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Ohio State edges Penn State in recruiting rankings
By Rob Sherrill
Is it quality or quantity?
That’s always the key question in recruiting and both played a role in determining the winner of this year’s WIN recruiting derby.
Since virtually all of the nation’s elite recruits finalize their college commitments during the early signing period in November, re-evaluating the classes becomes problematic in determining the final rankings in May. The names are pretty much the same, so what’s changed?
More than you think. The way the members of a recruiting class come together during their senior seasons makes a difference. There’s a lot to be said for momentum, and some schools gained a lot of it during the season just concluded.
One of those teams was Ohio State. The Buckeyes finished second in the NCAA Championships, but coach Tom Ryan’s newest recruiting class is riding a wave of momentum that started in the Who’s No. 1 competition last fall, and carried all the way through the season.
Nine of Ohio State’s 13 recruits ended the season as multi-time state champions. Sammy Sasso (157) of Nazareth (Pa.) and Gavin Hoffman (197) of Montoursville (Pa.) ended the season ranked No. 1 at their weights, leading 11 recruits ranked in the Top 25 by WIN, making the Bucks the only school to hit double figures in that category. Ohio State’s seven Top-10 recruits also are a national best.
Penn State, which held the No. 1 ranking coming out of the fall signing period, remains in good shape in the No. 2 spot. All six of coach Cael Sanderson’s ranked recruits are in the Top 10, including No. 1s Roman Bravo-Young (133) of Tucson (Ariz.) Sunnyside and Aaron Brooks (184) of North Hagerstown (Md.).
The biggest mover fall to spring was Missouri, which moved up 10 spots to No. 3. Coach Brian Smith and his staff made the most of a strong in-state recruiting class. Nine of the newest to wear the Tigers’ black and gold are home-grown, eight of them in the Top 25.
By contrast, North Carolina State, one of the schools Missouri leapfrogged, features one of the most eclectic incoming classes. Coach Pat Popolizio’s recruiting class comes from 10 different states, and if you include All-America transfer Justin Oliver (149), a native of Davison, Mich., that bumps the newest Wolfpack class up to 11.
Nebraska, with six ranked recruits and four in the Top 10, also moved into the top 10 classes, moving up eight spots to No. 7.
Three programs made their debut in the spring Top 25. Northern Iowa was the highest at No. 20, followed by Oklahoma (No. 21) and Lehigh (No. 24). Coach Doug Schwab did a great in-state recruiting job at Cedar Falls, landing four Top-25 recruits — the most of any Iowa school.
The recruiting wealth was more spread out this year than ever. Seven schools signed five or more ranked recruits: Ohio State (11), Missouri (nine), North Carolina State (eight), Penn State and North Carolina (six) and Drexel and Princeton (five). Seven more schools signed four ranked recruits, and 14 more signed three.
All three service academies completed strong recruiting classes, and the ACC and the Ivy League also continued their recent trend of strong recruiting. Narrowing the list to 25 was extremely difficult, since so many schools not on this list helped themselves tremendously this year. Many schools that don’t appear on this list still had great classes. A total of 58 schools signed at least one ranked recruit. Just missing the cut: Harvard, Navy, North Dakota State, Pittsburgh and South Dakota State.
Here are some highlights of WIN’s final top 25 recruiting classes for 2017-18 at press time.
1. Ohio State: Sasso and Hoffman were Who’s No. 1 winners for the Bucks and Sasso and two-time New Jersey champion Quinn Kinner (141) of Swedesboro Kingsway were Outstanding Wrestler award winners. Sasso, Josh Ramirez of Dubuque (Iowa) Wahlert, Braeden Redlin of Allen (Texas) and in-state recruits Rocky Jordan of St. Paris Graham, Jaden Mattox of Grove City Central Crossing and Kevon Freeman of Mentor Lake Catholic bring 18 state titles and incredible depth from 157 through 174.
2. Penn State: Bravo-Young, Brooks, Gavin Teasdale (125-133) of Jefferson-Morgan, Brody Teske (125-133) of Fort Dodge (Iowa) and Seth Nevills (285) of Clovis (Calif.) all ended their careers as four-time state champions. Michael Beard (197) of Malvern Preparatory was the National Prep OW in winning his third title.
3. Missouri: The Show-Me State led the nation with five four-time state champions, and Smith landed three of them: Malik Johnson (133) of St. Louis Christian Brothers College and Brock Mauller (149) and Jarrett Jacques (149-157) of Columbia Father Tolton. Three-time champion Zach Elam (285) of Kansas City Staley had 37 sub-minute pins at 220. Nine of the 10 Tiger recruits breezed to state titles.
4. North Carolina State: Popolizio helped himself everywhere, particularly in the upper weights Trent Hidlay of Lewistown (Pa.) Mifflin County and Tyler Barnes of Ballston Spa (N.Y.) will likely be at 184 and Tyrie Houghton of Matthews Weddington and Delaware OW Tony Wuest of Smyrna at 197, all of whom won state titles easily. So did four-time Michigan champion Jarrett Trombley (141-149) of Linden Lake Fenton and three-time Colorado champion Josiah Rider (149-157) of Grand Junction.
5. Minnesota: Four-time state champion Gable Steveson (285) of Apple Valley can elevate any class single-handedly. Patrick McKee (125) of St. Michael-Albertville suddenly gives coach Brandon Eggum’s class a second No. 1. Three-time Indiana champion Brayton Lee (157-165) of Brownsburg gives the Gophers as solid a Big Three as anyone.
6. Michigan: Before the season, we were talking about Will Lewan (157) of Lombard (Ill.) Montini and Joseph Silva (141) of Orlando (Fla.) Lake Highland Preparatory as the main reasons to talk about the Wolverines. They’re still in the conversation, but after a dominant season and post-season, big man Mason Parris (285) of Lawrenceburg (Ind.) has become the cornerstone of new coach Sean Bormet’s first class.
7. Nebraska: Six of coach Mark Manning’s eight recruits ended their seasons with titles. Alex Thomsen (133-141) of Underwood (Iowa), Brock Hardy (149-157) of Brigham City (Utah) Box Elder and Peyton Robb (165-174) of Owatonna (Minn.) combined for 10 state titles and Austin Emerson (285) of Temperance (Mich.) Bedford is the Huskers’ fourth Top-10 recruit.
8. Iowa State: All top recruit David Carr (165) of Massillon Perry did was win his fifth state title and his third Outstanding Wrestler award, both firsts for an Ohio wrestler. The rest of coach Kevin Dresser’s class focused on the upper weights. Two future Cyclones, Joel Shapiro (197) of West Des Moines Valley and Anthony Sherry (184-197) of Glenwood, met in the state quarterfinals.
9. North Carolina: Four members of coach Coleman Scott’s class, Mason Phillips (149-157) of Stanwood (Wash.), Joey Mazzara (174) of Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, Brandon Whitman (197-285) of Dundee (Mich.) and Keaton Kluever (285) of Kaukauna (Wis.) had dominant seasons. Injuries kept Joey Melendez (125-133) of Montini and Ryan Karoly (184) of Malvern Preparatory from matching them.
10. Stanford: It’s hard to argue that anyone in Illinois was better than Real Woods (133-141) of Lombard Montini, the state’s only three-time champion. Shane Griffith (165) of Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic matched Woods’s three titles and California runnerup Colbey Harlan (184-197) of Oakdale adds a third top-five recruit to coach Jason Borrelli’s class.
11. Princeton: Multiple strong classes are starting to show results for the Tigers. Four of coach Chris Ayres’ five ranked recruits finished the season strong. Quincy Monday (149-157) of Carrboro (N.C.) won his fourth title. Along with Patrick Glory (133) of Morristown Delbarton, Marshall Keller (141-149) of Christiansburg (Va.) and Grant Cuomo (165-174) of Brewster (N.Y.), the four combined for 10 state titles.
12. Pennsylvania: The Quakers got top performances from his three prized Florida recruits, with Anthony Artalona (149) of Tampa Preparatory and Ben Goldin (285) of Lake Highland winning titles to soften Grant Aronoff (141-149) of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas being upset.
13. Drexel: Junior National champion Ty Smith (125) of Mesquite (Nev.) Virgin Valley won his fourth state title. Fellow champions Michael O’Malley (174-184) of Hasbrouck Heights (N.J.), Josh Stillings (174) of Perkasie Pennridge and Anthony Walters (197) of Johnstown Bishop McCort and twins Dante and Antonio Minnino of Woodbury Heights (N.J.) Gateway-Woodbury were fourth in the Garden State’s rugged lower weights.
14. Rutgers: Coach Scott Goodale went coast to coast to fortify all three segments of the Scarlet Knights’ lineup. Bill Janzer (174-184) of Delsea Regional (N.J.) won his second title and Jake Benner (149) of Oakhurst Ocean Township came within one match of doing the same. Nicolas Aguilar (125) of Gilroy (Calif.) finally collected the titles that had eluded him, at state and the NHSCA Senior Nationals.
15. Northwestern: Coach Matt Storniolo checked three boxes in the upper weights as his two top-three recruits, Jack Jessen (165-174) of Villa Park Willowbrook and Lucas Davison (197) of Chesterton (Ind)., dominated during and after the season. Erich Byelick (174-184) of Lake Highland Preparatory also won to end his career.
16. Cornell: Last year, all nine recruits in the Big Red’s top-ranked class won state titles. This year, Andrew Merola (174) of Blair Academy won his third National Prep title, while Ryan Moore (125-133) of Walton-Verona (Ky.) and Jonathan Loew (184-197) of Wantagh won state titles, Loew adding an NHSCA Senior Nationals crown.
17. Oklahoma State: A year ago, coach John Smith set his lineup for the long haul at a pair of lower weights. This year, with World Team member Travis Wittlake (174-184) of Coos Bay (Ore.) Marshfield winning his fourth title and Anthony Montalvo (184-197) of Clovis (Calif.) Buchanan his second, Smith duplicated the feat at the other end of the Cowboys’ lineup.
18. Army: Five of coach Kevin Ward’s 16 West Point Prep recruits were state champions this year, and half were state finalists. Michael McAteer (125) of St. Louis (Mo.) Whitfield was a four-time champion, Paul Robinson (285) of Bremen (Ga.) won his third title and Markus Hartman (149-157) of Barrington (Ill.) accomplished the unthinkable, upsetting Will Lewan of Montini in the state final.
19. Northern Iowa: Six of Schwab’s nine recruits were state champions, led by three-time champion Kyle Biscoglia (125-133) of Waukee, and all nine finished in the top three. Drew Bennett (133-141) of Fort Dodge, Michael Blockhus (141-149) of New Hampton and John McConkey (285) of Atlantic also were impressive to close the season.
20. Oklahoma: Tommy Hoskins (125-133) of Xenia (Ohio) Legacy Christian Academy, Jaryn Curry (174) of Choctaw and Brett Campbell (197-285) of Westminster (Mo.) Summit Christian Academy combined to close their careers with nine state titles. There’s potential here, too — Anthony Madrigal (133-141) of Oak Park (Ill.) O.P.-River Forest missed his senior season due to injury.
21. Wisconsin: Incoming coach Chris Bono inherited a class loaded with some of the state’s top prospects. Jeremy Schoenherr (149) of Stratford, Drew Scharenbrock (157) of Sun Prairie and Jared Krattiger (184-197) of Waterford combined for seven state titles, Tyler Dow (165-174) of Stoughton won as a junior and Joey Sanchez (157) of St. Paris Graham won in Ohio.
22. Air Force: Jake Thompson of Cincinnati (Ohio) Archbishop Moeller upset two ranked wrestlers to become one of six Cadet recruits to win state titles. Harlan Steffensmeier (157-165) of Fort Madison (Iowa) also beat a ranked opponent to win. Cody Phippen (125) of Platte City (Mo.) Platte County and Bradley Bitting (133) of Dallas (Ga.) North Paulding also won their second titles.
23. Virginia Tech: This class doesn’t have many of the big names of past Hokies classes, but coach Tony Robie’s seven recruits racked up five state titles. Jake Hart (149-157) of Fort Mill (S.C.) earned his state’s OW award, Collin Gerardi (141) of Powhatan and Mitch Moore (141-149) of St. Paris (Ohio) Graham won their fourth titles and Trent Ragland (285) of New Kent also repeated.
24. Lock Haven: Coach Scott Moore’s three upper-weight aces, Luke McGonigal (184) of Clearfield, Isaac Reid (285) of Vandergrift Kiski Area and Caleb Clymer (165-174) of Center Valley Northwestern Lehigh, all breezed to state titles.
25. Lehigh: Josh Humphreys (149-157) of Parkersburg (W. Va.) South won his third state title. Coach Pat Santoro’s lower-weight recruits also came through, Jaret Lane (125) of Catawissa Southern Columbia winning his second title and Mitchell Polito (125) of East Brunswick advancing to the New Jersey state final.