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Nick Suriano will always hold a special place in the history of the Rutgers University wrestling program.
"He was really, really important,'' Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale said.
Suriano, who had transferred from Penn State to Rutgers before the 2017-2018 season, became the Scarlet Knights' first national wrestling champion on March 23, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh with a 4-2 win in sudden victory period No. 2 over Oklahoma State's Daton Fix in the 133-pound NCAA final.
Current Rutgers assistant coach Anthony Ashnault became the Scarlet Knights' second national champion a short while later when he capped a 32-0 season with a 9-4 win over Ohio State's Micah Jordan in the 149-pound final.
The season prior, Suriano became Rutgers' first national finalist. He was defeated 5-2 by Iowa's three-time national champion Spencer Lee in the 125-pound final.
"He shined a huge spotlight on Rutgers wrestling and because of that, I'll forever be grateful,'' Goodale said.
A lot has happened with Suriano since March 23, 2019.
Suriano spent two years trying to qualify for the United States Olympic Team at 57 kg for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. It looked he had a legitimate chance to make that team before COVID testing ended that bid just before the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in April, 2021.
Then last fall, Suriano made the decision to transfer to the University of Michigan for his final collegiate season. He is expected to be in the Wolverines' lineup at 125 pounds at 4 p.m. Sunday when Michigan hosts Rutgers at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. for a Big Ten Conference match. The match will be streamed live on Big Ten Plus.
Before that, Rutgers (12-2), ranked No. 14 nationally, will wrestle at No. 21 Michigan State (7-1, 2-1) at 6 p.m. Friday on BTN Plus and No. 3 Michigan (5-0, 1-0) will host No. 1 Penn State (11-0, 3-0) at 6 p.m. Friday on the Big Ten Network.
"I'm sure when I see him, we'll say hello,'' Goodale said. "There are absolutely no hard feelings. I don't feel it will be awkward at all. It's a little bit different because he's on another team, but I'm super proud of what he did at Rutgers.
"Other than wrestling a Rutgers guy, I root for Nick. He's part of our family. That's the way I look at it."
Suriano, who joined the Wolverines lineup on Jan. 9, is 3-0 with a technical fall and two major decisions. One of his bouts came in an extra bout when Michigan wrestled at Pitt on Jan. 9.
With Lee sidelined after he decided to undergo season-ending knee injury. Suriano is the favorite to win the 125-pound national championship March 19 in Detroit.
"He is very, very good at what he does,'' Goodale said. "He's phenomenal. He's always in great position. He's in incredible shape. Whatever he does in this wrestling world, it never surprises me.
"We kind of knew that when he came to us. Our whole staff and our whole program feel the same way. When he puts his mind to something and there's a goal he's trying to attain, there's a really good chance he's either going to do it or get really darn close to doing it.''
Suriano's presence in a power-packed lineup gives the Wolverines a legitimate chance at winning their first national team championship. Michigan, Penn State, Iowa and Oklahoma State figure to be the main contenders for the national title. Michigan has finished as the runner-up four times with the last time coming in 1974.
Five of the six seasons on the scholastic and collegiate level that Suriano has wrestled in the postseason, he has won either a state or national championship. He has been in either a state or national final in all six of those seasons. An injury sustained during his freshman season at Penn State prevented him from wrestling in the 2017 postseason.
Suriano was a four-time NJSIAA champion and went 159-0 during his scholastic career at Bergen Catholic from 2012-2016.
"He's super intense and he knows what he wants to do,'' Goodale said. "There's not many people or things that can stand in his way.''
Here are the potential lineups for Rutgers matches vs. Michigan State and Michigan.
Rankings are from intermatwrestle.com and flowrestling.org.
RUTGERS (12-2, 2-2)
125: 27/23 Dylan Shawver (14-4).
133: 20/22 Joey Olvieri (14-5).
141: 3/3 Sebastian Rivera (16-0).
149: 17/14 Mike VanBrill (12-1).
157: Robert Kanniard (8-6).
165: Andrew Clark (11-13).
174: Connor O'Neill (9-9).
184: 5/5 John Poznanski (13-1).
197: 6/12 Greg Bulsak (15-1).
HWT: Boone McDermott (9-7) or Alex Esposito (4-3)
MICHIGAN STATE (7-1, 2-1)
125: Tristan Lujan (8-6).
133: 12/11 Rayvon Foley (19-2).
141: Matt Santos (7-7) or Jordan Hamdan (8-8).
149: Eddie Homrock (10-5) or Peyton Omania (7-5).
157: 19/HM Chase Saldate (20-3).
165: NR/HM Caleb Fish (17-6) or Miles Hoey (6-6).
174: Nathan Jimenez (7-10) or Marty Larkin (8-8).
184: 27/21 Layne Malczewski (17-6).
197: 15/18 Cameron Caffey (19-4).
HWT: Brad Wilton (8-10).
MICHIGAN (5-0, 1-0)
125: 1/1 Nick Suriano (3-0).
133: 8/8 Dylan Ragusin (12-3).
141: 4/9 Stevan Micic (2-1).
149: Cole Mattin (7-4).
157: 15/14 Will Lewan (8-2).
165: 10/10 Cameron Amine (7-2).
174: 6/6 Logan Massa (7-0).
184: 2/2 Myles Amine (7-0).
197: 8/8 Patrick Brucki (12-2).
HWT: 2/2 Mason Parris (7-0).
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Rutgers wrestling: Nick Suriano was important, says Scott Goodale