Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver (right) set a school record by pinning 60 percent of his foes last season. The native of Easton, Pa., is moving up to 141 pounds after collecting three All-American honors — and a national title in 2011 — at 133. (Jeremy Cook image)
1. Jordan Oliver, Oklahoma State, Senior
After already enjoying a banner career at 133 pounds — where the native of Easton, Pa., compiled an 89-6 record and sandwiched the 2011 NCAA championship with two other All-American honors in 2010 (fourth place) and last March (second) — Oliver is most likely moving up to 141 (or 149) pounds for his final season in Stillwater.
And despite the fact that Oliver lost 4-3 to Ohio State’s Logan Stieber in a controversial ending (when it appeared that Oliver had scored a takedown late in the match), the Cowboy set a school record by pinning 60 percent of his foes (18 of 28, including his first ten) last winter and was named the winner of the Schalles Award as the nation’s top pinner, presented by WIN and Cliff Keen Athletic. That also included three falls at the NCAA tournament in St. Louis.
In his first two seasons, Oliver finished fourth in 2010 (when he took eventual champion Jayson Ness of Minnesota to double overtime before losing in the semifinals) in the NCAAs before capturing the 2011 title over Andrew Hochstrasser of Boise State. Oliver’s career NCAA record is 13-3.
2. Kendric Maple, Oklahoma, Junior
Originally one of three true freshmen to start for the Sooners in 2010, the native of Wichita, Kan., redshirted in 2011 and came back on fire last winter when won 32 of 35 matches, won the Midlands and Big 12 titles and finished fourth as a No. 2 seed in the 2012 NCAAs. He pinned seven foes last winter. Two big ones came at the NCAAs — including a fall over Oregon State’s Mike Mangrum in the quarterfinals — before Maple lost consecutive bouts to Iowa’s Montell Marion in sudden victory, 3-1, in the semifinals and in double overtime to Cal Poly’s Boris Novachkov, 4-3, in the third-place match.
Two years earlier, Maple (a two-time Kansas state champion for Wichita Heights High School) posted a team high 33-12 record for OU at 133 pounds and qualified for his first NCAA tournament in Omaha, where he upset Central Michigan’s All-American Scott Sentes, and finished 2-2.
3. Mike Mangrum, Oregon State, Senior
The third NCAA was the charm for this native of Auburn, Wash., after the Beaver earned his first All-American honor (fifth) last March after losing in the Round of 12 in the 2010 and 2011 Nationals. In compiling a 38-5 record last season, Mangrum won both the Las Vegas Invitational and Pac-12 championship, defeating Cal Poly’s Boris Novachkov in both tournaments. (Novachkov handed the Beaver two of his losses last winter). At the 2012 NCAAs, Mangrum defeated Oklahoma State’s Josh Kindig and Rutgers’ Billy Ashnault before losing to Ohio State’s Hunter Stieber, 6-5, in the quarterfinals. In the wrestlebacks, he went 2-1, including an avenging pin against Stieber in the fifth-place match.
Overall, Mangrum’s career mark is 94-27, which includes a 32-12 record in 2010 when he was named Pac 12 Freshman of the Year and 24-10 as a sophomore. He also was 3-2 in each of his first two Nationals and fell short of All-American honors by one victory each tournament.
4. Hunter Stieber, Ohio State, Sophomore
The native of Monroeville, Ohio, proved early in his true freshman season last December he could emerge from his brother’s shadow — Logan Stieber won the 133-pound NCAA championship last March. Hunter first upset Michigan’s defending national champion Kellen Russell in the Las Vegas Invitational. This Buckeye went on to finish 28-7 and reached the semifinals in last March’s NCAAs where he lost to Russell, 5-2, and settled for sixth place, losing his final match to Oregon State’s Mike Mangrum, whom the Buckeye beat in the quarterfinals.
The year before Hunter joined his brother in Columbus, he collected his fourth state championship for Monroeville High School, where another OSU teammate, 149-pound Cam Tessari, also won four state titles.
5. B.J. Futrell, Illinois, Senior
This Illini wrestler is moving up to 141 after collecting two All-American honors in 2011 and 2012 at 133 pounds. He also qualified for his first of three NCAAs at 125 pounds as a true freshman in 2009. Overall, the native of Park Forest, Ill., has compiled an 89-34 record, including a 6-1 mark in 2010 when he received a medical hardship after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.
In breaking down Futrell’s record, B.J. was 25-14, including 1-2 at the NCAAs in 2009. After returning from the injury in 2010, the Illini finished 28-10 and in eighth place at the NCAAs, before compiling a 30-9 mark last season when he claimed sixth place at the NCAAs in St. Louis. Futrell also collected 13 of his 29 career falls last winter. His career NCAA mark is 7-8; going 3-3 in both 2011 and 2012, when he pinned his first three foes before losing in the semifinals to Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver. Oddly, he lost his final two NCAA matches by fall to Minnesota’s Chris Dardanes and Virginia Tech’s Devin Carter.
6. Mike Nevinger, Cornell, Junior
In his first season as a starter with the Big Red last winter, the native of Perry, N.Y., finished 33-12 and earned All-American honors in his first national tournament after finishing second in the EIWAs. Once in St. Louis as an unseeded wrestler, Nevinger won his first-round match over Central Michigan’s Scott Mattingly before dropping the second-round bout to Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple. In the wrestlebacks, Nevinger won three straight bouts, including a 5-2 decision over Minnesota’s Nick Dardanes in the Round of 12 and eventually defeated NC State’s Darius Little for seventh place.
One year earlier as a reserve, Nevinger compiled a 24-9 mark. This came after he won two New York state championships for Letchworth Central High School.
7. Tyler Small, Kent State, Junior
The former Pennsylvania state champion from Delone Catholic in Littlestown became an immediate starter for the Golden Flashes in 2011 and qualified for his first NCAA appearance with an 18-16 mark. Last season, Small earned a second NCAA trip when he won his first MAC championship and finished 32-11 overall. The only thing missing from his resume is an All-American honor. In the 2011 NCAAs, Small competed at 133 pounds and lost a first-round bout to eventual champion Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State. In the wrestlebacks, he won a match before being eliminated by Iowa’s Tony Ramos. Last year, he moved up to 141 and defeated Princeton’s Adam Krop in the first round before losing to Ohio State’s Hunter Stieber. In consolation, he defeated Central Michigan’s Scott Mattingly but lost to Rutgers’ Billy Ashnault.
8. Mitchell Port, Edinboro, Sophomore
The three-time place-winner for Bellefonte (Pa.) Area High School was part of coach Tim Flynn’s youth movement last season — when Port and fellow freshmen A.J. Schopp (133), David Habat (149) and Vic Avery (184) all earned trips to the NCAA tournament. Port, who was 30-10 on the season, finished second at the Eastern Wrestling League tournament before missing All-American honors by one victory in the NCAAs. In St. Louis, Port defeated Lehigh’s Steve Dutton before losing to Iowa’s Montell Marion. In consolation, the Scot majored Iowa State’s Luke Goetl and edged Old Dominion’s Justin LaValle, before losing 6-4 in the Round of 12 to Oregon State’s Mike Mangrum.
9. Nick Dardanes, Minnesota, Sophomore
The heavier of the Dardanes twins from Chicago — brother Chris competes at 133 for the Gophers — Nick became a starter at the beginning of his redshirt freshman season last winter. The two-time Illinois state champion from Oak Park River Forest High School compiled a 21-10 record and earned an NCAA berth and a No. 9 seed. At the Nationals, Dardanes won his first two matches over Northern Illinois’ Kevin Fanta and NC State’s Darius Little. He then lost 7-3 to eventual champion Kellen Russell of Michigan in the quarterfinals. The Gopher’s season ended when Cornell’s Mike Nevinger beat him, 5-2, in the Round of 12.
10. Zach Neibert, Virginia Tech, Junior
After placing three times and winning the Ohio state championship as a senior, the graduate of St. Paris Graham High School and native of Dayton, Ohio, originally signed with Northern Illinois. But after taking a redshirt season with the Huskies, Neibert transferred in 2010 to Blacksburg, Va., where he qualified for the NCAAs in his second year with the Hokies. Capturing 22 wins for a second straight season, Neibert placed third in last year’s ACC tournament and came within one win of earning an All-American honor. Competing unseeded, the Hokie upset No. 10 Jake Sueflohn of Nebraska and edged Nick Nelson of Virginia to reach the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, he lost consecutive matches to Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple and ACC rival Darius Little to go home medal-less last March.
11. Luke Vaith, Hofstra, Junior
The native of Hastings, Minn., sandwiched a redshirt season in 2011 by first earning a 16-18 record as a freshman at 133 pounds in 2010 and improving to 24-10 at 141 pounds last winter for the Pride. That mark also led to a championship at the Colonial Athletic Association postseason tournament (where he beat ODU’s Justin LaValle, 3-1) and a berth in last year’s NCAA tournament. Vaith also won his opening bout at the NCAAs, a 4-1 win over Duke’s Tanner Hough before losing to eventual champ Kellen Russell of Michigan and Zach Kemmerer of Penn.
12. Justin LaValle, Old Dominion, Junior
The Monarch (27-16 in 2011-12) advanced farther in last year’s NCAA tournament than any other ODU wrestler as LaValle went 2-2 in St. Louis. The native of Apple Valley, Minn., upset American’s No. 11 seed Matt Mariacher before losing to Cal Poly’s Boris Novachkov. In the wrestlebacks, LaValle defeated Missouri’s Nick Hucke, before Mitchell Port of Edinboro eliminated him. The former two-time Minnesota state champion earned the starting spot at 133 pounds as a true freshman, going 17-13 in 2010, but redshirted in 2011, when he won a gold medal at the Pan Am Juniors in freestyle.
13. Mike Morales, West Virginia, Junior
The Mountaineer earned a trip to his first NCAA tourney last winter when he defeated Edinboro’s Mitchell Port for the EWL championship. And despite the fact that Morales went 0-2 in St. Louis — losing to Iowa’s Montell Marion and Lehigh’s Steve Dutton, he did win 18 of 22 bouts for the season. One year earlier, the former state champion from Brick (N.J.) Memorial High School became an immediate starter for West Virginia and compiled an 18-11 mark as a true freshman.
14. Evan Henderson, North Carolina, Sophomore
A native of New Florence, Pa., where he won three state championships for Kiski Prep, Evan and his twin brother, Robert (a two-time state champ), chose to wrestle collegiately in 2011 for the Tar Heels. And while Robert redshirted at 149 pounds, Evan competed immediately last year at 141 and posted an impressive 28-13 record with a team-high ten pins. Eventually, he also earned an NCAA berth and finished 1-2 in St. Louis, beating Richard Durso of Franklin & Marshall and losing to Penn’s Zach Kemmerer and Princeton’s Adam Krop.
15. Matt Nelson, Virginia, Junior
Just the fact that Nelson was competing last year — concussion symptoms sidelined the former Pennsylvania state placer from Shaler High School between 2007 and 2011 — was impressive for this native of Pittsburgh. The Cavalier, whose brother Nick also wrestled for Virginia, competed at 133 pounds last winter. He went 19-7 and landed a spot in the NCAA tournament, where he finished 2-2. After losing to A.J. Schopp of Edinboro, Nelson won two consolation bouts over Jamie Franco of Hofstra and Zach Zehner of Wyoming before Zach Horan of Central Michigan eliminated him.
16. Nathan Hoffer, Arizona State, Sophomore
The change of climate was no big deal for this native of Anchorage, Alaska, as Hoffer completed a true freshman campaign in Tempe with a trip to the NCAA tournament last March. And while Hoffer went 0-2 in St. Louis — losing to Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple and Central Michigan’s Scott Mattingly — he ended the year with a 20-11 mark, the most victories of any Sun Devil. Before heading south, Hoffer won four Alaska state championships for East Anchorage High School.
17. Luke Goettl, Iowa State, Sophomore
This Cyclone may have finished up his redshirt freshman season with a losing record (12-13), but he did earn a trip to the NCAAs, where he was 1-2 (defeating Northern Illinois’ Kevin Fanta and losing to NC State’s Darius Little and Edinboro’s Mitchell Port). The former four-time Arizona state champion from Mingus Union High School and Clarkdale, Ariz., showed his talent early in the year as he won five matches at the Midlands, including a victory over No. 2-seed Zach Kemmerer of Penn. And later in the year, Goettl stunned the wrestling world when he upset then No. 1-ranked Kendric Maple.
18. Nick Hucke, Missouri, Senior
A fourth-place finish at last year’s Southern Scuffle, where this Tiger defeated North Carolina’s Evan Henderson, put the native of Pewaukee, Wisc., into the starting line-up for Missouri and he eventually earned a spot in the NCAA tournament, where he finish 1-2. Among his victories during a 16-14 campaign last winter was a victory over Iowa State’s Luke Goettl. Earlier in his career, Hucke wrestled at 149 pounds in 2010 and 2011 (when he was 17-11)
19. Kevin Fanta, Northern Illinois, Junior
The native of Lake Zurich, Ill., has wrestled the past two seasons for the Huskies, going 8-8 at 133 pounds in 2011 and 13-7 at 141 last season, when he also earned a spot in the NCAA tournament. Fanta won two of four matches in St. Louis, losing to eventual champion Kellen Russell of Michigan in the opener and Luke Goettl of Iowa State in consolation. Before coming to DeKalb, Fanta won a state championship for Lake Zurich at 135 pounds.
20. Tanner Hough, Duke, Sophomore
The native of Johnstown, Pa., became just the second true freshman from Duke to qualify for the national tournament as he posted a 23-13 record and led the Blue Devils with nine falls. One year earlier, Hough completed a banner prep career at Westmont Hilltop High School where he posted a 143-31 record and qualified four times for the Pennsylvania state tournament; earning a runner-up spot as a senior.
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