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Michigan and Iowa finish No. 1-2 in WIN’s early recruiting rankings
Photos: Left, Super 32 champ Sergio Lemley from Illinois will wrestle at Michigan, which ranked No. 1 in WIN’s Top-30 “Early” recruiting rankings. Right, Ben Kueter of Iowa City will play football and wrestle for his hometown Hawkeyes, which rank No. 2 in the rankings based on commitments during the first signing period in November. WIN will update its recruiting rankings in April after the high school seasons are complete.
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a Rob Sherrill column that appeared in the latest issue of WIN Magazine and listed WIN’s Early-Recruiting Rankings for NCAA Division I programs. This lists the Top-5 recruiting classes. Fans can find the rest of the Top-30 recruiting classes by subscribing to WIN Magazine digitally to get them immediately or in print.
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By Rob Sherrill
It was a momentous 2022 season for the University of Michigan. After going 12-1 in dual meets, the Wolverines had a Big Ten tournament for the ages, edging Penn State for its first conference title since 1973 and qualifying all 10 wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament. Two weeks later, they finished second to the Nittany Lions at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, and Nick Suriano became the first Wolverine to win an NCAA title in a decade. The 125-pound champion was one of six Michigan All-Americans.
Those accomplishments earned Wolverine head man Sean Bormet Coach of the Year honors from the National Wrestling Coaches Association and WIN Magazine. This came on the heels of being named Big Ten Coach of the Year.
So, what did Bormet, who enters his sixth season at the helm, do for an encore? He added another brick to the foundation, signing what WIN is rating the No. 1 recruiting class during the week-long signing period for Division I and Division II schools that concluded Nov. 9.
Bormet has always recruited well, but Michigan’s newest class could be something special. Six recruits strong, all six are ranked in the top 10 in WIN’s newest rankings at their respective weight classes, making the Wolverines the only school to sign a class with six Top-10 recruits.
Sergio Lemley (141) of Chicago (Ill.) Mount Carmel and Beau Mantanona (157-165) of Palm Desert (Calif.) are ranked No. 1 at their weights. Five of the six are ranked in the top five. In what is a strong year in Michigan, Bormet also locked down two of his state’s best, Caden Horwath (133) of Davison and Dylan Gilcher (157) of Novi Detroit Catholic Central, and went west for a top upper weight, Hayden Walters (197) of Corvallis (Ore.) Crescent Valley.
The only Wolverine recruit not ranked in the top five, two-time Nebraska champion Joel Adams (149) of Omaha Millard South, didn’t allow a point in winning a UWW Cadet World Greco gold medal this summer. Even with Mantanona still seeking his first state title in ultra-competitive California, this class could finish with 20 state titles. Horwath, Lemley, Gilcher and Walters all could win a fourth title this year. Expect this class to be foundational in the lower and middle weights going forward.
Iowa coach Tom Brands matched Bormet with five Top-5 recruits of his own, with the Hawkeyes settling into the No. 2 spot. Staying close to home for the second straight year, Brands also landed two No. 1s: Nate Jesuroga (125) of Pleasant Hill Southeast Polk and U-20 World freestyle champion Ben Kueter (285) of Iowa City High, also a Hawkeye football recruit. Ryder Block (157) of Waverly-Shell Rock is another member of Iowa’s currently loaded 3A classification staying home.
The addition of the nation’s top heavyweight, Jim Mullen from New Jersey, elevated Tony Robie’s newest class at Virginia Tech, which includes Pennsylvanian Sonny Sasso (197) among its four Top-10 recruits, to the No. 3 spot. John Smith also hit the upper weights hard in his newest Oklahoma State recruiting class, supplementing in-state recruits A.J. Heeg (184-197) and Jersey Robb (197-285) with No. 1 recruit Brayden Thompson (184) from Illinois and No. 1 contender Christian Carroll (285) from Indiana.
Kudos to coach Mike Grey at Cornell, who landed a Junior Hodge Trophy candidate, Cadet World freestyle champion Meyer Shapiro (157), and was the only coach to earn commitments from seven ranked November recruits. That performance landed the Big Red our final Top-5 spot. With five ranked recruits -— only five schools had more — Chris Ayres secured Princeton another Top-10 ranking, at No. 8, and the Ivy League also landed Pennsylvania (No. 26) in the top 30.
Using figures supplied by Intermat, 262 seniors took themselves off the board by making early commitments to Division I programs, nine more than last year.
Three programs who were part of our final Super 25 high school teams in 2022, Davison and Dundee, who have combined for six straight state team titles in their respective divisions in Michigan, and two-time defending Pennsylvania AAA champion Nazareth, saw four of their wrestlers sign Division I commitments; Lincroft (N.J.) Christian Brothers Academy is a fourth program with four Division I recruits on its roster.
Malvern (Pa.) Preparatory, which sent a national-best six recruits to Division I in 2022, is one of eight schools to send three more wrestlers to Division I this year. Chesapeake (Va.) Great Bridge, which had four Division I recruits a year ago, also produced three more in 2023, and Morristown (N.J.) Delbarton had three Division I signees for the second year in a row.
Also producing three Div. I recruits: Bethlehem (Pa.) Catholic, Brecksville-Broadview Heights (Ohio), Corvallis (Ore.) Crescent Valley, Crown Point (Ind.) and Inver Grove Heights (Minn.) Simley, with 21 other schools claiming two each.
By state, Pennsylvania produced 47 Division I early signees, the most of any state. (The Keystone State produced a record 55 Division I recruits in 2019.) New Jersey came in second, with 26 signees, so one in four of the 2023 early signees came from those two states. However, New Jersey produced the No. 1 recruit for six of our top 30 recruiting classes, the most from any state; Illinois was next, with No. 1 recruits leading five classes.
Minnesota and Pennsylvania produced the No. 1 recruit for four classes, and Florida, Iowa and Ohio supplied the No. 1 recruit for two. California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan and North Dakota each produced a single No. 1 recruit.
Ohio finished third behind Pennsylvania and New Jersey with 18 Division I recruits, and 10 states produced double-figure totals. California and Illinois each produced 14, Michigan, Missouri and Virginia 13 and Iowa and Minnesota 12. The 262 signees come from 33 states, five fewer than last year.
(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.)