(The following story will be expanded in the upcoming digital edition of WIN Magazine on June 20, 2020. Click here or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe to WIN.)
By Rob Sherrill
The race for WIN’s top recruiting class, presented by College Wrestler Recruiting, seemed an Oklahoma State runaway last fall. In November, WIN Magazine wrote about a Cowboys recruiting class that featured six commitments ranked in WIN’s pre-season Top 25 individual rankings. Additionally, all six were in the top 10. Both ranked at the top among Division I college programs.
Due primarily to injuries, the three wrestlers who were coach John Smith’s three foundation recruits — Trevor Mastrogiovanni (133) of Blairstown Township (N.J.) Blair Academy, Dustin Plott (184) of Tuttle (Okla.) and A.J. Ferrari (197-285) of Allen (Texas) — did not step on a mat during their senior high school seasons.
So, in addition to the fact that some of the matches we had hoped to see might be postponed until their collegiate careers, those absences caused some shakeups in the rankings that allowed other wrestlers moments in the spotlight.
Not to mention other college programs.
The recruiting class assembled by coach Mark Manning helped Nebraska close the gap with the Cowboys by completing banner senior seasons. Even if you don’t include four-time South Dakota state heavyweight champion Nash Hutmacher – and we didn’t, since he’ll be playing football for the Huskers, rather than wrestling – Nebraska made it a photo finish at the end. Had Hutmacher been a wrestling recruit, the season he turned in, which culminated in his earning WIN’s Junior Schalles Award, would have given Nebraska the No. 1 class.
Whether you lean toward No. 1 or No. 2, the Huskers head into the off-season with huge momentum after finishing second in the Big Ten Championships, the last collegiate competition of the past season.
Still, Oklahoma State’s class, which concentrated heavily on the upper weights, boasts plenty of talent, even if only four members of the class were state champions in their respective states in 2020. If these Cowboy recruits are who we think they are, they’ll lead serious Oklahoma State bids for Big 12 and NCAA trophies the next half-decade.
After winning WIN’s recruiting derby the past two seasons, Ohio State, with little money to spend, fell out of the top 30. So did Arizona State, second to the Buckeyes in 2019. Both programs did come out of the season with a statement recruit, however. Ohio State coach Tom Ryan landed double Junior National champion Anthony Echemendia (149), the native of Cuba who graduated from Tucson (Ariz.) Sunnyside in 2019. Sun Devils coach Zeke Jones also signed a quality middleweight, four-time California champion Jesse Vasquez (157) of Corona Excelsior Charter.
For the most part, the schools in the rankings kept their standings from last fall fairly intact. The real wild card in the deck was Old Dominion, which we rated as the No. 19 early signing class in November. After the news that shocked the wrestling world — the elimination of the school’s program in March — the school’s recruits scattered to other programs. Even with the Monarchs no longer in the fold, only three programs not part of our fall Top 30 cracked the final spring lineup.
The highest spring debut is Oklahoma, which debuts at No. 16. All four of coach Lou Rosselli’s high school recruits were state champions this year. The other schools new to the rankings are Columbia (No. 22) and Navy (No. 27). Coach Zach Tanelli’s best class yet at Columbia includes five ranked recruits, a total exceeded by just two other schools. And after the class he constructed at Campbell became one of the major success stories of the fall recruiting season, Cary Kolat inherits another outstanding group as he assumes the reins at Annapolis.
Our spring rankings are based primarily on two factors: the number of recruits outstanding enough to lead a serious bid for NCAA or All-American honors, and the class’s overall performance during their senior high school seasons.
Going back to the horse race between Oklahoma State and Nebraska, for example, both schools score well using both metrics, but Oklahoma State’s strength is more heavily weighted toward the first, Nebraska’s more heavily toward the second. Both are important.
While I love overall team strength, it’s most important in high school rankings. In the college world, where the total focus is on those three days in late March, the number of All-Americans is important, but so are the big points the semifinal winners bring. That’s just as important when it comes to competing for team trophies. Penn State could write a book about it.
Give West Virginia coach Tim Flynn some credit for the Mountaineers making the biggest jump — eight spots, to No. 19 — of any school from the fall ranking. With the state of West Virginia producing its best senior class ever and other recruits hitting it big, the Mountaineers, who didn’t have a single top 10 recruit in the fall, now have four.
No other school exceeds that total. And after five of their seven recruits dominated their states during the season, coach Pat Popolizio’s newest class at North Carolina State moved up five spots over the fall, to No. 7.
Here are WIN’s final top 30 recruiting rankings for 2019-20 at press time. Commitments are supplied by InterMat.
|7.||North Carolina State|
Here is a listing of some of the wrestlers signed by the Top 5 programs. To read WIN’s full Division I Top-30 Recruiting List Assessment of each respective team’s signees, subscribe to WIN by calling 888-305-0606 or Click Here for More Information.
1. Oklahoma State: With Plott out for the season, Tuttle teammate Luke Surber (165) took Plott’s spot at 182 and dominated. Elise Brown Ton (165-174), Ferrari’s Allen teammate, and Daniel Jezik (184-197) of Illinois won their second titles. The lone blemish was another two-time champion, Jakason Burks (125-133) of Nebraska, losing in the state final after winning 138 straight over three seasons.
2. Nebraska: You learned in the last issue that four-time state champions Jeremiah Reno (125) of Missouri, Dominick Serrano (141) of Colorado and Hutmacher all earned WIN’s Wrestler of the Year honors in their respective states. So did a fourth, two-time Indiana champion Silas Allred (197-285). All four were unbeaten as seniors and Nathan Haas (184) won his second California title.
3. Iowa: Up one spot from November, coach Tom Brands’ newest class was nearly perfect. Six of his seven recruits were state champions — all winning at least twice — and they combined for 20 state crowns. Leif Schroeder (141) of Montana, Bretli Reyna (149-157) of Florida and Patrick Kennedy (184) of Minnesota were four-time champions. Schroeder, Kennedy and three-time Arizona champion Jesse Ybarra (133-141) were Wrestler of the Year honorees in their states.
4. Missouri: Also up a spot from the fall ranking, coach Brian Smith has to be happy with his newest class’s season performances. Nine of his 11 recruits competed in a state tournament, seven winning and all nine reaching the finals. Four-time Wisconsin champion Keegan O’Toole (149) was named the Junior Hodge Trophy winner and three-time champions Joshua Edmond (141-149) of Michigan and Rocky Elam (197) of Missouri all dominated. Another three-time Missouri winner, Jay Strausbaugh (133-141), prevailed in a weight class that contained three defending champions.
5. Virginia Tech: For the second straight year, Tony Robie’s class is the wild card of the Top 10. Five members of this class their national rankings — only North Carolina State and Michigan have more — and three in the top 10. Stock up: four-time Virginia champion Sam Fisher (184-197) and Pennsylvania champion Hunter Catka (285).
Recruiting Assessments/Class listing for teams ranked #6-30 published in WIN’s next issue