Penn State’s Zain Retherford wins 2017 WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy, presented by ASICS
By Bryan Van Kley, WIN Magazine NEWTON, Iowa — The WIN...
Spraggins breaks the door down
To say the 138-pound class is one of this year’s most crowded weight classes is an understatement.
It’s a weight class where we see superstars of all sizes, including Joey Dance of Christiansburg (Va.) and Dalton Brady of Chandler (Ariz.), actual 126-pounders who went to 138 to win their fourth titles in their respective states.
Also found here are wrestlers who became trapped in the numbers game. One such wrestler was Demechico Spraggins of Belleville (Ill.) West. He burst onto the Assembly Hall stage as a freshman, breezing to the 3A state finals at 103. Three years later, “Meech” was still looking for his first state title after a second runner-up finish as a sophomore and a fourth-place finish as a junior.
So what did he do?
Already fabulously athletic, Spraggins worked hard to improve his conditioning, and it paid off. He beat two-time Kentucky champion Jayce Carr of Morganfield Union County in January, earned a scholarship from Arizona State University and won one of the deepest weight classes in Illinois, finishing with a 49-1 record by outworking his opponents.
In the USA Wrestling/Cliff Keen Dream Team Classic Apr. 20, Spraggins scored an 8-5 victory over four-time Minnesota champion Mitch Bengtson of St. Cloud Apollo. The win was one of five victories recorded by the host Illinois squad in a 27-16 loss. More importantly, Spraggins burst into the final WIN rankings, settling in at No. 17.
It’s safe to say that the Sun Devils should benefit from one of Illinois’ best-kept secrets.
Retherford vs. Tuma: what’s in a ranking?
Since his victories in the Cadet World Championships and the Junior National Freestyle Championships last summer, Zain Retherford’s reign at No. 1 has been a fait accompli. And the Benton (Pa.) standout strengthened his grip with victories in the Super 32, the Walsh Ironman, the AA state tournament, capping a 47-0 season, and the Dapper Dan Classic in Pittsburgh, where he was voted the Outstanding Wrestler for the Pennsylvania team.
But, for all of those honors, does the Penn State University recruit really have the best resume? That’s debatable.
Three-time Idaho champion Hayden Tuma of Boise Centennial, still just a junior, can make a case of his own. Tuma capped a 41-0 season by pinning his way through the state tournament for the second straight year.
Tuma is one of just two active high-school wrestlers nationally who have won titles at all four of USA Wrestling’s elite age group events: the Cadet Nationals, the Junior Nationals, the FILA Cadet Nationals and the FILA Junior Nationals. The other: four-time Michigan heavyweight champion Adam Coon of Fowlerville, ranked No. 1 at that weight class.
The tale of the tape:
Cadet Nationals: Tuma, two titles (one in each style) and three finals appearances; Retherford, one fifth-place finish.
Junior Nationals: Tuma, one Greco-Roman title and one freestyle third-place finish; Retherford, one freestyle title. Tuma’s placings came at a higher weight class.
FILA Cadet Nationals: Tuma, two Greco-Roman titles and one freestyle third-place finish; Retherford, one freestyle title.
FILA Junior Nationals: Tuma, one Greco-Roman title and one freestyle fifth-place finish. Both came last month.
Do the math and Tuma holds a convincing 6-2 edge in the big stop signs. Among the wrestlers both have beaten: four-time New Jersey champion Anthony Ashnault of South Plainfield and two-time Junior National champion Zane Richards, who just completed his freshman season at the University of Illinois.
Food for thought.