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Photo: Kael Lauridsen of Nebraska eventually pinned Massey Odiotti of Illinois in the 120-pound Junior Greco-Roman tournament this past July in Fargo. He is ranked No. 1 at 113 pounds in WIN’s Summer RPI. (John Johnson photo)
By Rob Sherrill
I spent the last two issues of WIN putting a bow on what was quite a summer for the country’s top high school wrestlers. In the last issue, I published post-Fargo rankings for the first time, the final appearance for members of the Class of 2022 in our Top 25. And in this column, you’ll get a chance to read my 15th WIN Summer RPI leaders list.
I have published this list annually for 14 consecutive years, from 2006 through 2019. For reasons related primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is my first Summer RPI compilation in three seasons. The RPI, aka Ratings Performance Index, is a tool used by NCAA Division I basketball. One component of that RPI is the number of wins against the RPI top 50.
Given that my two main rankings criteria are strength of schedule and the number of quality wins, it should come as no surprise that I’m partial to the RPI as a rankings tool. Today, when everybody wrestles everybody, nearly everybody in the rankings has good wins and bad losses. Those wrestlers are putting it on the line frequently in events with tough fields, which contributes to the strength-of-schedule component.
Most wrestlers are listed at the weight class at which they competed during the scholastic season, as was the case with the rankings throughout. The year in school, however, is for the coming school year, so wrestlers who were seniors in 2022 are listed as “graduate.”
Five wrestlers who compiled enough quality wins to make this list — Bo Bassett and Jax Forrest of Pennsylvania, Marcello Milani of Michigan, Robert Paul Perez of California and Kolby Franklin of Iowa — did not compete for a high school team in 2022, so they were listed at the lowest weight class at which they competed during the off-season.
The list below includes the top five wrestlers (and ties) at each weight class in quality wins — defined as wins over other wrestlers I either had ranked or considered for a ranking. These records include quality wins and all losses.
In previous years, I used only the USA Wrestling portion of the off-season schedule. This year’s totals include some additional events: the NHSCA High School Nationals and National Duals, the Journeymen World Classic, the Ultimate Club Duals and the AAU Scholastic Duals, all of which helped many wrestlers add to their win totals.
I did not include U17 and U20 World Championships, where some earned medals, but did not face other American wrestlers.
Even with those events added, just five wrestlers reached double figures in quality wins in the 2022 off-season, compared to 16 such wrestlers in 2019, 18 in 2018 and the record of 21 back in 2016. Improving depth and the number of wrestlers advancing to World teams were factors.
The overall quality-win leaders were Kannon Webster (132) of Illinois and Pierson Manville (138) of Pennsylvania, who each accumulated 15 quality wins. Zach Hanson (145) of Minnesota was next with 13. With a record of 13-11, Hanson’s 24 matches against ranked competition possibly marked the toughest off-season schedule in the nation this year. The others to reach double digits in wins: Kael Lauridsen (11) of Nebraska and Sawyer Bartelt (10) of Florida. Posting the highest total quality wins without a loss: U-20 Freestyle Team member Mitchell Mesenbrink (6-0) of Wisconsin.
Pennsylvania led all states with 13 wrestlers on this team, followed by Iowa, with 11. Rounding out the top five: Wisconsin (8), California (7) and Illinois (6), with Wisconsin and Illinois each having three wrestlers atop a weight class. The list of 81 Summer RPI members includes wrestlers from 27 states.
So, with the ground rules out of the way, we present the first four three weights of WIN’s Summer RPI leaders by weight class. Enjoy!
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WIN’s 2022 Summer RPI leaders
Notable: Castillo, who competed in both styles on the U17 World team, picked up all nine wins in U-17 and U-20 competitions. Mauger, Cortez and Sierra were double placewinners in both the U-17 and U-16 nationals.
Notable: Before winning the Juniors in Greco, Lauridsen recorded four quality wins in his fifth-place freestyle finish.
Notable: Davino and Gibson were the U16 and Junior National freestyle champions up a weight, at 126. Third in both Junior styles, Koehler recorded four quality freestyle wins.
(A native of Chicago’s south suburbs, Rob Sherrill has been covering high school wrestling on the national level since 1978 and has served as WIN’s high school columnist since 1997.)