The 2022 college wrestling national championships are over … but the great...
Who have been the top Ironmen in high school wrestling?
By Rob Sherrill, WIN High School Editor
As Zahid Valencia of Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco goes for his fourth Walsh Ironman title this weekend, I thought we’d open the vault and give you our list of the 10 greatest Ironman champions of all time. Some were for their performance in the tournament itself; others were selected for what they accomplished after leaving the mats at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
No. 10 – Nathan Tomasello, Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy
In 2012, Tomasello became one of three wrestlers to win a third Ironman title that year, earning the Outstanding Wrestler award in the process. Now at Ohio State, he had three pins, four technical falls and a major decision in his three title runs.
No. 9 – Mark Jayne, Lakewood St. Edward
It’s difficult to single out an individual Eagle for this list, but Jayne became the first St. Edward wrestler to win three Ironman titles, accomplishing the feat from 1997-99. The future Illinois wrestler followed up the 1999 title with a victory in the Beast of the East in his only appearance there.
No. 8 – Bo Jordan, St. Paris Graham
Another of the Class of 2012, Jordan was unbeaten in Ironman competition, winning in all three of his appearances. That run included five pins, a technical fall and five major decisions for the four-time state champion, now at Ohio State.
No. 7 – Jake Herbert, Wexford (Pa.) North Allegheny
Herbert went on to bigger and better things, becoming an NCAA champion at Northwestern and earning a World silver medal honors in freestyle. In 2002, Herbert had his own dominating run at the Ironman, winning at 171 with a pin, a technical fall and back-to-back 7-1 decisions.
What would this list be without someone from the host school on it? An integral part of the Walsh national powers of the mid-1990s, Heskett was voted the Outstanding Wrestler of the 1995 tournament – the second one held – at 145 pounds, and repeated at 152 in 1996. The now West Virginia associate athletic director, who was the head coach at Army, became an NCAA champion at Iowa State.
No. 5 – Adam Frey, Blair Academy
He’s better known today for his courageous battle against the cancer that eventually took his life, but Frey had a great Ironman run of his own, posting dominating back-to-back wins at 130 in 2003 and 2004. He had three pins, four technical falls and a major decision in those title runs. He was third as a sophomore in 2002.
No. 4 – Chris Villalonga, Blair Academy
One of the stars of Blair’s many title runs, Villalonga was a rare four-time Ironman finalist; winning at 125 in 2007, at 130 in 2008 and at 140 in 2009. Tony Ramos of Carol Stream (Ill.) Glenbard North and an NCAA champion at Iowa last year prevented Villalonga from Ironman perfection by beating the current Cornell star in the 2006 Ironman final.
No. 3 – Logan Stieber, Monroeville, Ohio
Stieber scored a pair of dominating Ironman victories, at 119 in 2007 and at 125 in 2009. His only Ironman loss was to David Taylor in the 103-pound final as a freshman. Stieber was the leader of the Monroeville quartet that included brother Hunter, Cam Tessari and Chris Phillips, who combined to win seven Ironman titles between 2007 and 2010.
No. 2 – Harry Lester, Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy
Lester preceded Tomasello as a three-time champion from the little school across the street from Walsh Jesuit, winning in 1997, 1998 and 2000 as one of the tournament’s top lightweights. He was prevented from trying for a title in 1999 when he broke his leg during the football season. He’s been a staple of the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman program.
No. 1 – David Taylor, St. Paris Graham
The other spots required some thought. This one did not. The only four-time Ironman champion to date, Taylor won at 103 in 2005 and 2006, at 112 in 2007 and at 135 in 2008. In his four Ironman appearances, he racked up five pins, seven technical falls and three major decisions. He would do more of the same in becoming a two-time Dan Hodge Trophy winner and champion at Penn State in helping lead the Nittany Lions to four straight team titles.