When Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten tomorrow, the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights shouldn’t have aspirations of immediate success. The Big Ten is, after all, the power conference in collegiate wrestling and Iowa, Penn State, and Minnesota won’t be rolling out the red carpet for the newcomers. Although it’s a little bit early, let’s take a look at what Rutgers and Maryland bring to the table in the Big Ten.
Head Coach Scott Goodale is set to lead his team into Big Ten competition with seven years under his belt in his current role. Goodale recently announced that he added former Wisconsin stand-out wrestler and associate head coach Donny Pritzlaff to his staff. Pritzlaff is a great acquisition for the Rutgers program as he is a hands-on coach who is able to wrestle with the middle weights and pass on some of the knowledge he used to win a pair of NCAA titles as a Badger. Pritlaff was an assistant at Michigan for the past few seasons.
The Knights return a trio of NCAA qualifiers from a season ago and will also add a familiar face to the lineup this season. Ken Theobald (149), Anthony Perrotti (157), and Billy Smith (Heavyweight) all qualified for last season’s NCAA tournament. Perrotti rattled off four straight wins in the wrestlebacks to earn his first All-American accolades with an 8th place finish. Smith won a pair of matches in the heavyweight bracket, but failed to place.
Joining Rutgers’ team this season is former Buckeye Andrew Campolattano, who twice qualified for the NCAA tournament before an unceremonious exit from Columbus. Campolattano, a New Jersey native, will have two seasons of eligibility for Rutgers and will bring a great amount of experience to the young team.
Big Ten Outlook
If Perrotti wrestles at 157 again, he’ll find himself in one of deepest weight classes in the Big Ten. Three All-Americans, including the 2014 NCAA runner-up, Dylan Ness, return in the Big Ten at this weight. Further adding to the depth, guys like Dylan Alton, Josh Demas, and Taylor Walsh all return. Perrotti will add depth and should qualify to the NCAA tournament if he wrestles up to par, but it certainly won’t be easy.
Smith is in the same boat as Perrotti; the heavyweight division, like 157 pounds, is incredibly deep and full of talented wrestlers with remaining eligibility. He’s got wins over Penn State’s backup, Jon Gingrich, and the Buckeyes’ Nick Tavanello, as well as several losses to other Big Ten heavyweights.
Rutgers added a top 100 recruit to the lower end of their lineup in Intermat’s No. 47-ranked Anthony Giraldo, but there aren’t any other big name recruits stepping onto campus this year that will make much of a splash.
Rutgers finished 3rd in last year’s EIWA tournament and 34th as a team at the NCAA tournament. Smith and Perrotti should score some points at both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, but they won’t get much help elsewhere. Guys like Anthony Ashnault and Tyson Dippery could contribute in the Big Ten race, but don’t expect Rutgers to finish in the top ten in the Big Ten this season.
Kerry McCoy, twice an Olympian and a Hodge trophy winner, is set to begin his seventh season as Maryland’s head coach. Prior to his stint in College Park, McCoy helped to right the Stanford wrestling program, making the Cardinal one of the tougher teams west of the Rockies for a time. McCoy’s name recognition in the sport does help with recruiting, especially with the upper weights.
The Terrapins are taking a hit with graduation claiming two of their biggest point scorers at the NCAA tournament in Jimmy Sheptock and Christian Boley. Twice an All-American, Sheptock was an NCAA runner-up in 2014, while Boley finished a match short of the podium. Heavyweight Spencer Myers returns with an All-American finish under his belt. Myers is joined by Tyler Goodwin, Geoffrey Alexander, and Shyheim Brown as wrestlers with NCAA tournament experience.
The Terps are also welcoming a trio of wrestlers in Intermat’s Top 100 recruits to help bolster the lineup in the coming years.
Of the mentioned wrestlers, Myers should taste the most amount of success in the Big Ten, though he may find it difficult to duplicate his runner-up finish in the ACC a year ago. As in years past, the Big Ten’s heavyweight division is incredibly deep, and anyone who survives the Big Ten tournament should have the chops to place at the NCAA tournament, which Myers did as a freshman.
Big Ten Outlook
At a glance, Maryland has more depth than a few Big Ten teams, namely Purdue and Michigan State.
As mentioned, Myers should be the brightest spot for the team in the first season in the Big Ten, but the Big Ten heavyweights will again be the best in the country. In the past season, he had a number of close matches against Big Ten heavyweights, but came up short in all of them.
Most of the other Maryland wrestlers that faced Big Ten competition took some lumps, but tended to do well against other competition. The team finished in fifth place (out of seven teams) at last year’s ACC Championships and scored enough points to finish in the top 20 at the NCAA Championships. Losing their top point scorers from a year ago won’t be doing Maryland any favors, but they should fare better than Rutgers in their first crack at the Big Ten.
As a whole, adding Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten doesn’t really do much to add to the conference’s dominance, but Maryland is usually good for an All-American every few years. New Jersey is a hot bed for prep wrestling, so with any luck, Rutgers can keep some talent close to home and compete down the road, but those days are far, far away.