Photos By Alex Kozlowski and Tony Rotundo
The 2017 TOM High School Wrestling All-Freshman Team is here featuring the two best freshmen in the country in each weight class. The decisions were often difficult as there are many outstanding grapplers to consider. Injuries, in particular, caused problems at a few weights. In the end, we tried to balance a wrestler’s past results with what they did this season. Congratulations to all the wrestlers who made the team! Also, don’t miss the All-Senior Team, All-Junior Team, and All-Sophomore Team!
106: Julian Tagg of Brecksville, Ohio
The 2016 Fargo champ made the most of his first season at the high school level, earning a Walsh Ironman title and a runner-up finish to All-Sophomore Team member Kurt McHenry (St. Pauls, MD) at the Beast of the East. In the post-season, Tagg got an overtime takedown to get past fourth-ranked Lucas Byrd (LaSalle) in the semis before taking out Zach Schupp (Fairfield) to win the state title. He finishes the year ranked third in the nation.
113: Jesse Vasquez of St. John Bosco, Calif.
Vasquez was the runner-up to Gabriel Tagg, Julian’s brother, at the Walsh Ironman and was runner-up again, to Matthew Olguin (Buchanan), at the Doc Buchanan. In the end, though, it would be Vasquez standing on the top step at the California state tournament, topping ninth-ranked Nic Aguilar (Gilroy) in the finals after Aguilar upended Olguin in the semi-finals.
120: Beau Bartlett of Wyoming Seminary, Pa.
Bartlett was one of our Fab Five Freshmen to Watch in PA and he looked the part all season long. He stood on top of the podium at the Walsh Ironman and was third at Powerade before claiming a National Prep crown. His upset loss in the Cadet Folkstyle Nationals finals to Dawson Sihavong (Team California) should only drive Bartlett to be even better. He is currently ranked fifth in the country.
126: Peyton Hall of Oak Glen, W.Va.
Hall’s list of accolades is long for this season alone. His state title capped a year where he set team records for team points scored in a season, most wins by a freshman and most pins in a season, with 31. Beyond dominating in-state, Hall proved he could handle national competition, surrendering just three points as he won all six of his matches to take the NHSCA Nationals freshman crown at 120.
(Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article omitted Austin Boone. TOM regrets the error.)
132: Austin Boone of Lowell, Mich.
In becoming Lowell’s first freshman state champ since 2002, Boone put himself ahead of one of the school’s most famous wrestling alumni. Two-time national champion Gabe Dean didn’t find himself on top of the Michigan podium until his junior year. Boone ended Joshua Edmond’s (Lake-St Mary Preparatory) undefeated season with a 6-3 victory in the state finals. With the last Lowell freshman to win state, Joe Mendez, going on to win four, Boone has put himself in fantastic company.
138: Thayne Lawrence of Frazier, Pa.
In a bracket featuring two of the top-15 wrestlers in the country, a state title was always going to be tough to come by for Lawrence. Those dreams went out the window for good when he fell to Sammy Hepler (Tri-Valley) in the second round of the state tournament. Showing grit and determination beyond his years, Lawrence battled back to win three straight matches before avenging his loss to Hepler in the third-place bout. With Max Murin (Central Cambria) graduating, look for Lawrence to be a legitimate contender next season.
145: Nevan Snodgrass of Kettering Fairmont, Ohio
It is normal for freshmen to struggle a bit when moving to the high school level and Snodgrass’ results early in the season wouldn’t have had him penciled in for a podium finish in Ohio. However, this freshman kept at it, earning a Greater Western Ohio Conference tournament title before losing a pair of one-point matches to seniors on his way to a fourth-place finish at the state tournament. Look for more big things in the coming years.
152: Gerrit Nijenhuis of Canon-McMillan, Pa.
After an eight place finish at the Beast of the East, Nijenhius wouldn’t lose again until the top ranked 152 in the nation, Cameron Coy (Penn Trafford), took him down in the regional finals, 5-2. An early loss at the state tournament was a setback, but Nijenhuis kept his wits about him, rallying for a third-place finish.
(Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article omitted AJ Ferrari. TOM regrets the error.)
160: AJ Ferrari of Allen, Tex.
First, he beat out his teammate, two-time Texas state champion Braeden Redlin, to earn a starting spot, then Ferrari knocked off a pair of ranked opponents on his way to the Reno Tournament of Champions final, losing to number two Layne Van Anrooy (Roseburg, OR). That would be the freshman’s only loss after he ran the table in 2017 on his way to his first Texas state title. Ferrari ends the season ranked 17th in the country and he is the only one of the top 20 that is not a junior or senior.
170: Gaige Garcia of Southern Columbia, Pa.
Another of our Fab Five Freshmen to Watch in PA, Garcia got a late start due to an ankle injury suffered playing football, but when he returned, he was a handful. After rattling off section, district, and region titles, Garcia lost a 3-2 battle to Jacob Oliver (Huntington), who is seventh in the nation at 160, then fell again in overtime before finishing fifth. The two losses at state were just his second and third on the season.
182: Jack Wimmer of McDonogh, Md.
It can be tough coming in as a freshman wrestling in the higher weight classes, but Wimmer did an excellent job battling through a rough early schedule. He may not have gotten the results he would have liked at the Walsh Ironman or Beast of the East, but he finished third at the Maryland Independent Schools state tournament and was fourth at National Preps. He lost at both tournaments to David Schultz (Mt. St. Joseph).
195: Ashton Sharp of Park Hill, Mo.
Sharp was yet another freshman who had to do his work on the back side at the state tournament. He fell in the quarter-finals to Jude Barrett (Hickman), 3-2, but then won three in a row to set up a rematch in the third-place bout. This time around Sharp got an overtime takedown to prevail, 6-4. Putting an exclamation point on his folkstyle season, Sharp took home the 195 pound Cadet title at Folkstyle Nationals as well.
220: Cody Williams of McDonogh, Md.
Williams had an up and down year that saw him wrestle anywhere from 195 to 285. He earned a silver medal at heavyweight in the Raymond B. Oliver tournament, helping McDonogh win the team title. He was down to 195 for the Maryland Independent Schools state tournament where he finished third. At the National Prep tournament, he had a pair of victories before bowing out. For a freshman upper weight at a strong school such as McDonogh, that is a solid start. Expect bigger things to come.
285: Andy Garcia of Pueblo East, Col.
After a sixth place finish in Fargo over the summer, Garcia entered the high school season with high expectations. He was far from perfect, taking eight losses on the year, but when it mattered most, he rose to the occasion. After a second-place finish in Region 4, Garcia claimed a state title with three falls and a 9-5 decision over Alefosio Saipaia (Sand Creek) in the finals. After that, he claimed a Cadet Folkstyle Nationals title as well.
106: Anthony Clark of Delbarton, N.J.
113: Robert Howard of Bergen Catholic, N.J.
120: Josh Saunders of Christian Brothers, Mo.
126: Alex Poniros of Ocean Township, N.J.
132: Joshua Edmond of Lake-St Mary Preparatory, Mich.
138: Sonny Santiago of St. John Bosco, Calif.
145: Aurelius Dunbar of Mercersburg, Pa.
152: Aaron Gandara of Cibola, Ariz.
160: Luke Nichter of Chambersburg, Pa.
170: Guillermo Escobedo of St. John Bosco, Calif.
182: Sam McNulty of Perkins, Ohio.
195: Hunter Catka of Sun Valley, Pa.
220: Breslin Walker of CVCA, Ohio.
285: D.J. Lundy of Irwin County, Ga.