Recruits show that academics matter as Cornell heads WIN’s Early Recruiting Rankings

Updated: November 29, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following was written as of Nov. 15 and may not include later commitments. An updated list can be found at WIN’s recruiting rankings will be updated after the spring signing week in early April 2012.

By Rob Sherrill

The individual who coined the phrase “dumb jock” obviously had sports other than wrestling in mind. It’s still close, but on the quality standard, Ivy League member Cornell locked up the nation’s top early-signing class, according to WIN.

Coach Rob Koll signed six recruits ranked in WIN’s Top 20 at their respective weight classes, according to the rankings in the previous issue. Iowa’s Tom Brands, whose team landed No. 2, was the only other coach to land commitments from six ranked recruits.

Four other schools landed five, and made the Top 10: Wisconsin (No. 3), Lehigh (No. 5), Stanford (No. 6) and Iowa State (No. 9).

With the Hawks leading the way at No. 2, the Big Ten, as usual, grabbed six of the top 11 spots. Joining Iowa were last year’s recruiting kings, Wisconsin (No. 3), Michigan (No. 4), Illinois (No. 8), Northwestern (No. 10) and Minnesota (No. 11). The Atlantic Coast Conference also landed three schools, led by North Carolina (No. 7).

Then there’s the Ivy League, which also had three. In addition to Cornell, Harvard checked in at No. 13 and Carl Fronhofer’s initial class at Columbia brought the Lions a No. 19 ranking.

In the same academic category, Stanford coach Jason Borrelli brought in an outstanding class, by far his best yet. In fact, nearly every school in the Top 25 is known as much for outstanding academics as for athletics.

Fronhofer was joined by Drexel’s Matt Azevedo (No. 21) as the only first-year head coaches to make this list. New to it as well is Eastern Michigan’s Derek Del Porto, whose November class made the cut at No. 22.

By our count, 197 seniors — about 10 percent less than last year — took themselves off the board by making early commitments to Division I schools. By school, six members of top-ranked Lakewood St. Edward (Ohio) High’s senior class — Nick Barber (149, Eastern Michigan), Mark Martin (174, Ohio State), Jacob Davis (174-184, Eastern Michigan), James Suvak (184-197, Virginia), Ty Walz (HWT, Virginia Tech) and Greg Kuhar (HWT, Northwestern) — signed Division 1 scholarship offers with Kuhar accepting a football offer. No other school had more than three.

Here are some highlights of the big winners in the early recruiting process.


1. Cornell: Truly a national class, Koll’s six recruits are from six different states. Three-time National Prep champion Mark Grey (133) of Blairstown Township (N.J.) Blair Academy is in the running for the nation’s top recruit. Three-time California champion Alex Cisneros (133) of Selma High will give Grey a run in the room and Michigan champion Gabe Dean (197) of Lowell High, Junior National champion Brian Realbuto (149-157) of Somers High and Illinois champion Steve Congenie (184-197) of Villa Park Willowbrook High also are top-four recruits. Michigan champion Taylor Simaz (165) of Allegan High will follow his brother, Cam, a three-time All-American.


2. Iowa: Always in the mix, three of Brands’ lower-weight recruits could finish their high school careers as four-time state champions: Thomas Gilman (125) of Omaha (Neb.) Skutt High and Iowans Cory Clark (125) of Runnells Southeast Polk High and Topher Carton (133-141) of Davenport Assumption High, who also owns a pair of Illinois titles. 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 also are top-six recruits. Nathan Burak (197), a state champion last season as a senior at Colorado Springs (Colo.) Coronado High, also signed.


3. Wisconsin: The only in-state member of coach Barry Davis’s newest class is the most talented, double Junior National champion Devin Peterson (184) of Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High. He’s one of two No. 1s in this class. Davis also signed a pair of recruits each from two of the nation’s top teams: Phillip Laux (125) and Justin Koethe (157) from Iowa City (Iowa) West High and Ryan Taylor (125) and Isaac Jordan (165-174) from St. Paris (Ohio) Graham High. Kentucky champion T.J. Ruschell (141) of Union Ryle High heads to where brother Kyle was an All-American.


4. Michigan: Coach Joe McFarland’s newest class is built on quality … and lots of it. Three of his recruits, all ranked in the top five, should finish their careers with a combined 12 state titles. The top two recruits in his state, Taylor Massa (165-174) of St. Johns High and Jordan Thomas (174-184) of Greenville High, are top-two recruits nationally and Brandon (Fla.) High-ace Rossi Bruno (125-133) appears headed for a fifth state title. Missouri champion Cory Lester (125) of St. Louis John Burroughs School also signed on.


5. Lehigh: Coach Pat Santoro got 13 commitments — more than any other school — and that’s not likely to be an unlucky number. Five are in the rankings, with Brian Brill (157) of Mill Hall Central Mountain High and Doug Vollaro (HWT) of Orlando (Fla.) Pine Castle Christian School both No. 2s and state champions Mitch Minotti (149-157) of Easton (Pa.) High, Brandon Griffin (184) of Salem (Ore.) Sprague High and runner-up Laike Gardner (141) of Biglerville (Pa.) High also ranked. Three others are state champions: three-time West Virginia champion David Jeffrey (125-133) of Parkersburg South High and state champions Arty Walsh (133) of Leesport Schuylkill Valley High and Ben Haas (157) of Salamanca (N.Y.) High.


6. Stanford: Jason Borrelli’s best class yet includes a pair of Illinois aces, two-time Junior National champion Matt Garelli (125) of Oak Park Fenwick High and state champion Josh Marchok (HWT) of Schaumburg High. Three more are California natives: Max Hvolbek (133-141), who attends Blair Academy; Jim Wilson (165) of Stockton McNair High and Zach Nevills (174-184) of Clovis High. National Prep place-winner Colton Dempsey (149-157) of Andover (Mass.) Phillips Academy also is headed west.


7. North Carolina: The depth of the Tar Heels wrestling room continues to build as coach C.D. Mock added six more recruits from six difference states, five of them state champions. Three-time Maryland champion Nathan Kraisser (133) of Ellicott City Centennial High, two-time South Carolina champion Timothy Dudley (184) of Columbia Irmo High, the NHSCA National Juniors champion, New Jersey champion Ryan Harrington (157-165) of West Morris Mendham High and Pennsylvania placewinner Cody Klempay (HWT) of Canonsburg Canon-McMillan High all are ranked. Joey Ward (133-141) of Cincinnati (Ohio) Archbishop Moeller High is national caliber and Joe Moon (141) of Graham (N.C.) Southern Alamance High is a state champion.


8. Illinois: Coaches Jim Heffernan and Mark Perry brought in three top-five recruits, including state champion Zane Richards (133) of Carbondale High. They also went to the West Coast for the future at 174 and 184, three-time Oregon champion Zac Brunson of Eugene Winston Churchill High and California champion Nikko Reyes of Fresno Clovis West High, the NHSCA Junior Nationals champion. Two-time champ John Fahy (149) of Louisville Trinity High is the program’s second Kentucky recruit in as many years.


9. Iowa State: Staying local never gets old for coach Kevin Jackson. That philosophy paid off once again with three-time champion John Meeks (133-141) of Des Moines Roosevelt High, Kyle Larson (125-133) of West Des Moines Valley High and Gabriel Moreno (149) of Urbandale High all electing to stay home. State champions Dakota Bauer (133-141) of Iowa City West High and Jesse Doyle (197) of Trinity (N.C.) Wheatmore High give the Cyclones a perfect 5-for-5 in the rankings.


10. Northwestern: Coach Drew Pariano scored his best class yet, built on three lower-weight cornerstones: National Prep champion Dominic Malone (125) of Kingston (Pa.) Wyoming Seminary, two-time North Carolina champion Garrison White (125-133) of Concord Jay M. Robinson High and arguably the nation’s top recruit, three-time Indiana champion Jason Tsirtsis (141-149) of Crown Point High. Ben Sullivan (165) of Apple Valley (Minn.) High is a former Alaska champion.


11. Minnesota: Four of Coach J Robinson’s six recruits are within a half-hour drive from the campus. The Apple Valley pipeline continues to flow as two-time state champions Dakota Trom (141) and Brandon Kingsley (149-157) both committed, along with state champions Sam Brancale (125-133) of Eden Prairie High and Michael Kroells (197-285) of Belle Plaine Scott West High. More lower-weight help: Indiana champion Cody Phillips (125) of Liberty Union County High.


12. Virginia: Coach Steve Garland loaded up on the lower weights, with Ohio champion George DiCamillo of Cleveland St. Ignatius High, three-time NHSCA national champion Nick Herrmann of Amarillo (Texas) Tascosa High, four-time Tennessee champion Zach Watson of Chattanooga (Tenn.) Baylor School and two-time National Prep placer Will Mason of Virginia Beach (Va.) Cape Henry Collegiate School all battling at 125 or 133 in the future. Best of the rest: two-time Missouri champion Justin VanHoose (141) of Kirksville (Mo.) High, National Prep champion Chris Yankowich (141-149) of Fort Washington (Pa.) Germantown Academy and NHSCA National Juniors champion Suvak.


13. Harvard: Coach Jay Weiss helped himself tremendously in the middle weights and the revelation of the summer was two-time National prep place-winner Jeff Ott (133) of Belmont (Mass.) Belmont Hill School, and along with Blair Academy’s Todd Preston (141), who won Ott’s National Prep weight class, New Jersey place-winner Devon Gobbo (165) of Morristown Delbarton School and two-time West Virginia champion Adam Bicak (165-174) of Ripley High.


14. Oklahoma: New coach Mark Cody’s three recruits could graduate next spring with a dozen state titles between them. Kyle Garcia (125) of Choctaw High appears headed for a fourth state title and Clark Glass (165-174) of Brandon (Fla.) High could join Michigan-signee Bruno as a five-time champion. Under-the-radar Tim Hamilton (141-149) of Bartlesville High appears headed for a third Oklahoma crown.


15. Ohio State: A low-key class by coach Tom Ryan’s standards, two-time World Team member Nick Roberts (125) of Boswell (Pa.) North Star High comes west across the border. Ryan also mined northeast Ohio for Martin and two-time champion Nick Tavanello (HWT) of Wadsworth High.


16. Old Dominion: A typical Steve Martin class, his five recruits are from five different states. Micah Barnes (165) of Inver Grove Heights (Minn.) High, Kevin Beazley (184) of Novi (Mich.) Detroit Catholic Central High and Jack Dechow (184) of Richmond (Ill.) R.-Burton High are highly ranked despite not yet having won a state title. Joe Jessen (197) of Winchester (Va.) Millbrook High has, though, and Alexander Richardson (149-157) of Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Preparatory School has an NHSCA National Juniors title to his credit.


17. Missouri: Coach Brian Smith went small school for a pair of in-state recruits, landing two-time champions Cody Hummer (125) of Savannah High and Austin Roper (133-141) of Kirksville High. All five recruits are state champions. Two-time Oklahoma champion Matt Manley (125) of Perry High and Iowa champion Willie Miklus (197) of Runnells Southeast Polk High were Junior National finalists and Tony DeAngelo (141) of Graham (N.C.) Southern Alamance High also signed.


18. Oklahoma State: Brothers Brian (133) and Kyle Crutchmer (174) of nearby Tulsa Union High left their stamp firmly on this year’s Junior Nationals, and Kyle was a state champion. Coach John Smith also picked up one of the top prospects in the northwest, two-time Washington champion Jordan Rogers (184) of Spokane Mead High.


19. Columbia: Fronhofer came up with a pair of aces: California champion Johnson Mai (125) of North Torrance High, who came within an eyelash of a double Junior National title, and three-time Michigan champion Alec Mooradian (141-149) of Novi Detroit Catholic Central High. Sticking with the lower-weight theme, Fronhofer also picked up a pair of Ohio Division 1 place-winners, Angelo Armenta (133) of Oregon Clay High and Ryan Murdock (133-141) of Dublin Coffman High.


20. Bucknell: Coach Dan Wirnsberger went national to sign seven recruits from six different states, led by NHSCA Junior Nationals finalist Robert Marchese (184) of Hesperia (Calif.) Oak Hills High and two-time Indiana placewinner Paul Petrov (125) of Cedar Lake Hanover Central High, a former teammate of Wisconsin-ace Andrew Howe. Two-time Colorado champion Mark Edmonds (125-133) of Holyoke High comes from the same state as former Bison All-American Kevin LeValley.


21. Drexel: Azevedo tapped the reservoir of one of Illinois’ top teams, Crystal Lake Central High, for three recruits. Unbeaten state champion Gage Harrah (184-197) blossomed at 189 last year and state runner-up Jason Fugiel (157) and place-winner Clayton Lutzow (141) also are headed east. Adding to that middleweight group are Matt Cimato (149) of Wyndmoor LaSalle Collegiate and Connor Moran (174) of Quarryville Solanco High, both Pennsylvania 3A place-winners.


22. Eastern Michigan: Del Porto was busy in northeast Ohio, picking up three middleweights. James Klosz (165) of Parma Heights Holy Name High is a Division 2 place-winner and Barber and Davis were Division 1 place-winners. Alex Calandrino (125-133) of Howell High is a local standout and A.J. Vizcarrondo (HWT) of Wyoming Seminary is a National Prep finalist.


23. Michigan State: Coach Tom Minkel kept three quality state champions from his back yard at home, led by three-time champion Freddie Rodriguez (125-133) of Grand Ledge High. The other two are Division 2 state champions: Nick Trimble (141) of Sparta High and Jordan Wohlfert (174-184) of St. Johns High.


24. Cal Poly: Coach Brendan Buckley signed four recruits. Two are from California: state placewinner Victor Pereira (157-165) of Newark Memorial High and Colorado champion Connor King (174), who will wrestle at Poway High as a senior. He also went for Pennsylvania stars who finished third in 3A: Colt Shorts (125-133) of Canonsburg Canon-McMillan High and Devon Lotito (133) of Bethlehem Liberty High.


25 (tie). Northern Iowa: Coach Doug Schwab stayed local for two recruits, two-time champion Dylan Peters (125) of Denver/Tripoli High and champion Zach Witte (174) of Cedar Rapids Prairie High. He also signed a pair of small-school Minnesota recruits, two-time champion Curt Maas (157-165) of Medford High and 2010 champion Cooper Moore (165-174) of Jackson County Central High.


25 (tie) Virginia Tech: Coach Kevin Dresser stocked up on upper-weight depth and he picked up three quality candidates: Ohioans Huston Evans (197) of St. Paris Graham High, a 2010 state champ, Walz and Pennsylvania runner-up Dawson Peck (HWT) of Chambersburg High. New Jersey placer Sal Mastriani (149-157) of Ramsey Don Bosco Prep School adds middle-weight depth.