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Photo: Bo Bassett (left) of Pennsylvania defeated Anthony Knox of New Jersey in the 113-pound Super 32 final to avenge a loss from the 2021 event in Greensboro, N.C. This victory helped Bassett earn a No. 1 rating in the Oct. 26 WIN Magazine/Spartan Combat Rankings. (Sam Janicki photo)
By Rob Sherrill
Every season, it seems, has an event that brings the nation’s best high school wrestlers out of the shadows and onto the mats.
In the spring, it’s the NHSCA High School Nationals. In the summer, it’s the USA Wrestling U-16 and Junior Nationals. And in the fall, it’s the iconic Super 32. It’s the allure of the belt.
Looking at the list of entries prior to the start of the tournament, it seemed as though the entire wrestling universe was preparing to descend on the Greensboro (N.C.) Civic Center the third weekend of October. And thousands in four age groups, in addition to a girls tournament, did.
I prefer to take a 30,000-foot view of events like the Super 32. Unless I’m present at the event, I don’t peek at a single result until that event is over. I like to take a deep breath, neatly sort out the mountain of results (assuming neatly is even possible), and then form my conclusions about what happened.
My lone exception to that rule is state tournaments. By the time we’re at that stage, everything’s already baked into the cake. I know what weight class the wrestler(s) I’m following is wrestling at, and I know what chance the team(s) I’m following have at winning the title. It’s interesting reading material between sessions of the state tournament I happen to be visiting.
Now that we’ve all had a chance to digest the Super 32, what really changed? Not as much as you might think.
First, a little background. I maintain a spreadsheet for the wrestlers I track when I do individual rankings. The one I’m using now includes fall season results only. (It’ll be replaced by another one that tracks actual season results when the scholastic season starts.)
My spreadsheet now includes a total of 473 wrestlers. In addition to the 350 who are part of the top 25 at the 14 weight classes, there are now 123 who are also under consideration, but are just short of the top 25. The largest class is 120, where I’m tracking 50 wrestlers; the smallest are 160 and 220, where I had to scramble to find 25.
That said, here are my takeaways on the Super 32, by the numbers.
Don’t get me wrong: a lot of wrestlers improved their stock at the Super 32. Many of them, however, were already on my radar. Only 18 of the 473 wrestlers now on my list were not already on it prior to the Super 32. Congratulations to those 18, but they constitute just 4.3 percent of the wrestlers I’m now actively tracking.
Of those 18, 15 are now members of the top 25 at their weight class. That means that 95.7 percent of the ranked wrestlers in this issue were already ranked before the Super 32 even began.
There’s a new No. 1 wrestler at only two of the 14 weight classes as a direct result of the Super 32. And one of them didn’t even win his weight class.
At 113, Bo Bassett of Pennsylvania took over the No. 1 spot with his 10-5 finals victory over the incumbent, Anthony Knox of New Jersey. At 120, Jordyn Raney of Kentucky, down 14-5 to the incumbent No. 1, Jax Forrest of Pennsylvania, cradled and pinned Forrest in the semifinals. Raney lost 5-4 in the finals to Luke Lilledahl of Pennsylvania, who is in our rankings at 126.
At the other 12 weight classes, there was no change at the top.
The reason there was little change at the top of the rankings amounted to simple math. Only five of our 14 incumbent No. 1 wrestlers competed in the Super 32.
Four of those five competed in the first five weight classes. We already noted Knox (113) and Forrest (120) and neither dropped far … just a single spot, to No. 2. Christian Castillo (106) of Arizona and Sergio Lemley (132), who competes in Illinois but is an Indiana resident, were other lower-weight No. 1s who took belts home.
The only wrestler ranked No. 1 at a weight class above 132 to compete was Rocco Welsh (170) of Pennsylvania, who also left Greensboro with a belt.
I calculated this measure based on the number of ranked wrestlers who competed at each weight class. That would make 106 pounds the most competitive weight; 17 of the wrestlers in my top 25 competed in the event, including my top four, six of my top eight and 13 of my top 18. Next by this measure were 138 (16 of the ranked 25), 145 and 182 (15) and 113, 152 and 195 (14).
At the other end of the spectrum, the 285-pound class included only five members of the top 25, the lowest number of any weight. Only seven ranked wrestlers competed at 220. That’s understandable; when you have a tournament this big at the height of the football season, the number of upper-weight entries will take a hit. The third weight on this list, 132, with only eight, was a surprise, though.
The 176 wrestlers now ranked in the top 25 at their weight who competed in the Super 32 comprised just over half of the total of 350 ranked wrestlers. That’s a pretty good percentage. The total of 223 wrestlers I’m tracking that competed in the event constitute almost half (47 percent) of my total of 473. No wonder it’s the event everybody aims for.
Every Super 32 produces a wrestler who rises from oblivion. This year, it’s sophomore Tyler Eise of Parker (Colo.) Ponderosa.
Eise was the 5A state runner-up at 145 a year ago and though he benefited from a tough Ponderosa schedule that included the Walsh Ironman, the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Doc Buchanan, four of his six losses as a freshman were to unranked opponents. He won the Southern Plains Junior Regional but didn’t compete at Fargo. Up three weight classes this year, his record at the Elite 8 Duals was solid, but hardly spectacular.
The light went on for Eise at Greensboro in a big way. He was one of only two wrestlers in the field to beat five Top-25 opponents, including New Jersey aces Harvey Ludington and Louis Cerchio. Eise finished third after losing to eventual champion Welsh, 11-2 in the semifinals.
One of 17 wrestlers to face six ranked opponents in this year’s Super 32, Eise goes from unlisted to a No. 6 debut at 170. We’ll see where he goes from here — now that he’s one of the hunted.
Ryder Rogotzke of Minnesota, the reigning Junior Schalles Award winner, won this weight class, and he earned it. Rogotzke faced four ranked opponents, three of them currently from the top 25, and is a known commodity.
By the numbers, though, three other wrestlers at the weight were even more impressive. A.J. Heeg, who moved an hour up the road in Oklahoma to Stillwater High for his senior season, matched Eise as the only other Super 32 competitor with five victories over Top-25 opponents. Heeg finished third after losing 1-0 to Rogotzke in the semifinals. A second Minnesota wrestler, Cole Han-Lindemyer, beat four Top-25 opponents, as did Brock Zurawski of New Jersey. The two, who joined Heeg as wrestlers who faced six ranked opponents in the event, made their Top-25 debuts.
The 182-pound class was missing the top four wrestlers in the rankings, the only weight class in which that was the case. That left plenty of room for newcomers to make an impact, and they did.
There were lots of storylines at 138. New Yorker Peter Duke was impressive in winning that weight class. He beat four Top-25 opponents in doing so.
But a Western New Yorker, Cameron Catrabone, was the one doing work at 138 despite finishing only sixth. The junior from Williamsville North was at 145 last season, also finishing sixth after entering the Division I state tournament unbeaten. Catrabone wrestled eight opponents from my spreadsheet at Greensboro, more than any other wrestler in the field, and the seven Top-25 opponents he wrestled also topped all wrestlers.
State runner-up Julian George of New Jersey (eighth) wrestled seven spreadsheet opponents, and Grigor Cholakyan of California (fourth) and Omar Ayoub (fifth) of Ohio each wrestled six. With nine wrestlers who recorded three or more Top-25 wins, the 138-pound class was as deep as any.
Our last item celebrates the accomplishments of a pair of wrestlers who didn’t even place in the Super 32.
One of the most accomplished high school programs in Missouri is The Whitfield School in St. Louis. The Warriors have won six straight state team titles in two different classifications. They’ve won the past two seasons in Class 3, the state’s second largest, after taking four in a row in small-school Class 1.
The star of a stacked middle-weight group at Whitfield is senior A.J. Rallo, a Bellarmine University commitment who will be bidding for a fourth state title this season. But two of Rallo’s teammates, junior Porter Matecki and senior Gavin Linsman, were the ones making the biggest news at the Super 32.
Matecki and Linsman, who will both try to become three-time state champions in 2023, combined for 10 wins at the Super 32, more than half of them over ranked opponents.
Neither took home any hardware, but with three ranked wins each, both make their debuts in the rankings — Matecki in the No. 25 spot at 126 and Linsman in the No. 20 spot at 145.
Linsman is one spot behind another Show-Me State wrestler making his rankings debut, Collin Arch. A Northern Illinois commitment, Arch was one of two wrestlers with four Top-25 wins at 145.
(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.)