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By Rob Sherrill
With another off-season now officially over, we have some awards of our own to hand out.
Let’s call it WIN’s Fun in the Sun team.
It’s our simple reward for wrestlers with the guts to lay it on the line against the best competition the rest of the nation has to offer, at unfamiliar venues in unfamiliar parts of the nation.
The teams are based on quantity, as well as quality, of results and accomplishments, as well as the number of quality wins. However, they are not rankings. In some cases, head-to-head results may have been used to break ties between wrestlers with similar overall resumes. However, you will sometimes see a wrestler with a better overall resume placed on a team ahead of someone who may have beaten him on the mat.
Get used to it. In this day and age, where everybody wrestles everybody, the big picture usually outweighs individual wins and losses. The bottom line is that a wrestler who stepped out of his comfort zone on the most occasions – win or lose – is the wrestler who will most often be rewarded.
While we tried to be particularly discriminating in our selections of our No. 1’s, we selected co-First Team members at three weight classes: 112, 160 and 189. Sometimes, it’s possible for two wrestlers to travel different routes to equally impressive resumes, and that was the case at each of those weights.
Brandon (Fla.) High placed six future or current wrestlers on the team to lead all schools, including First Team members Tyler Liberatore (130) and Wally Figaro (160). Two other schools, Apple Valley (Minn.) High and Blairstown Township (N.J.) Blair Academy, had four selections each, and Blair also placed two on the first team: Austin Ormsbee (135) and Brooks Black (285).
Our pick for Outstanding Wrestler? We go with Jordan Rogers (171) of Spokane (Wash.) Mead High, who had eight tournament titles in three age groups…and could have walked out of the FargoDome with a pair of Outstanding Wrestler awards to go with his double Cadet National crown. Black and Apple Valley four-time state champion Destin McCauley (152) also merited strong consideration.
Three First Team wrestlers earned their awards for accomplishments outside the national spotlight. Nick Roberts (112) of Boswell (Pa.) North Star High finished fifth in the FILA Junior World Freestyle Championships, Carson Kuhn (119) of Sandy (Utah) Alta High had an impressive run in the Junior Pan-American Games and Jesse Thielke (125) of Germantown (Wis.) High was a member of the FILA Junior World Greco-Roman Team.
Now, as we head into what promises to be an interesting round of pre-season scholastic-style tournaments, we present WIN’s Fun in the Sun Team. Enjoy!
103 pounds: Colton Howell, junior, Ozark (Mo.) High
Honorable Mention: Ronnie Bresser, sophomore, Klamath Falls (Ore.) Henley; Phillip Laux, junior, Pekin (Iowa); Dylan Lucas, eighth grade, Brandon (Fla.); Ruben Navejas, senior, Kent (Wash.) Kentwood; Jacob Schmitt, sophomore, St. Johns (Mich.)
The lowdown: Howell wrestled from 98 to 112, adding a Junior National Greco-Roman title at 98 to the Cadet National crown he won last year. A double Junior Nationals and FILA Cadet Nationals All-American, Howell placed in seven USA Wrestling events this year and won five titles. He was the Southern Plains Region double champion and also took Folkstyle Nationals and FILA Cadet National Greco-Roman titles.
112 pounds (tie): Nick Roberts, junior, Boswell (Pa.) North Star High; Freddie Rodriguez, junior, Holt (Mich.) High
Honorable Mention: Sam Brancale, junior, Eden Prairie (Minn.); Jered Cortez, freshman, Aurora (Ill.) Marmion Academy; Tyler Fraley, senior, Colts Neck (N.J.); Jack Hathaway, junior, Iowa City (Iowa) West; Ryan McQuade, senior, Appleton (Wis.) West
The lowdown: As the first wrestler ever to win USA Wrestling’s Triple Crown in the Junior Division, Rodriguez was an obvious choice. But Roberts’ resume was just as strong. He advanced to the finals of the FILA Junior World Team Trials in both styles, earning a berth on the freestyle team. And at the Disney Duals, he avenged a state semifinals loss to eventual champion Dain Retherford of Herndon Line Mountain High, winning a 5-3 decision.
119 pounds: Carson Kuhn, grad, Sandy (Utah) Alta High
Honorable Mention: Earl Hall, senior, Homestead (Fla.) South Dade; Bricker Dixon, senior, Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill; Valyen Rauser, senior, Townsend (Mont.) Broadwater County; Hayden Tuma, freshman, Boise (Idaho) Centennial; Conor Youtsey, senior, Mason (Mich.)
The lowdown: His resume is built as much on quality as quantity, but Kuhn didn’t take it easy during a summer spent preparing for his freshman year at a Boise State University. After winning the West Region double title, he finished second in Greco-Roman and fifth in freestyle in the Junior Pan-American Games. All that paid off with this Junior Freestyle championship performance: 10-0 with four pins, three technical falls, no lost periods and just 11 points allowed.
125 pounds: Jesse Thielke, senior, Germantown (Wis.) High
Honorable Mention: Rossi Bruno, junior, Brandon (Fla.); Mark Grey, junior, Blairstown Township (N.J.) Blair Academy; Grant LaMont, sophomore, Spanish Fork (Utah) Maple Mountain; Kevin Norstrem, sophomore, Brandon (Fla.); Ben Whitford, sophomore, Aurora (Ill.) Marmion Academy
The lowdown: LaMont’s storied run to the Junior National Greco-Roman finals, which included a win over Norstrem, put him in the running, and everyone on this list had First Team moments. But even without a trip to Fargo, Thielke’s resume couldn’t be touched. Considered a Greco-Roman specialist, he nevertheless took titles in all three styles, winning the Folkstyle Nationals and becoming the Northern Plains Region double champion. At the Junior National Duals, he went 9-0 in Greco-Roman with five pins and four technical falls, allowing just one point. His FILA Junior Greco-Roman World Team Trials victory earned him a berth on the U.S. team.
130 pounds: Tyler Liberatore, junior, Brandon (Fla.) High
Honorable Mention: Ronnie Garbinsky, senior, Tyrone (Pa.); Brandon Jeske, sophomore, Virginia Beach (Va.) Frank W. Cox; Matt Kelliher, senior, Apple Valley (Minn.); Todd Preston, junior, Blairstown Township (N.J.) Blair Academy; Zane Richards, junior, Carbondale (Ill.)
The lowdown: What’s new? Russ Cozart continues to turn out national-class stars at his Florida powerhouse. Here’s what’s new: the emergence of Liberatore as the standout of Brandon’s newest core group. The Southeast Region double champion at 135, Liberatore wasn’t challenged after dropping to 130. A 9-0 mark at the Junior National Duals in Greco-Roman was followed by a combined 19-0 record and a double Junior Nationals crown. His Fargo run included six pins, eight technical falls and just two lost periods.
135 pounds: Austin Ormsbee, senior, Blairstown Township (N.J.) Blair Academy
Honorable Mention: Taylor Moeder, senior, Lenexa (Kan.) St. James Academy; Mark Pinero, senior, Metairie (La.) Archbishop Rummel; Jake Short, sophomore, Inver Grove Heights (Minn.) Simley; Jason Tsirtsis, junior, Crown Point (Ind.); Terrel Wilbourn, senior, St. Charles (Mo.) Francis Howell Central
The lowdown: Nobody stood head and shoulders above the rest at this weight. Short and Ormsbee dominated the Cadet and Junior age groups, respectively, in freestyle. But three-time National Prep champion Ormsbee gets the nod after negotiating a tough draw to win the Junior Nationals. He avenged a Junior National Duals loss against Wisconsin standout Jake Sueflohn of Hartland Arrowhead High and capped his run with back-to-back victories over Tsirtsis and Wilbourn, both in two periods.
140 pounds: Jacob Ballweg, grad, Waverly (Iowa) W.-Shell Rock High
Honorable Mention: Tyler Askey, sophomore, Newnan (Ga.) Northgate; Ryne Cokeley, senior, Lenexa (Kan.) St. James Academy; Edwin Cooper, senior, New Lenox (Ill.) Providence; Chris Mayolo, senior, La Center (Wash.); Elijah Sullivan, senior, Council Bluffs (Iowa) Lewis Central
The lowdown: The Northern Plains Region freestyle champion lost twice at the Junior National Duals in freestyle, but heads to his freshman year at the University of Iowa with a head of steam after a dominating run at Fargo, where only one of his eight opponents scored against him. Nobody in Illinois would argue with his selection. He beat three of the best his state’s neighbor to the east had to offer: All-Americans Blaise Butler of Rockford Boylan High and University of Minnesota freshman Nick Dardanes of Oak Park-River Forest High in pool matches, then Cooper in the finals.
145 pounds: Alex Dieringer, senior, Port Washington (Wis.) High
Honorable Mention: Clark Glass, junior, Brandon (Fla.); James Green, senior, Willingboro (N.J.); Colby Kloetzer, senior, Caldwell (Idaho); Chance Marsteller, freshman, Fawn Grove (Pa.) Kennard Dale; Dylan Ness, grad, Bloomington (Minn.) Kennedy
The lowdown: Along with 140 and 152, this was the deepest weight class. But with four titles, starting with a Northern Plains Region double title and ending with the big stop sign at the Junior Nationals in freestyle, Dieringer gets the nod. He went down to 140 for the Junior Nationals in Greco-Roman, finishing third. University of Minnesota freshman Ness was Dieringer’s finals opponent in the Folkstyle Nationals and Junior freestyle finals. Green’s 10-0 run at the Junior National Duals in freestyle included a win over Dieringer.
152 pounds: Destin McCauley, senior, Apple Valley (Minn.) High
Honorable Mention: Scott Gibbons, junior, Metairie (La.) Archbishop Rummel; Matt Hickman, senior, Camarillo (Calif.) Adolfo Camarillo; Taylor Massa, junior, St. Johns (Mich.); Burke Paddock, freshman, Warsaw (N.Y.); Oliver Pierce, sophomore, Allen (Texas)
The lowdown: This was the toughest weight class to pare down to five Honorable Mentions. But No. 1 was never an issue. The Junior Pan-American Games freestyle gold medalist – also fifth in that event’s Greco-Roman competition – McCauley finished third in the FILA Junior World Team Trials in freestyle and took home two pieces of hardware from Fargo: the Junior Nationals freestyle title and Outstanding Wrestler award. Gibbons gave Archbishop Rummel two double Fargo All-Americans and Hickman, only sixth in the state tournament, improved his stock dramatically with a Junior Nationals freestyle run that included a win over Massa.
160 pounds (tie): Glenn Climmons, sophomore, Marietta (Ga.) Alan C. Pope High; Wally Figaro, senior, Brandon (Fla.) High
Honorable Mention: Tyler Coates, junior, Ellensburg (Wash.); Kyle Crutchmer, junior, Tulsa (Okla.) Union; Steve Keogh, senior, Apple Valley (Minn.); Nick Moore, grad, Iowa City (Iowa) West; Dylan Reel, junior, Washington (Ill.)
The lowdown: Neither has won a state title, but both stood out this off-season. Climmons split time between 152 and 160 and his four Cadet Division titles – the Folkstyle Nationals, the Southeast Region double title, and the Cadet Nationals in freestyle (plus the Outstanding Wrestler award) at 160 – were more than anyone at this weight. He also placed third in Greco-Roman at Fargo, at 152, and was 13-0 at the Cadet National Duals at 160. The Southeast Region Junior double champion, Figaro was a double All-American at Fargo and was 8-1 at the Junior National Duals in Greco-Roman. Despite two losses to Keogh, Figaro had more quality wins than anyone at the weight and split with Crutchmer, who advanced to five tournament finals.
171 pounds: Jordan Rogers, junior, Spokane (Wash.) Mead High
Honorable Mention: Jahwon Akui, senior, Chicago (Ill.) St. Rita; Sam Brooks, junior, Oak Park (Ill.) O.P.-River Forest; Devin Peterson, junior, Wisconsin Rapids (Wis.) Lincoln; Logan Storley, senior, Webster (S.D.); Jake Waste, senior, Apple Valley (Minn.)
The lowdown: How good was Rogers? He was the Northwest Region Junior double champion at 160, his final appearance at that weight. Then came the FILA Cadet Nationals freestyle title, the West Region Cadet Triple Crown and a dominating Cadet Nationals double title. He pinned his way through the Greco-Roman tournament and finished the week with 12 pins and five technical falls in 17 matches. Missing last year’s state tournament due to an emergency appendectomy no longer stings the way it once did.
189 pounds (tie): Morgan McIntosh, senior, Santa Ana (Calif.) Calvary Chapel High; Mitch Sliga, sophomore, Fishers (Ind.) High
Honorable Mention: Adam Josephson, junior, Minneota (Minn.); Ian Korb, senior, Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder; Austin Marsden, senior, Crystal Lake (Ill.) Central; Hashem Omari, senior, Kansas City (Mo.) Oak Park; Lucas Sheridan, senior, Concord (Calif.) DeLaSalle
The lowdown: Sliga won the Cadet Triple Crown, so pencil him in. He finished 14-0 at Fargo, losing just two periods. McIntosh’s performance en route to the Junior Nationals freestyle title also was worthy of Outstanding Wrestler consideration. He was scored upon in just one period as he built a 9-0 record. Sheridan made it a Golden State sweep of the Junior Nationals, taking the Greco-Roman title. He led the weight with five top-three finishes, including three titles.
215 pounds: Tanner Hall, senior, Meridian (Idaho) High
Honorable Mention: West Cathcart, senior, Geneseo (Ill.); Adam Coon, sophomore, Fowlerville (Mich.); Nick Gwiazdowski, senior, Delanson (N.Y.) Duanesburg; Michael Kroells, junior, Belle Plaine (Minn.) Scott West; Cody Krumwiede, senior, Waverly (Iowa) W.-Shell Rock
The lowdown: Hall’s eight top-four finishes – in three different age divisions – included five titles: double titles in the Northwest Region Junior tournament and the FILA Cadet Nationals, then the Junior Nationals freestyle title after losing in an all-Idaho Junior Greco-Roman final to Trevor Rupp. He also was a double FILA Junior World Team Trials placewinner. Cathcart, a Junior Nationals Greco-Roman placewinner at 285, Gwiazdowski and Coon all had plenty of quality wins.
285 pounds: Brooks Black, sophomore, Blairstown Township (N.J.) Blair Academy
Honorable Mention: Austin Blythe, senior, Williamsburg (Iowa); Orry Elor, senior, Pleasant Hill (Calif.) College Park; Greg Kuhar, junior, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward; Donny Longendyke, senior, White Bear Lake (Minn.); Doug Vollaro, junior, Oviedo (Fla.)
The lowdown: Not flashy but nearly impossible to score on, Black gave Rogers a run with six Cadet and FILA Cadet titles. This was impressive, too: his 21-0 overall record at the Cadet National Duals, with 10 wins in Greco-Roman and 11 in freestyle. At the Duals, only seven points were scored against him and he lost just two periods, both in freestyle. Vollaro was his finals opponent in both FILA Cadet Nationals and Cadet Nationals finals, and all five of their periods at Fargo ended 1-0, with Black winning four.