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Nick Suriano Officially Transfers to Rutgers

RossWB's picture
September 6, 2017 at 6:33pm
2 Comments

This move has been probably the worst-kept secret in the wrestling world all offseason and it's dragged on for (literally) months at this point. But now it's official: Suriano is trading Penn State for Rutgers. (As for why he'd do that -- he's a Jersey kid and wanted to be closer to home. There are also rumors that he didn't mesh well with Sanderson and the PSU coaching staff.)

Three things here that are of interest IMO: 

1) To the best of my knowledge, Rutgers has never had a national champion.

Suriano should have an excellent opportunity to end that drought. He was the #2 wrestler at 125 lbs last year (behind Thomas Gilman) before a nasty foot/ankle injury ended his season right before the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. If he's fully recovered, he should be a holy terror at 125 lbs again. 125 is without Gilman this year, although it does return both of last year's NCAA finalists (Darian Cruz and Ethan Lizak). There's been some talk of former national champion Nathan Tomasello moving back down to 125 lbs for his senior year, too. He would probably be Suriano's toughest challenger at 125 lbs this year. In the medium and long-term, the top guys at 125 should include Spencer Lee (Iowa) and Daton Fix (Oklahoma State), but there's a good chance that both of those guys redshirt this year. Regardless, if he can maintain the weight, Suriano is going to be a top guy at 125 for the next three years and Rutgers could finally get a national champion. 

2) Suriano is eligible to compete immediately -- despite transferring between B1G schools.

This is the part of this move that's raised a few eyebrows. There's been a longstanding tradition that transfers within the Big Ten Conference cost a year of eligibility. Except that's not happening here -- Suriano used one year of eligibility at PSU last year, is transferring to Rutgers and is eligible to compete there this year and for the next two years. No eligibility lost. What gives? The rationale behind the decision hasn't been made clear. There have been some exceptions in this past where an athlete was able to compete immediately after making an intra-B1G transfer, but it hasn't been a common situation. I do wonder if this move will change things as it's a pretty high-profile move, at least within the world of college wrestling. 

3) This puts a big dent in PSU's hopes of breaking 1997 Iowa's all-time points scoring record next March. 

In 1997, 20 years ago last March, Iowa wrestling won a national title in Dan Gable's final season as head coach. Saying they "won a national title" kind of understates things, though -- they laid waste to the field, scoring 170 points and winning by almost 60 points. That 170 point mark is still an NCAA record -- and no one has really come close to it. Iowa also owns the 2nd (158), 3rd (157), and 4th highest (153) scoring marks. The top non-Iowa scoring mark is Oklahoma State with 153 in 2005.

But Penn State looked like they might be able to pose a serious threat to the record in 2018. They scored 147.5 points on their way to a title in 2017, including five national champions (149, 147, 165, 174, 184) -- and they return almost all of the wrestlers who contributed points to that tally. They were also able to score that much while getting zero points at 125 (injury to Suriano) and 133 (no qualifier). This year they were expecting *something* out of 133 and a possible national champion (likely good for 20-25 points) out of Suriano. Add those points to their tally from last year and they'd have an excellent opportunity to break Iowa's record. Granted, that assumes near-identical performances from many of their wrestlers, which is no sure thing, but it was certainly plausible. Suriano's departure puts a huge monkey wrench in those hopes, though -- they have no way to replace his 20-25 points with a comparable wrestler (their 125er now will likely be an NCAA qualifier at best), which means finding a way to squeeze almost 25 additional points from the wrestlers at the other nine weights. That's going to be really hard. 

(For what it's worth, I don't think this move impacts Iowa's ability to contend for a national title this year, mainly because Iowa wasn't that close to PSU to begin with this year. The best way for Iowa to win a title this year would be for PSU (and Ohio State) to be told the NCAA Tournament is in Anchorage. Hope is on the way for the Hawkeyes, but this year will probably be a bit rocky.)

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