Top 10 High School Stories of 2011

Updated: December 20, 2011

By Willie Saylor

The following are WIN’s Top-10 high school wrestling stories from 2011.

 1. Weight Changes

It was rumored for awhile, but no one thought it would actually go through. Then it did.

The National Federation of High Schools felt there was a need to tailor weights to provide an even distribution among the average weights of high schoolers.

What was controversial was that many felt the NFHS failed to consider both the average weight of wrestlers and any sense of quality.

The following is a breakdown of the old-to-new weight classes:

Old Weights:  103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 215, 285

New Weights: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220, 285

Some believe that the good, dedicated talent is getting squeezed out in the condensed middleweights, and that the upperweights, perpetually lean on talent, is more watered down than ever.

Individual state’s athletic boards voted to approve the new weights. High school coaches largely stated that they had no idea there was any votes in the works.

But maybe they should have. At minimum there is certainly a disconnect between the NFHS, the state athletic boards and the coaches.


2. First Cadet Worlds in Thirteen Years, Szombathely, Hungary, August, 28

It was a big year for developmental wrestling, both at home and on the world stage. With all the big storylines of 2011, the commitment to developing younger wrestlers was the most notable.

USA Wrestling, the national governing body for our sport, unveiled a plan to foster this growth when they announced their Developmental Residency Program with legendary coach Bobby Douglas overseeing things.

And FILA, the sanctioning body for the sport world-wide, also expressed its commitment to younger wrestlers when it held the first Cadet World Championships since 1998.

Team USA had a respectable 7th-place showing in Hungary in Freestyle, with two medalists, including Adam Coon of Fowlerville, Mich., who captured a World Title.

Team USA Freestyle

42K: Gannon Volk, 7th

46K: Tommy Thorn, 7th

50K: Dalton Brady, 5th

54K: Thomas Gilman, 10th

58K: Zane Richards, 7th

63K: Joey Lavallee, 5th

69K: Oliver Pierce, 5th

76K: Jordan Rogers, 17th

85K: Sam Brooks, World Bronze

100K: Adam Coon, World Gold


The U.S. girls were equally impressive, placed seventh as a team and were led by World champ Haley Aguello (46K) and runner-up Marina Doi (40K).


3. Pennsylvania wins Dapper Dan Classic, Pittsburgh, March 27

It’s a tall task for any state, in any year, to beat a line-up of national all-stars. But last year’s roster for Team USA at the Dapper Dan was particularly formidable. Of the 13 contested weight classes (there was no match at 103), Team USA had a eight No. 1-ranked kids in the country. PA had just one No. 1 in Nico Megaludis.

But momentum built as upset after upset occurred, and Team PA pulled off their second win in three years, 28-17.

Here is the order of each match and outcome:

152 — Mike Ottinger, Parkland, Pa., dec. Destin McCauley, Minnesota, 6-4
HWT — Don Longendyke, Minnesota, dec. Terrance Jean, Wyoming Seminary, Pa., 3-2
215 — Garth Lakitsky, Tamaqua, Pa., won by injury default over Andrew Campolattano, New Jersey, 2:43
171 — Logan Storley, South Dakota, dec. John Staudenmayer, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Pa., 3-1
135 — Travis Shaffer, Derry, Pa., dec. Hunter Stieber, Ohio, 7-2
112 — Jordan Conaway, New Oxford, Pa., dec. Evan Silver, New Jersey, 3-2
189 — Morgan McIntosh, California pinned Ryan Hembury, Muncy, 2:59
130 — Jesse Thielke, Wisc., dec Zach Horan, Nazareth, Pa., 8-3
145 — Nick Hodgkins, Wyomissing, Pa., dec. Alex Dieringer, Wisconsin, 7-2
119 — Mason Beckman, Reynolds, Pa., dec. Earl Hall, Florida 5-2
140 — Evan Henderson, Kiski School, Pa.,  dec. Cam Tessari, Ohio, 5-4
160 — Bryce Hammond, California, dec. Travis McKillop, Burrell, Pa., 4-2 ot
125 — Nico Megaludis, Franklin Regional, Pa., dec. Connor Youtsey Michigan, 9-3


4. Apple Valley Topples Blair/Brandon for National Title

Apple Valley (Minn.) High School was a unanimous choice as the national champions in 2011.

Apple Valley (Minnesota) High School wrestlers running sprints.

But the year before, there was much controversy. Apple Valley was No. 2 that year. But when No. 3 St. Paris Graham (Ohio) decisively beat then-No. 1 Blair Academy (NJ), it set off a wild debate on who should be dubbed the national champs. Without any transitive head-to-head results to inform pollsters, most of the major ranking services were split.

But Valley left little doubt in 2011. First they beat all-comers in a field with seven of the top-20 ranked teams, including No. 2 Blair, at The Cheesehead in Wisconsin. Then the Eagles went undeafeated in what was possibly the best dual tournament ever put together at The Clash, with a win over eventual No. 3 Brandon (FL), leaving little doubt of what was the best high school team in the country.


5. Ellis Coleman’s Flying Squirrel, Bucharest, Romania, July 29

As the old adage goes, “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Trailing in his bronze medal match at Junior Worlds, U.S. Greco prodigy Ellis Coleman decided he might as well try a move he had been tinkering with in the room, but had never tried in international competition.

Ellis Coleman earned a bronze medal at last summer's Junior World Championships

He clubbed his opponent’s head down, leaped up over his back, locked around the waist, regained his footing, and executed a reverse lift for the deciding score.

The ‘flying squirrel’ was born.

And, being captured on video that would go viral on the world wide web, Coleman became a media sensation, bringing wrestling to the mainstream audience through the Huffington Post, and on ESPN’s “First Take” among others.


6. Incredible performances at 125/126 pounds

All the stars aligned this year to make the 125/126 weight class just phenomenal. It really might be the best group of wrestlers at one weight, in one year, in the history of high school wrestling.

The top twelve kids at this weight, in whatever order they are put, all have a long ledger of national success. This made for great anticipation at all the national majors in 2011, where many of these studs hit head-to-head.

• In May, Rossi Bruno won NHSCA Jrs, where Randy Cruz was third. Bruno also won Junior Greco over Zane Richards.

• Joey Dance edged Bruno in a Fargo pool bout where they finished first and third. Brandon Jeske wrestled Fargo up at 130 and was a runner-up to Richards, who also bumped up.

• On the Cadet side, Edgar Bright beat Anthony Ashnault in a pool bout. Bright would win the title, Ashnault finished third. Pennsylvania state champion Zain Retherford was fifth.

At the Super 32, Ashnault edged Dance in a dramatic final, and in a field that some hyped as “the best bracket ever.”  Retherford was third, Cruz fourth and Bruno fifth.

Then came the Ironman, where St. Ed’s Dean Heil had one of the best runs ever, in beating Joey Dance in the quarters, Brandon Jeske in semis and three-time Pennsylvania state champ Jimmy Gulibon in the finals.

Then up at 132, Randy Cruz beat Mark Grey, the U.S. World Team member, in the semis, and Edgar Bright in the finals.

At the Beast of the East, Jeske edged Dance for the title at 126, while Grey got revenge with a finals win over Cruz. Grey became the first wrestler to ever win four Beast titles.

In addition to the guys mentioned above, there is a litany of other credentialed wrestlers in the mix at these weights, making for one of the best weight classes of all time, nationally.


7. Illinois in International Styles

The level of success that Illinois is in the midst of in Freestyle/Greco is unprecedented.

This summer, at the Junior Duals in Oklahoma, Illinois won its fifth freestyle title in six years. The state has reached the Greco finals the last six straight years with four titles.

In 2011, The Land of Lincoln captured Cadet and Junior Duals titles in both styles. At Fargo, Illinois won three of the four styles, coming up just short in Cadet Greco where they were third.

Hats off to their competitiveness, their state organization, and their infrastructure, who show the utmost commitment to the international styles.


8. Unexpected title in California for Bakersfield, March 5th

In 2010, Clovis won every tournament in the state. Bakersfield was second in nearly all of them. But at the state tournament, Bakersfield took home the grandest prize.

Coming into the new season, Bakersfield returned almost everyone from that state championship team, making them the favorites. With all the returning state points, it would take an unprecedented performance for Clovis to overtake them.

And they did it.

“We didn’t actually think we’d be able to beat Bakersfield when the year started since they had almost every wrestler returning, but we got some pleasant surprises with a few kids being more ready than expected,” Clovis assistant Adam Tirapelle said. “Everything just kind of fell into place and by mid-year, we knew we might have an outside chance.”

The team race at the 2011 CIF tournament was high drama.

It came down to the third-place match at 171 pounds between Zach Nevills and Silas Nacita. Nacita had upset Nevills on Day 1 in the quarters. If Nevills won for third, Bakersfield would need a pin from Bryce Hammond in the finals and Clovis would need to lose both finals matches.

If Nacita won, Clovis would be up one point going into the finals.

Ultimately, Nevills took a close match, 6-5. Then Daniel Gaytan won in the finals to seal it before Hammond’s finals match.

Bakersfield finished with the third highest point total (177) of all time. Unfortunately for them, Clovis had the second highest total ever at 186. Clovis placed an unimaginable nine wrestlers with two champs next to Bakersfield’s eight and one.


9. St. Edward’s Upperweights

There was a time when even the top-ranked teams in the country were hit-and-miss in the upperweights. All the traditional programs seem to routinely put stud after stud on the mat in the lower and middleweights. But with this crop of big guys, St. Edward has upped the ante in the back half of the line-up in the arms race for national supremacy.

Should this qualify as one of the top stories for 2011?

The talent in the back of the Eagles line-up might be the best group in the history of high school wrestling, collectively.

Starting at 160, every kid in their line-up has been in the top four at either NHSCA’s or Fargo.

A quick look at their exploits:

• Jacob Davis (160) – Two-time NHSCA All-American

• Mark Martin (170) – NHSCA Champ. Fargo 4th place, Ironman Champ.

• Domenic Abounader (182) – NHSCA Champ, Fargo 3rd

• James Suvak (195) – NHSCA Champ.

• Ty Walz (220) – Two-time NHSCA Runner-Up, Fargo Cadet Champ.

• Greg Kuhar (HWT) – Fargo Champ, Ironman Runner-Up.

Only Abounader, who is a junior, hasn’t signed with a Division I program. Bet your bottom dollar he will, too.


10.  Chance Doubles Up, Announces Plans on Fargodome Floor, July 22

After learning that he would not be allowed to compete in next spring's Olympic Trials, Pennsylvania sophomore Chance Marsteller dominated his foes at this fall's Super 32.

Perhaps if he wasn’t so good so soon, the national wrestling media and fans wouldn’t hang on every word he said. Perhaps if it was someone less accomplished and visibly less talented, we wouldn’t take his comments so seriously.

But high school wrestling fans are fascinated with Chance Marsteller, who, even in this day and age of phenoms and ‘next big things,’ outshines most other high school stars even after winning a Pennsylvania state championship at 160 pounds as just a freshman.

At the Cadet Duals, Marsteller went a combined 16-0 in both styles, being scored on in just one period.

In Fargo he went 9-0 without surrendering a single point in Greco. He posted all falls or techs in freestyle. Then, in a post-match interview that resonated throughout the arena, he stated that he plans on competing at the Senior level, making 2011 his last appearance at Fargo. One of the reasons he did return to high school wrestling is that USA Wrestling determined he was too young to compete on the Senior level in 2012.