By: Alex Steen, Editor
#4 at 132 Kaden Gfeller, Heritage Hall, OK to Oklahoma State
Undefeated, three-time Oklahoma state champion and TOM’s #4 ranked high school 132 pounder, Kaden Gfeller is headed to Oklahoma State. Gfeller had previously announced that he had narrowed down his choice to five schools, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Nebraska and Virginia Tech. Gfeller was third at Junior Nationals last year, wrestling at 126, fifth at Super 32 and was the 2015 FloNationals champion at 113. He projects to be a 141 at the NCAA level.
Why it matters: Gfeller slots in perfectly to replace Dean Heil when Heil graduates. In addition, he is good friends with Daton Fix. The two aren’t a lock to end up in the same program, but this signing won’t hurt the Cowboys’ chances at getting Fix. When you get a really good recruit and that recruit might help you land an even better one, that is a big win.
#11 at 170 Jelani Embree, Warren Lincoln, MI to Michigan
Embree made his first world team, in Cadet freestyle, before he won his first state title. He was the 2015 UWW Cadet national champion, but missed the world championships due to injury. Jelani returned to fine form in 2016, winning a state title at 171 pounds and posting a runner-up finish at FloNationals in the 170 pound class.
Why it matters: Embree seems to still be improving which could lead to him being much better than the 11th best 170 pounder when all is said and done. In addition, he is the type of kid you want to have in your program. He is excellent academically and has performed with the youth version of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Jazz Ensemble.
#19 at 170 Jacob Oliver, Huntingdon, PA to Edinboro
Oliver is a three-time Pennsylvania state placer, going 4-2-1 in class AA. As impressive as that is by itself, the way he won his first title, at 170, in 2016 is even more so. Jacob lost to Anthony Walters (Westmont Hilltop) in the District 6 final, then dropped a match to Anthony Welsh (Beth-Center) in the Region SW tournament on his way to a third place finish. He beat both those young men, Welsh in the semi-final and Walters in the final, in Hershey to ascend to the top step.
Why it matters: Wrestlers from Pennsylvania have a fantastic track record on the NCAA level. If Oliver can win another state title in his senior year and become a two-time champ, four-time placer, he would have the resume of many other D1 All-Americans, and national champions, coming out of HS. He may be a little underrated right now because he hasn’t wrestled much outside of PA and doesn’t have much in the way of freestyle results. Edinboro could be getting a diamond in the rough here.
#9 at 138 Navonte Demison, Bakersfield, CA to Arizona State
Demison has gone 3-2-1 in the extremely difficult California state tournament in his first three attempts. He is also a two-time Cliff Keen/USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals champion. He was second in Fargo in 2015 at 126, second at the Ironman at 132 and won his state title, in 2016, at 138. It will be interesting to see what weight he wrestles next year. He was at 145 for the state freestyle tournament, which he won, in April. He may continue to rise before he arrives in Tempe.
Why it matters: The Sun Devils have been stacking the talent deep in recent recruiting classes and expect to start seeing the benefits from that in the next year or two. However, the answer at 157/165 is not obvious just yet, especially if the Valencias end up at 174 and 184. Demison, should he continue to grow, could be in the mix to fill that gap. Oliver Pierce would be gone by the time Navonte arrives on campus and completes a red-shirt year.