By Rob Sherrill
How do you choose between two schools with an embarrassment of recruiting riches? It’s pretty tough when you’re talking about Iowa and Cornell, two teams who cleaned up during the early-signing period last November.
Coaches Tom Brands (Iowa) and Rob Koll (Cornell) each signed six blue-chip recruits in the fall. With five of those recruits ranked in the top seven at their respective weights in WIN’s final rankings in this issue, the Hawks leapfrogged the Big Red by the narrowest of margins. Six Cornell recruits, however, are ranked in the top 20. So it remains as close as it gets.
Making it a solid top three is Lehigh. With four recruits ranked in the top three and six in the rankings, coach Pat Santoro’s 15-man class moved up two spots.
The biggest mover, by far, is Oklahoma, which moved up 10 spots to No. 4. Four new teams joined the rankings, led by national champion Penn State (No. 17). Joining the Nittany Lions were Oregon State (No. 18), Nebraska (No. 19) and, making its initial appearance, Air Force (No. 23). They nosed out November entries Bucknell, Drexel, Eastern Michigan, Michigan State and Cal Poly.
Please note that these are based on what has been officially reported. We don’t have access to each school’s dozen-odd additional walk-ons…and don’t pretend to. We had to make some hard decisions to narrow down the field, but here are some highlights of WIN’s top 25 recruiting classes for 2011-12 at press time.
1. Iowa: Two out of three ain’t bad: Thomas Gilman (125) of Omaha (Neb.) Skutt High and Cory Clark (125) of Runnells Southeast Polk High won their fourth state titles, while Topher Carton (133-141) of Davenport Assumption High came up two points short.
Clark’s Southeast Polk teammate, Alex Meyer (174-184) and state champions Nate Skonieczny (141-149) of Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit High and Sam Brooks (184-197) of Oak Park (Ill.) O.P.-River Forest High had dominant senior seasons. Experience at the U.S. Olympic Training Center will only help 2011 graduate Nathan Burak (197), originally from Colorado Springs (Colo.) Coronado High.
2. Cornell: In the Big Red’s case, it was one of two. Mark Grey (133) of Blairstown Township (N.J.) Blair Academy won his fourth National Prep Championships title, while Alex Cisneros (133) of Selma (Calif.) High came up short. So did Michigan champion Gabe Dean (197) of Lowell High, who lost in the state final.
But Junior National champion Brian Realbuto (149-157) of Somers High and Taylor Simaz (165) of Allegan (Mich.) High, who has the right bloodlines, won titles. A knee injury forced him to sit out the Illinois high school season, but Steve Congenie (184-197) of Villa Park Willowbrook High won the USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals.
3. Lehigh: Santoro’s class had its ups and downs this season, but they should still be the cornerstone of future Mountain Hawk powerhouses. Brian Brill (157) didn’t beat Chance Marsteller in the state tournament, but nobody else has, either … and nobody but Blair Academy-standout Brooks Black has the number of Doug Vollaro (285) of Orlando (Fla.) Pine Castle Christian School.
And while Mitch Minotti (149-157) of Easton (Pa.) High was upset in his bid for a second title, many considered Brandon Griffin (184) of Salem (Ore.) Sprague High the best in that state this year. Elliot Riddick (184) of Bethlehem Catholic High was a state champion. David Jeffrey (125-133) of Parkersburg South High won his fourth West Virginia title.
4. Oklahoma: It’s hard to top the in-season performance of coach Mark Cody’s six recruits, all of whom blew away their opposition this year. Cody landed the top two recruits available this spring, Ross Larson (197) of Ankeny (Iowa) High and Greg Wilson (174-184) of Keller (Texas) Central High. Along with fall signees Tim Hamilton (141-149) of Bartlesville High and Brad Johnson (197-285) of Lockport (Ill.) High, all were unbeaten this season. Four-time Oklahoma champion Kyle Garcia (125) of Choctaw High and five-time Florida champion Clark Glass (165-174) of Brandon High had just one loss each. The six combined for 19 career state titles.
5. North Carolina: One of coach C.D. Mock’s recruits was a NHSCA Senior Nationals champion: four-time Maryland champion Nathan Kraisser (133) of Ellicott City Centennial High. Ryan Harrington (157-165) of West Morris Mendham High repeated in New Jersey, Joey Ward (133-141) of Cincinnati (Ohio) Archbishop Moeller High was the Outstanding Wrestler of his Division 1 state tournament and Joe Moon (141) of Graham Southern Alamance High was dominant in winning his second title. Only an injury to Cody Klempay (285) of Canonsburg (Pa.) Canon-McMillan High in the state tournament kept Mock’s class from bidding for a clean sweep.
6. Wisconsin: He’s had an up-and-down season off the mat, but there’s no denying the dominance of Devin Peterson (184) of Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High on it. He pinned his way to a state title. Three of coach Barry Davis’s other recruits, Phillip Laux (125) of Iowa City (Iowa) West High and Ryan Taylor (125) and Isaac Jordan (165-174) of St. Paris (Ohio) Graham High, had no trouble repeating as champions. Laux’s West teammate, Justin Koethe (157) and T.J. Ruschell (141) of Union (Ky.) Ryle High were state finalists.
7. Stanford: Coach Jason Borrelli’s Illinois recruits, two-time Junior National champion Matt Garelli (125) of Oak Park Fenwick High and Josh Marchok (285) of Schaumburg High, won their second state titles. Zach Nevills (174-184) of Clovis High was a California state champion, Jim Wilson (165) of Stockton McNair High and Max Hvolbek (133-141) of Blair Academy finished third in loaded weight classes.
8. Michigan: The three standouts of coach Joe McFarland’s fall class, Taylor Massa (165-174) of St. Johns High and Jordan Thomas (174-184) of Greenville High, and Rossi Bruno (125-133) Brandon (Fla.) High ended their careers with a combined 12 state titles. A vastly undersized Thomas beat fellow defending champion Dean in the Division 2 state final at 189.
9. Illinois: Coaches Jim Heffernan and Mark Perry got the maximum mileage out of their top-four November recruits. The top in-state recruit, Zane Richards (133) of Carbondale High, won his second state title and his Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic match. With Zac Brunson (165-174) of Eugene (Ore.) Winston Churchill High and John Fahy (149) of Louisville Trinity High winning their fourth state titles and Nikko Reyes (174-184) of Fresno Clovis West High also repeating, the four combined for 12 state titles.
10. Iowa State: Two of coach Kevin Jackson’s recruits — Dakota Bauer (133-141) of Iowa City West High and Kyle Larson (125-133) of West Des Moines Valley High — squared off in the 3A semifinals at 132, with Bauer winning a 3-2 decision and going on to win his second title. It was clear sailing, meanwhile, for four-time champion John Meeks (133-141) of Des Moines Roosevelt High, Gabriel Moreno (149) of Urbandale High and Jesse Doyle (197) of Trinity (N.C.) Wheatmore High.
11. Northwestern: Two of coach Drew Pariano’s Big Three, two-time National Prep champion Dominic Malone (125) of Kingston (Pa.) Wyoming Seminary and three-time North Carolina champion Garrison White (125-133) of Concord Jay M. Robinson High, earned Outstanding Wrestler honors and four-time Indiana champion Jason Tsirtsis (141-149) of Crown Point, arguably the nation’s top recruit, put on an OW-worthy performance of his own.
12. Minnesota: Two-time state champions Sam Brancale (125-133) of Eden Prairie High and Michael Kroells (197-285) of Belle Plaine Scott West High were the unsung heroes of the Minnesota state tournament, Brancale ending the 179-match winning streak of St. Cloud Apollo High’s Mitch Bengtson and Kroells walking away with a loaded weight class. Coach J Robinson’s two Apple Valley High recruits, Dakota Trom (141) and Brandon Kingsley (149-157), split in their bids for four state titles, with Kingsley coming out on top.
13. Virginia: Coach Steve Garland’s four recruits in the 125-133 weight class get an A-minus: Two-time Ohio champion George DiCamillo of Cleveland St. Ignatius High, who also won in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, four-time Texas champion Nick Herrmann of Amarillo (Texas) Tascosa High, and the second five-time champion in Tennessee history, Zach Watson of Chattanooga Baylor School, and Will Mason of Virginia Beach (Va.) Cape Henry Collegiate School, who advanced to the National Prep Championships final. Justin VanHoose (141) of Kirksville (Mo.) High easily won his third title. He also inked Beast champ Will Mason (125).
14. Old Dominion: It was a clean sweep for Steve Martin’s class. Finally winning state titles — and rather easily — were Alexander Richardson (149-157) of Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Preparatory School, along with a second NHSCA National High School title, Micah Barnes (165) of Inver Grove Heights (Minn.) Simley High, Kevin Beazley (184) of Novi (Mich.) Detroit Catholic Central High and Jack Dechow (184) of Richmond (Ill.) R.-Burton High. Joe Jessen (197) and Tanner Tinsley (Hanover) of Winchester (Va.) Millbrook High won their second titles. Martin also signed Stonewall Jackson’s (N.J.) Lucas Ryan.
15. Harvard: Three-time National prep place-winner Jeff Ott (133) of Belmont (Mass.) Belmont Hill School was the runner-up this year and Blair Academy’s Todd Preston (141) won his second title. Adam Bicak (165-174) of Ripley High became a four-time West Virginia champion and Devon Gobbo (165) of Morristown (N.J.) Delbarton School should come back strong after an injury sidelined him this year.
16. Ohio State: Though two-time World Team member Nick Roberts (125) of Boswell (Pa.) North Star High and three-time Ohio champion Nick Tavanello (285) of Wadsworth High lost in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, both should be college winners. Mark Martin (174) of Lakewood St. Edward also won state.
17. Penn State: Coach Cael Sanderson’s three recruits went 1-2 in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, but all three became multi-time state champions this year. Jimmy Gulibon (125-133) of Derry high won his fourth title and Zach Beitz (141) of Mifflintown Juniata High and Wesley Phipps (184) also repeated, all in small-class AA.
18. Oregon State: Joey Delgado (141-149) of Hermiston won his fourth Oregon title and Junior National freestyle finalist Joey Palmer (125-133) of Kent (Wash.) Tahoma also repeated. Coach Jim Zalesky’s final recruit, Jack Hathaway (133-141) of Iowa City (Iowa) West High, finished third in a loaded weight.
19. Nebraska: It’s hard to believe Tim Lambert (125) of Ada (Mich.) Forest Hills Eastern High didn’t win a state title until this year. Ben Morgan (133-141) of Forest Lake (Minn.) High and McCoy Newberg (174) of Thompson’s Station (Tenn) Independence High won their second titles. Count on South Carolina-standout Tim Dudley (Irmo) at 184/197.
20. Missouri: Coach Brian Smith’s two ranked recruits, Iowa champion Willie Miklus (197) of Southeast Polk High (Runnells) and Tony DeAngelo (141) of Graham (N.C.) Southern Alamance High, won their second state titles easily, with Miklus pinning his way to his title. Cody Hummer (125) of Savannah High, Austin Roper (133-141) of Kirksville High and Matt Manley (125) of Perry (Okla.) High all won their third titles easily.
21. Oklahoma State: They didn’t make it easy, but brothers Brian (133) and Kyle Crutchmer (174) of nearby Tulsa Union High won their second and third 6A titles, respectively. Three-time Washington champion Jordan Rogers (184) of Spokane Mead High pinned his way to his state title and picked up another at the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic.
22. Northern Iowa: Coach Doug Schwab’s fall class got the maximum mileage out of its state tournament performances this year. Dylan Peters (125) of Denver/Tripoli High pinned his way to his third title and champion Zach Witte (174) of Cedar Rapids Prairie High easily won his second. Minnesotans Curt Maas (157-165) of Medford High and Cooper Moore (165-174) of Jackson County Central High also won their third and second, respectively, with ease.
23. Air Force: The more we look at the best class that coach Joel Sharratt has brought in, the more we see to like. Cassidy Oshiro (125) of Honolulu Maryknoll School, one of two three-time Hawaii state champions this year, and Virginia champion David Reck (184) of Stafford Colonial Forge High are in the rankings. Best of the rest: four-time North Carolina independent champion Chris Caton (125-133) of Chattanooga Northside Christian School, three-time Utah champion Mitch Brown (125) of Payson High, two-time Kansas champion Alex Bontz (149) of Andover Central High and NHSCA Senior Nationals champion Natrelle Demison (141-149) of Bakersfield (Calif.) High. Add in these signees for the Falcons, and it’s one of their best classes ever: Zach Stephan (Zimmerman, MN) at 133, Scott Reiley (Stanford, VA) at 165, Lucas Lambrecht (Sheboygan Falls, WI), William Price from home-town Colorado Springs (197), Marcus Malecek (Hammond, WI) at HWT and Robert and David Walker from Prole, Iowa.
24. Columbia: Falling short at state could give Johnson Mai (125) of North Torrance (Calif.) High and three-time Michigan champion Alec Mooradian (141-149) of Novi Detroit Catholic Central High some motivation at the next level. Two-time Hawaii champion Zachary Hernandez (184) of Honolulu Punahou School pinned his way to the title this year and two-time Ohio place-winner Angelo Armenta (133) of Oregon Clay High flirted with our rankings.
25. Virginia Tech: Though just one of coach Kevin Dresser’s upper-weight posse, Ty Walz (285) of Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward High, won a state title, fellow Ohioan Huston Evans (197) of St. Paris Graham High, a 2010 state champion, and Sal Mastriani (149-157) of Ramsey Don Bosco Preparatory School were state runners-up and Dawson Peck (285) of Chambersburg (Pa.) High was third in state.