Every year the debate rages. Which of the brand new true freshmen across the country should redshirt and which should jump right into the fire. Mark Hall (Penn State) had his redshirt pulled in January. Alex Marinelli (Iowa) is keeping his on. We will see, eventually, all of these young men in their respective lineups, barring something unforeseen, but it isn’t as if they have been sitting around idle either. Many redshirting freshmen have put together resumes that would see them ranked if they were eligible. Today, we take a look at the top 10 redshirting freshmen based on their performance this season. Only true freshmen were considered and we are focused on who is getting it done on the mat against quality competition.
Each of these freshmen has earned their way into our top 10 by winning big matches. We broke them and the other contenders down just as we do each week when ranking their varsity counterparts, looking at good wins and all losses to see how they stack up. This is the end result of that exercise, ranking the top 10 redshirting freshmen in the nation.
10) Hayden Hidlay (NC State), 157/165, 15-3
The second-ranked high school 152 in the country to end last season, Hidlay has been competitive right off the bat with the best wrestlers in the country. He has yet to notch a win over a ranked opponent, which holds him down on this list, but he has dispatched every unranked opponent he has come across. Hidlay’s only losses are to #11 Josh Shields (Arizona State), 3-1, second-ranked Michael Kemerer (Iowa), 9-6, and #15 at 165 Dylan Cottrell (West Virginia), 5-3. Look for the Lewistown, Pennsylvania native to step into the line-up next season and compete for All-American honors right away.
9) Blake Rypel (Indiana), 197, 12-5
Indiana successfully defended their home turf when they convinced Rypel, the second-ranked high school 182 in the country and a two-time Indiana state champion, to stay home for his college career. Rypel’s true freshman season has included wins over #13 Shawn Scott (Northern Illinois) and #20 Brad Johnson (Oklahoma), a couple of veterans who have won a lot of matches in their careers. There have been growing pains for Rypel but, for the most part, it has been a positive developmental year with both of his losses to unranked wrestlers coming early. His progression throughout the season is undeniable and, if he can keep it up, that bodes well for next year.
8) Chad Red (Nebraska), 141, 19-3
After a storied high school career during which he won four Indiana state titles, Red has been fantastic throughout his redshirt campaign. His biggest win came at the Midlands where he upset #19 Russell Rohlfing (CSU Bakersfield), 7-5. Red was fourth at the Midlands, losing only to fourth-ranked Matt Kolodzik (Princeton) and seventh-ranked Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers). He has only dropped matches to top-10 foes, as his third loss came to his ninth-ranked teammate Colton McCrystal. With McCrystal having another year left after this one, it will be interesting to see if Red, who won his last state title at 132, heads back down to 133 after Eric Montoya graduates. If not, expect McCrystal or Red to end up at 149 next season.
7) Kaleb Young (Iowa), 165, 20-6
Young had never placed higher than fourth at the Pennsylvania state tournament entering his senior season, but he capped his career in style, winning the 2015 Super 32 before going out a state champion. He was the third-ranked 160 in the country coming out of high school and has looked the part so far. He beat Clark Glass (Oklahoma), now ranked seventh at 157, #20 Lorenzo De La Riva (CSU Bakersfield), and Andrew Fogarty (North Dakota State), who has been ranked this season, at the Midlands. Though he has struggled with Connor Flynn (Missouri), losing to the Tiger sophomore three times, Young has notched 11 falls and done well overall as a true freshman. Flynn is no slouch himself and could make a lot of noise when he finds a spot in the lineup. Young’s only other losses are to De La Riva, Anthony Valencia (Arizona State), and teammate Alex Marinelli. With Marinelli also enjoying a strong redshirt year, expect Young to move up to 174 for 2017-18.
6) Jordan Wood (Lehigh), 285, 12-2
A former Cadet world medalist and 2016 Junior world team member at 120 kg, Wood found himself in the Midlands finals after beating #20 Brooks Black (Illinois), number nine Collin Jensen (Nebraska), and receiving a medical forfeit from second-ranked Connor Medbery (Wisconsin). Though the freshman from Gilbertsville, PA, would fall to eighth-ranked Tanner Hall (Arizona State) in the finals, Lehigh fans had to like what they saw. Wood’s only other loss on the mat this season is to Mike Hughes (Hofstra), who would be ranked if he wasn’t also redshirting before wrestling his senior season in 2017-18. Wood has the resume of a wrestler who should compete right away and he has done nothing this season to suggest otherwise. When senior Doug Vollaro moves on after this season, the Mountain Hawks will be in good hands at 285.
5) Alex Marinelli (Iowa), 165, 12-2
The four-time Ohio state champion that was the subject of endless speculation until Tom Brands firmly declared him to be staying in redshirt this season, Marinelli has put together a season that points to big things down the road. After a quarter-final loss to top-ranked Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) at the Midlands, Marinelli stormed through the consolations, beating Clark Glass (Oklahoma), who is ranked seventh at 157 now, and #20 Lorenzo De La Riva (CSU Bakersfield) before falling to eighth-ranked Anthony Valencia (Arizona State) in the third-place match. His Midlands run was very similar to his teammate Kaleb Young’s, but he got the best of Young last weekend to win the Missouri Valley Open. It seems almost certain we will see Marinelli at 165 next season despite Joey Gunther’s impressive work there this year. The Hawkeyes have some depth at this weight, which could make everyone better.
4) Evan Wick (Wisconsin), 157, 25-4
The bigger Wick was the fourth-ranked 152 coming out of high school and has made himself a thorn in the side of ranked wrestlers during his redshirt season. He has picked off eighth-ranked Clay Ream (North Dakota State), #10 Colin Heffernan (Central Michigan), and #16 Kyle Langenderfer (Illinois) already this season, all at the Midlands. Wick also clipped TJ Ruschell (Wisconsin) and Alex Griffin (Purdue) as he claimed fourth place at that tournament. His four losses include matches dropped to third-ranked Tyler Berger (Nebraska), #11 Josh Shields (Arizona State), Luke Fortuna (Missouri) and Colston DiBlasi (Iowa State), who he has also beaten. With Ruschell being a senior, Wick should slide right into the lineup next season. When he does, expect him to take up residence in the top-20 and, barring injury, stay there for four years.
3) Ryan Deakin (Northwestern), 149, 19-4
With a highly restrictive roster cap, they have just 18 wrestlers currently, Northwestern sacrifices a lot when they decided to redshirt a talented freshman. This season, they decided to go that route with two wrestlers that are lighting it up on the mat. Deakin was #11 at 138 coming out of Legacy High School in Colorado and his resume did not suggest he would be this good this early. After an uneven start at the Eastern Michigan Open where he upset #12 Steve Bleise (Northern Illinois) but lost twice to Jake Tucker (Michigan State), he has been spectacular. He beat Tucker two weeks later at the Michigan State Open, though Bleise got him back at that tournament, and thrived on his home mat at the Midlands. Deakin beat Alfred Bannister (Maryland), who was #11 until he was removed for inactivity this week, #15 Davion Jeffries (Oklahoma), #17 Joey Delgado (Oregon State), #20 Andrew Crone (Wisconsin), and Jordan Laster (Princeton), who has spent time in the rankings this year, on his way to a third-place finish. His only loss of the tournament came to 2016 NCAA finalist Brandon Sorensen (Iowa). This one-time state champion from Colorado has let everyone know that he is a force to be reckoned with.
2) Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern), 125, 14-4
Rivera is another Wildcat who is having an excellent redshirt season and his college resume is similar to Deakin’s. He lost twice at the Eastern Michigan Open, to #16 Brent Fleetwood (Central Michigan) and Ben Thornton (Purdue), but launched himself into the national consciousness at the Midlands. The freshman from Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey upset #15 Johnny Jiminez (Wisconsin) in the opening round and took out #13 Shakur Laney (Ohio) to reach the semi-finals where he fell to number three Tim Lambert (Nebraska). Rivera would go on to top Division III national champion Lucas Malmberg (Messiah) before medical forfeiting his third-place bout. He wasn’t done, however, as he headed to the Duhawk Open at the end of January and bested 2016 MAC champion Barlow McGhee (Missouri) and Jiminez again for the title. With four of the top seven wrestlers at 125 being seniors, Rivera could be in the thick of things in 2017-18. Don’t be too surprised if he is an All-American just over a year from now.
1) Kanen Storr (Iowa State), 141, 24-5
Storr wrestled 29 matches from the time he debuted at the Grand View Open to his fifth-place finish at the Midlands. The three-time Michigan state champion thrived on that packed schedule, downing Zach Synon (Missouri), #19 Russell Rohlfing (CSU Bakersfield), #9 Colton McCrystal (Nebraska), and #15 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) along the way. Just when we thought we’d have to wait until next season to see him on the mat again, Storr decided to make an appearance at the Dave Schultz Memorial International which is a Senior-level freestyle tournament. All he did there was beat former NCAA All-American Joey Lazor, 12-2, former NCAA finalist Josh Kindig, 2-2 on criteria, and Taishi Narikuni (Japan), 10-8, to reach the finals. Though he would fall there to Dimitar Ivanov (Bulgaria), it was another outstanding performance for the true freshman. Four of his five losses are to ranked wrestlers with two of the five coming against the top-10. His only unranked loss is to Javier Gasca (Michigan State) who was ranked at the time. At the rate Storr is improving, he could be in the mix at what promises to, again, be a deep weight next season. 11 of the current top-13 are back, but Storr already has a win over one of them. He is one to watch next season and has earned the top spot among redshirting freshmen.