By Willie Saylor, Staff Writer
Last year, the crop of talent in the Division I ranks was almost unprecedentedly young. Half of the ten champions were underclassmen, including 13 of the 20 finalists. And 47 of the 80 All-Americans from last year return.
So while those guys are favorites to be among the constituents for All-American honors again this year, emerging talent looking to break into the national picture will face tough sledding.
Some weights are so deep, it’s difficult seeing anyone not already established breaking through. 184 pounds, for instance, returns all eight AA’s from Philadelphia. And only one of the eight All-Americans at heavyweight has graduated.
But there are several wrestlers who showed promise of doing such last year, either as redshirts on the ‘Open’ circuit, or guys who were knocking on the door last year and could possibly get over the proverbial ‘hump’.
By no means comprehensive, the following is a list of either rookie wrestlers with promise, or lesser-known guys who haven’t reached All American status, but that could be a threat to do so this season.
Jessie Delgado, RSFr., Illinois — One of the top-ranked recruits coming out of Gilroy, Calif., Delgado won an NHSCA title and was a rare four-time state place-winner, with a state title as a sophomore. Last year, he had a phenomenal redshirt season for Cal Poly, posting a 16-1 record with 14 bonus-point victories. His only loss came to eventual All-American Ryan Mango of Stanford. Delgado then went on to win the National Collegiate Open. In the spring, he won the University Freestyle National Championships, before transferring to Illinois to be reunited with coach Mark Perry. Delgado sits as the top freshman at the weight according to most national polls.
Others: Mason Beckman, Fr., Lehigh; Nico Megaludis, Fr., Penn State, Alan Waters, So. Missouri; Ryak Finch, RS Fr., Iowa State
Logan Steiber, RS Fr., Ohio State — Steiber was a phenom coming out of Monroeville (Ohio) High School and ranked by many as the top recruit in the country that year. He attempted to wrestle as a true freshman last year, but sustained a serious hand injury just weeks into the season. This summer, he was a silver medalist at the Junior World Championships in Bucharest, Romania.
Others: Colin Johnston, Jr., West Virginia; AJ Schopp, Fr., Edinboro
Nick Dardanes, RSFr., Minnesota — A very credentialed wrestler and highly sought recruit coming out of Oak Park, Ill., Dardanes posted an encouraging 20-4 record as a true freshman, redshirting, last year. He then went on to make the finals at FILA Juniors this spring. This weight class is a bear in the Big Ten this year, but Dardanes certainly has the pedigree to make his presence felt.
Others: Colin Shober, RS Fr., Northwestern; Mitchell Port, RS Fr., Edinboro; Zach Neibert, So., Virginia Tech
Dylan Ness, RS Fr., Minnesota — Ness won three open tournaments in compiling a 16-1 record while redshirting last year. His only loss came in his last bout of the season to two-time All American Kevin LeValley of Bucknell. Ness is the younger brother of 2010 Hodge Trophy winner and NCAA champ at 133 pounds: Jayson Ness.
Others: Mark Hartenstine, RS Fr. , Campbell; Jake Ballweg, RS Fr. Iowa; Anthony Salupo, RS Fr., Lehigh; Taylor Walsh, RS Fr., Indiana; Kaleb Friedley, RS Fr., Northwestern
Mark Lewandowski, Jr., Buffalo — Lewandowski isn’t a household name, but he could be by season’s end, wrestling for a program on the rise and with a cupboard full of talent. He was a 30-match winner and a MAC conference champion last year. At the NCAA tournament, he came just one bout short of All-American status, losing in the Round of 12 to Iowa’s Derek St. John.
Others: Corey Mock, So. North Carolina; Eric Hess, Fr. Lehigh; Josh Demas, RS Fr. Ohio State; Dylan Alton, RSFr. Penn State or Dirk Cowburn, RS Fr., Penn State
Robert Kokesh, RS Fr., Nebraska — Kokesh sat behind Hodge Trophy winner Jordan Burroughs last year. But, he certainly wasn’t idle. Kokesh posted what might have been the most dominating season by a redshirt in 2011 by going 34-0, with 29 bonus-point victories. Kokesh just might be the rookie to keep your eyes on.
Mike Evans, RS Fr., Iowa — It still may be determined which weight Evans will compete at, but whichever it is, he’ll be a force. The No. 1-ranked wrestler at his weight class coming out of Blair Academy, Evans didn’t disappoint in his redshirt year, going 22-2 with 14 falls. His two losses both came at Midlands. Watch for him on top, where he is a hammer.
Others: Derek Garcia, Fr., Ohio State; Zach Toal, So., Missouri
Logan Storely, Fr., Minnesota — It is still up in the air whether Storely will wrestle this year or redshirt. Whatever the case may be, watch out. Storely is legitimate threat to anyone, even as a true freshman. He was one of the most impressive wrestlers in the summer of 2010 on his way to a Fargo title.
Lee Munster, RS-Fr., Northwestern — Another blue-chip recruit from the class of 2010 that turned in a very promising redshirt campaign, Munster went 14-4 for the Wildcats in Open tourneys and made the Junior World Team in freestyle this spring. It may be difficult for anyone to break through at a weight where each of the eight All Americans return, but Munster leads the pack of rookies that could do it.
Kyven Gadson, RSFr., Iowa State — Gadsen, the 2010 Junior Schalles Award winner (as the nation’s top high school pinner) wrestled just a handful of matches last year. He went 5-1 losing only to eventual All-American Kevin Steinhaus. But this kid is the real deal and has all the tools to be successful. You’ll definitely enjoy watching him.
Others: Luke Macchiaroli, So., Arizona State; Morgan McIntosh, Fr., Penn State
Bobby Telford, RS Fr., Iowa, and Mike McMullan, RS Fr., Northwestern
– Coming out of high school in 2010, McMullan was the No. 1 high school heavyweight wrestler in the country. Telford was No. 2, by virtue of McMullan’s 4-3 in the finals of the Beast of the East. Now in the big leagues, both wrestlers redshirted last year and posted a combined record of 42-10. McMullan was 19-6 and placed eighth at Midlands. Telford went 23-4 and then won FILA Juniors this spring. Look for the rivalry to continue between these two for the next four years.
Others: Jr. Elijah Madison, Oklahoma; Sr. Chad Hanke, Oregon St.