophers have struggled to a 5-6 overall record this season, but all five of their wins have come at home.
The Scarlet Knights return to the Rutgers Athletic Center on Friday, January 22 as they host Wisconsin. The Badgers have lost their last three duels.