Last week, we covered the top 10 redshirting freshmen in the country. This week, it’s time for the non-freshmen to get their due. Unlike the true freshmen we introduced you to last week, these guys have all spent time in the line-up for their school but, for one reason or another, redshirted this season. Most of these guys have been All-Americans before. We used this season’s results to rank the freshmen but considering we have college level results to go off of for this group, we relied more on past accomplishments and what they might do in 2017-18. This was a tough list to make as outstanding wrestlers like Mike Hughes (Hofstra), Richie Lewis (Rutgers), and Ronnie Bresser (Oregon State) just missed the final cut. Without further ado, we present the top 10 redshirting non-freshmen in the country for 2016-17.
10) Jacobe Smith (Oklahoma State), Jr, 174
The two-time NJCAA champion from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M announced himself at the Division I level by pinning #11 Zac Brunson (Illinois) on his way to a title at the Lindenwood Open in November. Smith hasn’t lost a single bout during his redshirt season and has pinned 10 of his 14 opponents. With Kyle Crutchmer being a senior, Smith is in line to slide into the Cowboy line-up next season. When he does, expect to see an aggressive style of wrestling, a lot of wins, and a fair number of bonus points. Though 174 is a young weight overall, expect Smith to compete for the top-eight.
9) Dom Abounader (Michigan), Sr, 184
Six of the current top seven wrestlers at 184 are seniors which bodes well for Abounader as he looks to finally get on the podium after missing out at his first three NCAA tournaments. It was the Michigan senior’s injury that pushed the team over the edge and resulted in the Wolverines redshirting many of their best wrestlers. Because of that injury, Abounader hasn’t gotten to compete much, but his resume speaks for itself. He was the number four seed last season, entering nationals with just two losses on the season. However, Pete Renda (NC State) knocked him off on the way to his third place finish and the Michigan man fell to two-seed Sam Brooks (Iowa) in the round of 12. It was a tough way to end a great season, but with the weight class clearing out, Abounader could end his career in style. Renda should return and Bo Nickal (Penn State) will likely be back at the weight, but a top four finish is realistic.
8) Ryan Millhof (Arizona State), Jr, 125
The former Oklahoma Sooner All-American surfaced at the Edinboro Open earlier this month and handled #17 Johnny Jimenez (Wisconsin), 9-1, just to prove he’s still got it. After a freshman year that did not include a lot of highlights, Millhof’s sophomore campaign clicked into high gear in the second semester as he won a Big 12 title and lost just three times in 2016 on his way to a seventh-place finish at the national tournament. When Mark Cody was replaced in August, Millhof decided to move on and find a new home. He headed west to Arizona State where he is expected to take over at the lowest weight class next season, giving the Sun Devils even more firepower. With four of the top seven at 125 being seniors, he should be in the top five in 2018.
7) Geo Martinez (Oklahoma State), Jr, 149
Another All-American who decided to take his talents elsewhere after last season, Martinez headed south from Boise State to Oklahoma State. His two years in Boise were quite productive as he won the Pac-12 both years and was an All-American last season, finishing eighth. He looked to be the heir apparent to Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State) at 149 after this redshirt season, but the emergence of Jonce Blaylock, who beat Martinez at the Lindenwood Open, and a log-jam of talent at 141 pounds in Stillwater has made that less clear. Still, Martinez is the favorite to claim the starting spot and get back on the podium in 2018. All the high quality competition in the room should only make him better.
6) Zeke Moisey (West Virginia), Jr, 125
It was less than two years ago that Moisey backed up a first round upset over the 15-seed by beating Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) and Eddie Klimara (Oklahoma State) to reach the national semi-finals against Thomas Gilman (Iowa). In a moment few who witnessed it will ever forget, the unseeded true freshman ignited the crowd by cradling Gilman and getting the fall just 52 seconds into the match. Moisey became the first unseeded wrestler to reach the NCAA finals since Carl Fronhofer (Pitt) in 2003. Last season, he was wrestling well, though not second in the country well, before his season ended on February 14th due to injury. Moisey had enough good wins last season to suggest he can get back to All-American status assuming he gets healthy again. When he returns, he may struggle early as he shakes off some rust, but expect him to find his rhythm as the season goes along and be right there at the end.
5) David McFadden (Virginia Tech), So, 165
After off-season knee surgery, McFadden returned to competition in mid-December sparking speculation that he may re-join the starting line-up as the Hokies push for another team trophy. However, Kevin Dresser emphatically declared that no such thing would happen so we’ll probably have to wait until next year to see McFadden in the post-season again. The list of double-digit seeds, McFadden was 14th when he made his run to finish sixth, that have made a big run and then used that momentum to become a fixture in the top-eight is long, but can McFadden build on that momentum after the redshirt year? He has been good this season, but has a couple of losses to solid wrestlers that aren’t likely to make the podium. Still, a redshirt year is a lot different than spending the season in the line-up and we’ve seen many wrestlers with less than stellar redshirt results bounce back from that. McFadden is a good candidate to do so as he enters next season.
4) Pete Renda (NC State), Sr, 184
Renda is another wrestler who looked like he might make the leap to become one of the best in the weight-class, after finishing third from the 13 seed, only to have uneven results this season as a redshirt. The Wolfpack senior to be has taken a step forward in each of his three seasons in the line-up and had a nice win over Myles Martin (Ohio State) at the Midlands this season. However, he also dropped matches to Nate Jackson (Indiana) and Nicholas Gravina (Rutgers). With such a small sample size we shouldn’t over react and Renda should be back at 184 which, as previously noted, is clearing out. If Renda’s career trajectory so far continues, he’ll be right there with the top four once again in 2018.
3) Alec Pantaleo (Michigan), Jr, 149
Pantaleo may not have placed as high as some on this list, but his talent is such that he should head into next season with every chance to finish as high as third behind Zain Retherford (Penn State) and Brandon Sorensen (Iowa). Since both of them move on after 2018, Pantaleo may have the best chance of anyone on this list to eventually win a national title, though David McFadden would certainly have something to say about that. The Michigan junior to be defeated number seven on this list, Geo Martinez, twice last season, including in the second round at nationals. Pantaleo had a long off-season as he prepared for the Junior world championships which took place in September. Going from that straight into a college season would have been tough. Now, with this redshirt year, he has a chance to come back rested and ready to fight. That is bad news for everyone else at 149.
2) Jason Tsirtsis (Arizona State), Sr, 149/157
If Moisey’s semi-final pin was a long time ago, Tsirtsis’ national title was ancient history. In the 2014 NCAA tournament, a redshirt freshman Tsirtsis took out a 2013 national champion, Kendric Maple (Oklahoma), and a 2015 national champion, Drake Houdashelt (Missouri), on his way to the title. He lost in the semi-finals the next season before finishing third, beating Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) in the third-place match. In 2016, Tsirtsis was a shell of his former self largely due to off the mat issues, but still earned the six-seed at NCAAs. He did not place. Some of you may have caught the fact that Tsirtsis redshirted before, in 2012-13. This is, officially, not a redshirt year for him, but he has been granted an additional year of eligibility next season so for all intents and purposes he is redshirting again. Regardless of the terminology, he will be back in 2017-18 as a Sun Devil. Tsirtsis looked solid at 157 at Midlands, but it will be interesting to see if he heads back to 149 given that Josh Shields is doing a nice job at 157 this season. Stay tuned.
1) Adam Coon (Michigan), Sr, 285
When we last saw Coon at the college level, he was pinning Ty Walz (Virginia Tech) in overtime of their third-place match at the 2016 NCAA tournament. The big man was the runner-up at the Olympic Trials in Greco at 130 kg, but announced in September that he had sustained an injury that would force him to use his redshirt year. The two-time All-American has been a fixture near the top of the rankings over the past few years and will be again next season. Though Walz and Connor Medbery (Wisconsin) will be gone, Kyle Snyder (Ohio State), Nick Nevills (Penn State) and Jacob Kasper (Duke) all return to what should be an entertaining 285 pound weight class. Amar Dhesi (Oregon State) should also return after missing this season due to injury himself. Regardless, Coon will be in the running to finish his career on the Saturday night stage. No one is favored to beat Snyder, but Coon will be ready to embrace that challenge.