2022 Fargo 16U showcased many 2023-24 HS Wrestlers of the Year

Updated: June 14, 2024

Photo: The 2022 16U Freestyle Nationals featured 10 young men who were named WIN’s Wrestlers of the Year in 2023-24, including Ben Davino of Illinois (above left), who beat Landon Robideau of Minnesota. (Tony Rotundo photo)

By Rob Sherrill

It’s that time of the year. Another exciting high school wrestling season is in the books. And that means it’s time for my annual contribution to WIN’s awards issue: our selections as WIN’s Wrestlers of the Year in every state.


As we evaluated the nation’s many outstanding wrestlers, which begins on page 38 of this issue, one theme stood out. Or rather, one event — the 16U Nationals held every year since 1986 and in Fargo since 1996 — and its impact just might change the way you look at what happens at the FargoDome this July and beyond.

We tend to focus on the Junior divisions, especially the Junior freestyle meet. That’s understandable because the 16U competitors, even the standouts, are generally an exercise in projection. What are they now, and what might they become?

If this year’s Wrestlers of the Year selections are any indication, the tournament that might go down as the greatest ever won’t be the Junior Nationals. My vote, at the moment, goes to the 16U Nationals in freestyle in 2022.

Let’s look at the numbers. Eight of the Wrestlers of the Year you’ll be reading about in this issue won the 16U Freestyle that year. Two of them beat fellow Wrestler of the Year selections in their championship matches. Two other Wrestlers of the Year finished third in that tournament; two more finished fifth. That adds up to 14 Wrestlers of the Year — nearly three in 10 — who placed in the top five in that star-studded tournament.

The eight who won that event: Jayden Raney of Kentucky; Marcus Blaze of Ohio; Ben Davino of Illinois; Peter Duke of New York; LaDarion Lockett of Oklahoma; Aoeden Sinclair of Wisconsin; Dreshaun Ross of Iowa and Cash Henderson of Utah.

Blaze beat Anthony Knox of New Jersey and Davino beat Landon Robideau of Minnesota in all-Wrestler of the Year finals. Jacob Bouyssou of Rhode Island and Sampson Stillwell of Missouri finished third in the event, Jordyn Raney of Kentucky and Cameron Stinson of North Carolina fifth. Stillwell went on to win Greco-Roman gold later that week.

Additionally, that group has produced three World gold medalists and seven World Team members. Incredible. 

They outnumbered the three Wrestlers of the Year who won Junior National titles in 2022 — Tyler Garvin of Maryland, Mack Mauger of Idaho and Cody Merrill of California.

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, strength of competition, 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 point to the resume.

By and large, we held ourselves to one selection per state. Talk about tough calls. There were plenty of them. The only exception was made in Kentucky, for obvious reasons, and the Raney brothers earned that co-distinction for the second straight year.

So, here’s a look at the 51 wrestlers, from 50 states, who WIN named as Wrestlers of the Year, by the numbers (* – includes co-Wrestlers of the Year):
Grade: Senior – 30; Junior – 16; Sophomore – 4; Freshman – 1; The strength of the junior class, as you’ve just read, should now be evident, with the only freshman hailing from Arkansas.

Repeat selections from 2023: 13

State titles won: Five – 3; Four – 12; Three – 25*; Two – 8; One – 3; New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota produced the five-time champions. One four-time champion could close his career as a six-time champion. Eleven of the three-time champions could close their careers as four-time champions a year from now, and one could become a five-time champion. Three of the two-time champions and one of the one-time champions also have four-title careers in play.

Won title with all pins in state tournament:  17

Losses this season (not including New England Championships matches): Undefeated – 24; 1 loss – 13; 2 losses – 8; 3 losses – 2; 4 losses – 4; There were 31 undefeated wrestlers a year ago, and 33 two years ago. Tough schedules helped many Wrestlers of the Year honorees overcome less than sterling won-loss records.

Undefeated in career: Senior – 3; Junior – 1; Freshman – 1

College commitments (seniors only): 2 – Cornell, Iowa, Missouri, Navy; 1- American, Buffalo, Iowa State, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, Northern Colorado, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Rutgers, Stanford, Virginia Tech and Wyoming

Other accomplishments

• World gold medalists – 4; World silver medalists – 1; World bronze medalists – 1; World Team members – 10

• NHSCA Senior Nationals champions – 4; NHSCA Senior Nationals All-Americans – 2; NHSCA Junior Nationals champion (2024 only) – 1; NHSCA Sophomore Nationals champion (2024 only) – 1

• Junior National freestyle or Greco champions – 4; Junior National freestyle or Greco All-Americans – 9

• 16U National freestyle or Greco champions – 11

• Super 32 champions – 5; Super 32 place-winners – 8

• Ironman champions – 7; Ironman place-winners – 7

• Flowrestling’s Who’s No. 1 wrestlers – 8 (5 won, 3 lost)

Nearly every Wrestler of the Year gave himself plenty of competition opportunities in a variety of styles and venues. The events listed above were common to most of the wrestlers who not only were selected, but to those who were under serious consideration.

Who were the wrestlers we shoehorned into all these categories? You’re about to find out. It’s time to read all about this year’s Wrestlers of the Year, state by state. Enjoy!

(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.)