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State-by-State High School Wrestlers of the Year in WIN Magazine

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Updated: May 13, 2022

Note: This story was first published in WIN Magazine’s Annual Awards Issue, which was printed on May 6. Other award stories in this issue included features on the Malvern Prep’s Nick Feldman (Junior Hodge Trophy winner), NWCA’s Mike Moyer (Mike Chapman Impact Award), Michigan’s Sean Bormet (Dan Gable Coach of the Year), Mat Talk Online’s Jason Bryant (Journalist of the Year), Air Force’s Wyatt Hendrickson (Schalles Award) and Ryder Rogodzke of Stillwater, Minn. (Junior Schalles). Click here or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe to WIN Magazine.

By Rob Sherrill

For the first time in two years, WIN has selected its High School Wrestlers of the Year in every state. The COVID-19 pandemic, which eliminated high school state tournaments or seasons in roughly a dozen states, forced us to take a hiatus from selecting this elite group in 2021.

Every state, however, was back on the mats this year and so are we.

As always, many of the selections were extraordinarily difficult. How do you choose between multiple four-time state champions, maybe multiple four-time state champions on the same team? Why did we choose a two-time state champion over multiple four-time state champions?

The answers are multifaceted. State titles make a difference. But so do regional and national accomplishments and maybe even a head-to-head result or two. It’s all connected. Every tournament, every match, is an opportunity to add another bullet to the resume.

Here’s another decision we made. In past years, we’ve selected co-Wrestlers of the Year, often in a half-dozen or more states. This year, we decided to eliminate the practice of kicking the can down the road — one selection per state. The exception was Florida, where a standout pair of twin brothers each brought a set of unique accomplishments to the table. Sometimes blood is still thicker than water.

Here is a sampling of WIN’s state-by-state High School Wrestlers of the Year. To view the complete listing, notes on each winner’s resume, and WIN’s rationale for choosing them as the top preps of the 2021-2022 season in their state, subscribe to WIN by clicking here or calling 888-305-0606 to start an annual subscription with the print or digital version of WIN’s May issue.

Alabama

Cory Land (138), Sr., Moody

Also named the state’s Wrestler of the Year in 2020, the last year this list was compiled before the pandemic, Land (56-0) won his fifth 5A-6A state title. One of just 10 five-time state champions in Alabama history, the Northern Iowa recruit closed his career with a 207-match winning streak, second-longest in state history. A member of the UWW Cadet World Greco-Roman team in 2021, Land also was a Super 32 runner-up last fall, and won the USA Wrestling National Recruiting Showcase.

Alaska

Landon Smith (119), Sr., Bethel

Smith (36-0) became his state’s 15th four-time state champion, having also won at 112 as a sophomore and a junior and at 103 as a freshman. He pinned all four state meet opponents in a combined 10:16, and his fourth pin broke a tie with Wasilla Redington and gave Bethel the 3-2-1A team title. Smith, voted the meet’s Outstanding Wrestler, became the third four-time state champion in Bethel history. The others, Thomas Dyment and Hayden Lieb, also were honored as Alaska’s Wrestler of the Year as seniors.

Arizona

Markell Rivera-Cain (175), Jr., Glendale Ironwood

Rivera-Cain (33-0) grew five weight classes between his freshman and sophomore seasons and hasn’t lost a match since his freshman state final. He won Division II state titles at 170 as a sophomore and at 175 this year, needing just 4:45 to record four first-period pins at this year’s state meet. In his only match this season that went six minutes, Rivera-Cain scored a 10-4 victory over the Division I state champion, Gunnar Luke of Mesa Mountain View, in the Mile High Challenge holiday tournament. He added a fourth-place finish in the National Recruiting Showcase.

Arkansas

Vincent Bryan (195), Sr., Little Rock Central

Bryan (44-0) completed his second straight unbeaten season with his second 6A state title. He went 23-0 at 182 as a junior. The Little Rock recruit accomplished the feat with a pair of stress fractures in a back vertebrae, diagnosed after winning the state title as a junior. The injury forced him to limit workouts and training as a senior. Still, Bryan pinned his first 42 opponents as a senior, 39 in the first period. He went a full six minutes for the first time in the state semifinals, winning by a major decision.

To read the rest of the 49 states that officially sanction high school wrestling, click here to learn how to subscribe to WIN Magazine.

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