Nittany Lions’ Early-Season Recruiting Class Ranked No. 1

Updated: December 2, 2015

Photo: Mark Hall, a five-time Minnesota state champion from Apple Valley High School and Junior World medalist, was considered the No. 1 recruit before signing with Penn State in November.

By Rob Sherrill

As the talent pool grows in high school wrestling, that means there are more to choose from for all college coaches. And that’s why this analysis of wrestlers, who signed during the early signing period that ended Nov. 11, is always so intriguing.

Although you’ll always find schools like Penn State, Ohio State, Iowa and Oklahoma State at the top of the NCAA tournament standings, plenty of schools are putting themselves in a position to compete at this time of the year.

The school that signed the most recruits ranked in WIN’s top 25 at their respective weight classes in WIN’s most recent rankings? North Carolina State. Coach Pat Popolizio signed 10 recruits — and eight were ranked in the top 14, five of those in the top eight.

Second most? Kudos to Rutgers coach Scott Goodale, who kept the best of his state’s great upper weights at home … and all seven signees are ranked. Six hail from the Garden State.

The next school on the list sits just across the Delaware River at Lehigh. Of the top four teams on this list, the Mountain Hawks are the team most often in NCAA contention. Coach Pat Santoro got commitments from six ranked recruits among the eight he signed; all but one from the Keystone State.

The fourth, Purdue, is not exactly a Big Ten powerhouse. But the Boilermakers took a huge step forward with what would be the start of coach Tony Ersland’s best class yet. All five future Boilers are No. 14 or better, with three in the top six.

Those numbers didn’t completely sway these rankings, but all four wound up in the top 10, and now you know why. They weren’t the only four schools to land great classes, though. A dozen other schools signed four ranked recruits.

One of them, Penn State, rode the signing of five-time Minnesota champion Mark Hall (165-174) of Apple Valley to the No. 1 ranking. Hall’s commitment would have made any school’s class a candidate for the top spot, but coach Cael Sanderson didn’t stop there.

His class also includes three-time New Jersey champion Nick Suriano (133) of Oradell Bergen Catholic and National Prep champion Mason Manville (165), one of eight Division I commitments from Kingston (Pa.) Wyoming Seminary.

Last year, Oklahoma State led this list with seven ranked recruits, while West Virginia signed five and six other schools added four. With 25 ranked wrestlers at each weight class, compared to 20 per weight at this time last year, the number of schools on that list will continue to increase.

Air Force, Appalachian State, Harvard and Princeton are new to the list of schools signing four ranked recruits. As always, some schools that loaded up a year ago, like Ohio State, Michigan, Arizona State and Oklahoma State, fell back in the rankings this year with less money to spend.

Big Ten schools, as usual, dominated the list. Led by Penn State, seven Big Ten schools cracked the top 10, and nine of the 14 in the conference made the top 25.

Many schools that don’t appear on this list still had great classes. The ACC and the Ivy League continued to recruit well. A total of 50 schools signed at least one ranked recruit. Just missing the cut: Brown, Illinois, Northern Iowa, Pittsburgh and West Virginia.

By WIN’s count, 295 seniors — seven more than the previous record of 288 in the report last year — took themselves off the board by making early commitments to Division I schools. Wyoming Seminary’s eight commitments are a yearly record for this assessment.

In addition to Manville, Sem’s list includes Trent Olson (133-141) to Wyoming, Will Verallis (157-165) and Will Hilliard (285) to Old Dominion, Chris Weiler (174-184) to Lehigh, Nick Reenan (174-184) to Northwestern, Christian Dietrich (184) to Pittsburgh and Michael Rogers (285) to North Carolina State.

Bergen Catholic and Aurora (Ill.) Marmion Academy each had five signees. In addition to Suriano, Bergen Catholic state champions Joe Grello (174) and Kevin Mulligan (197) are part of Rutgers’ great class, and the Crusaders also are sending Evan Quinn (125) to Campbell and Brady Ford (157) to Maryland.

Marmion Academy’s Fab Five are headed to five different schools, all academic powerhouses: A.J. Jaffe (141) to Harvard, Michael Callahan (157) to Duke, Trace Carello (165-174) to Air Force, Riley DeMoss (165) to Princeton and Nathan Traxler (184-197) to Stanford.

Nine other schools, Blairstown Township (N.J.) Blair Academy, Greater Latrobe (Pa.), Lawrenceville (Ga.) Archer, Lowell (Mich.), Orland Park (Ill.) Carl Sandburg, Rockaway (N.J.) Morris Knolls, Washington (Ill.) and Wentzville (Mo.) Holt, each had three signees, with nearly 30 other schools claiming two each.

By state, nearly one in five of the Division I early signees — 51 of them — hail from Pennsylvania. Throw in the 31 signees from New Jersey and the 25 from Illinois, and more than one in three come from those three states. Other states with double figures in senior commitments: Ohio (16), Iowa and New York (13), Missouri (12), Michigan (11) and Minnesota (10).

WIN’S 2015-16 Early-Season Recruiting Rankings

The following are the top eight schools in WIN’s Early-Season Recruiting Rankings. The remaining Top 25 schools and a more detailed look at these school’s early-season recruiting classes can be found in the Dec. 7, 2015  WIN Magazine (V22I2). Click here to subscribe to WIN and view this story.

Rk School
1. Penn State
2. North Carolina State
3. Rutgers
4. Lehigh
5. Nebraska
6. Iowa
7. Oklahoma State
8. Purdue