Previewing the Early-Season High School Tournaments

Updated: September 14, 2011

By Willie Saylor

Well, that went quick!

It seems like just moments ago we were on the Fargodome floor watching the country’s top young talent compete in the USA Wrestling Freestyle and Greco tournaments.

Now, we’re closing in on preseason wrestling tournaments, which will take place in nearly every region of the country. Such is the nature of high school wrestling, which has become a virtual year-round program.

One of the popular trends seems to be incorporating a competition for younger kids. Five of the seven tournaments we have noted simultaneously run junior high and/or middle school competition alongside the high school event.            Here, WIN profiles the major preseason competitions and describes the fields as the country’s high school wrestlers tune up for another season.


Blue Chip Fall Brawl – October 15, Kansas City, Mo.

This tournament attracts a Midwest talent pool. Many of the “Show Me” state’s best are there. Last year there was a strong contingent from Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota, along with a smattering of kids from Kansas and Illinois. Among the champions last year were notable names such as Daniel Lewis (Mo.), Colton Adams (Neb.), Jake Marlin (Iowa), Cody Johnston (Mo.), and Parker Betts (Minn.).



Michigan Grappler Fall Classic – October 15, Tecumseh, Mich.

This event brings in many state placers from the Michigan state tournament, many of which have national acclaim.

It should be noted that this tournament will use the standard weight classes as Michigan has not adopted the new NFHS weights.

While it’s not the deepest of tournaments, this year’s field promises to have elite talent at the top. Notable entries include: Fargo Champ Phil Laux (Iowa, 112), Tim Lambert (Mich., 119), Freddie Rodriguez (Mich., 125), Jack Hathaway (Iowa, 130), Fargo finalist Logan Marcicki (Mich., 140), Zack Dailey (Ohio, 145), Justin Koethe (Iowa, 160), and four-time Fargo All-American, Jordan Thomas (Mich., 171).

Full entry list can be found here:


Iron Horse Invitational – October 16, South Plainfield, NJ

Now in its seventh year, one of the more refreshing and unique preseason events, the IHI, employs a four-man round robin format. And the quality of wrestlers that populate the pools is simply great.

Attracting state champions and placewinners from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, over ten percent of this year’s IHI field is nationally ranked.

Previous OW winners were current Div. I wrestlers Anthony Volpe, Nick Visicaro and Frank Cagnina.

Competing this year at IHI will be Darian and Randy Cruz (Pa.), Anthony Ashnault (N.J.) and Devon Gobbo (N.J.), among others.



JJ Classic – October 22, Rochester, Minn.

Entering its second year, the tournament’s field is considerably stronger than a year ago. It’s still a regional affair, with the majority of kids from the home state, with a few Iowa boys peppered in.

And while it’s a rather thin event in terms of depth, the talent at the top is absolutely elite: undefeated state champion Mike Kroells (Hwt), double Fargo champ Sam Stoll (Hwt), FILA Cadet double AA Sam Brancale (126), last year’s JJ Classic OW Tristan Manderfield (113), and a contingent of ranked fellows from powerhouse Apple Valley: Seth Gross (120), Mark Hall (145) and Brandon Kingsley (152).


Super 32 – October 29-30, Greensboro, N.C.

Now in its twelfth year, the Super 32 is one of the country’s true gems. This tournament is regularly one of the most talent-laden and difficult high school events to navigate. It’s almost difficult to wrap your brain around this, but one quarter of all the country’s ranked wrestlers will be at the Super 32 this fall.

One of the truly national, ‘national’ tournaments, the competitors come in numbers from far and wide. Placers are either nationally ranked, or will be afterwards. And the champions … they’re a class all their own. Half of last year’s NCAA champions won belts at the Super 32 during their prep days.

To list all the big names in this year’s field would be superfluous here, but for a comprehensive view, check out the registration list and past champions at:

But just as a teaser, there are eight champions returning. And looking at the first two weights, 106 has seven ranked wrestlers alone and 113 pounds features Cadet World Team member Dalton Brady (Colo.), last year’s Super 32 champ Darian Cruz (Pa.), and this year’s Fargo champ Nathan Tomasello (Ohio).

That’s the kind of depth we’re talking about annually at Super 32.


NUWAY Southwest Kickoff –  October 29-30, Las Vegas, Nev.

Like the JJ Classic, NUWAY’s preseason event numbers of big names are rising in their second year. Built upon the foundation of California’s impressive depth, the quality is there.

The best preseason event in the west, ‘Vegas’ has attracted a bigger contingent from other states this year, most notably groups from Apple Valley, Minn., and Oak Park, Ill.

Headliners registered for Vegas include: Fargo finalists Johnson Mai (Calif., 106), Gannon Volk (Minn., 106), Aaron Pico (Calif., 120), Seth Gross (Minn., 120), Freddie Rodriguez (Mich., 126), Isaiah Martinez (Calif., 152), Ryder Newman (Nev., 160), and Cadet World Team members Hayden Tuma (Idaho, 126), Joey Lavallee (Nev., 152), and Sam Brooks (Ill., 195)

Returning Vegas champs include: Zahid Valencia and Micah Perez (Calif, 113) and Nikko Villereal (Calif., 138), FloNationals champ Emilio Saavedra (Calif., 120), FILA champ Darius Henry (Ill., 120), state champion Daniel Gaytan (Calif., 126), three-time NHSCA All-Americans Drew Templeman (Wash., 126), Willie Fox (Calif., 143), three-time state champion, Brandon Kingsley (Minn., 152), and No. 1-ranked Nikko Reyes (Calif., 171)



USAW Preseason Nationals – October 29, Cedar Falls, Iowa

This event, annually held in the University of Northern Iowa’s UNI-Dome, attracts talent from the Midwest, with Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois very well represented. It’s a big tournament, with brackets hovering around 40-plus entries and requires winning six to seven bouts to win or place.

The depth is very good, with four or more guys at each weight of high quality. Eleven of the fourteen champions last year were ranked.

While the registration list this year is not available, expect similar numbers in terms of both quantity and quality.