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Photo: Nic Bouzakis (left) and Jesse Mendez, who will be teammates at Ohio State, met in the 2022 U20 World Team Trials, with Mendez prevailing. Bouzakis, a native of Florida, is ranked No. 1 at 132 and Mendez of Indiana is No. 1 at 138 pounds.
By Rob Sherrill
From the start of the wrestling season, the No. 1 national recruiting ranking was Ohio State’s to lose.
Nothing’s changed. Before, during and after the season just concluded, the Buckeye signing class took care of business. In what would qualify as one of the worst-kept secrets in recent wrestling history, Ohio State earned WIN’s recruiting derby for the 2021-22 season.
Recruiter par excellence Tom Ryan and his staff landed the Scarlet and Gray a second No. 1 recruiting class in five seasons. It includes three recruits ranked No. 1 at their weight classes: Nic Bouzakis (133) of Kingston (Pa.) Wyoming Seminary, Jesse Mendez (141) of Crown Point (Ind.) and Nicholas Feldman (285) of Malvern (Pa.) Preparatory.
The last coach to sign three No. 1 recruits in a season was – you guessed it — Ryan, who signed four in 2018.
But no other recruiting class in the history of this assessment has had not one, but two Junior Hodge Trophy winners in it: Mendez, the recipient of the award in 2021, and Feldman, who took that coveted honor this year.
Mendez didn’t do anything to lose the award on or off the mat — he dominated en route to his fourth Indiana state title — but Feldman had such an outstanding senior year, capped by earning a U20 World Team berth, that his excellence couldn’t be overlooked. Bouzakis, who followed three Florida state titles with a second National Prep Championships title, also punched his World Team ticket.
Seven of Ohio State’s eight recruits are ranked in WIN’s top 25, and five are ranked in the top 10. Several other schools matched that total, but all five Buckeyes are ranked in the top five, which no other school approached.
This class didn’t rest on its laurels, either. The eight Buckeye recruits went a perfect 8-for-8 to close their final high school seasons and all won either their state championship or the National Preps. The only other schools to get a perfect season-ending finish from every member of their recruiting class: Virginia Tech, ranked No. 4, and Binghamton, whose four recruits also finished strong.
That performance helped Kyle Borshoff’s Bearcats become one of four teams not mentioned in our fall rankings to hit the charts in the spring, a list we expanded to 35 teams (we didn’t want to eliminate any team from the fall recruiting list). Binghamton checked in at No. 35.
Mendez and Feldman also earned WIN Wrestler of the Year honors, which were announced in the previous issue, making Ohio State one of only three schools with multiple honorees.
North Carolina State, the second school on WIN’s recruiting list, held onto the No. 2 spot it earned in the fall. Pat Popolizio’s newest Wolfpack class included a pair of Junior Hodge candidates, Matthew Singleton (174) of College Park (Ga.) Woodward Academy and Dylan Fishback (197) of Aurora (Ohio). Both earned Wrestler of the Year honors in their respective states, and Chase Horne (285) matched Singleton by winning his fourth Georgia title.
Add the performances of three future 149-pounders, Finn Solomon and Jackson Arrington in Pennsylvania and Tommy Curran in Illinois, and NC State will have plenty of depth in the middle. Popolizio, who now owns back-to-back No. 2 recruiting classes, matched Ryan with five top-10 recruits, and the top two were the only schools to do so.
The third school with a pair of Wrestlers of the Year also comes from the ACC. Lightweights Kyle Montaperto (North Carolina) and Garrett Grice (Nebraska) helped Virginia move up three spots on the list to No. 5, the Cavaliers’ first-ever top five recruiting finish. Steve Garland’s newest class matched Ohio State with seven ranked recruits and nine of Virginia’s 12 signees won state titles in 2022, with 11 making their state finals.
Two other schools — Iowa State and Navy — had seven ranked recruits, and they were two of the bigger movers from WIN’s fall recruiting list to this final one. Kevin Dresser’s spring push helped the Cyclones move up 14 spots to No. 3. With California state champions Ethan Perryman (125-133) and M.J. Gaitan (165-174) and Michigan Wrestler of the Year Casey Swiderski (141) the headliners, eight of Dresser’s 11 recruits won state titles as seniors. All 11 reached the finals and two who didn’t win — Jacob Frost (133) of Iowa and Manuel Rojas (174-184) of Michigan —had already combined for five state titles prior to this year.
Navy also rode late recruiting gains, moving up 12 spots to No. 7. Head coach Cary Kolat, who first showed his recruiting prowess by attracting Top-10 classes to Campbell, now owns back-to-back Top 25 classes since arriving in Annapolis. His top recruit, Daniel Wask (141), lived up to the billing with a National Prep title and made the finals of the U20 Nationals. Wask led seven of 12 future Midshipmen who won state or National Prep titles, and all but one finished in the top three.
The biggest mover in WIN’s rankings, though, was Pittsburgh, which moved up 15 spots to No. 8. Coach Keith Gavin continues to build depth at Pitt and this class includes five ranked recruits as Mac Stout (197) and Dayton Pitzer (285) had great finishes to their careers, Pitzer earning Outstanding Wrestler honors at the state meet in Hershey. They’ll be future lineup cornerstones.
To get the Top-30 recruiting rankings and read the remainder of the analysis about the Class of 2022 and which colleges landed the biggest recruits, get an annual subscription to WIN Magazine and start it with WIN’s June issue by clicking here or calling 888-305-0606.