The 2016-17 high school wrestling season was filled with incredible moments across the country. Fans, coaches, and athletes alike were often left in awe at the remarkable events they saw unfolding before them on the mat. With the season in the books, we’re looking back at a few of those moments. Please join us now as we recount the top eight upsets from the 2016-17 season.
8. Vasquez Makes His Presence Known in The High School Level
Most California fans were calling him the next Aaron Pico and eager to see how fab freshman Jesse Vasquez of St. John Bosco would do at the high school level. Vasquez didn’t disappoint his fans as he showed the country why he was considered the best incoming freshman for the class of 2020 in California by pinning 2015 Walsh Jesuit Ironman champion, Nate Keaton, from Circleville, Ohio, in the first round of their quarterfinal match in this year’s edition of the Ironman. Vasquez, who was the sixteen-seed, kept the momentum going and wound up as the runner-up at 113. Months later Vasquez went on to become the seventh freshman in the CIF California state tournament to gain an individual state championship.
7. It’s Not About the Singlet
In the state of Ohio and throughout the country, wearing a singlet from such prestigious programs as St. Edward, St. Paris-Graham, Brecksville, or Wadsworth could intimidate most opponents on the mat. However, not all wrestlers react the same way. Zach Donathan, of Mason, Ohio, entered the Walsh Jesuit tournament as the seventh-seed and acutely aware that at some point during the tournament he could be facing a foe from the schools mentioned above. He was right! Donathan’s determination helped him advanced to the finals where he would be meeting two-time state champion Mitch Moore, St. Paris Graham, Ohio, a 2014 Ironman champion. Tied 1-1 after regulation as both athletes traded escape points during the second and third periods, Donathan countered an upper body move by Moore to win 3-1 in sudden victory and become the only Cincinnati area wrestler to win the tournament.
6. Third Time’s a Charm
Air Force recruit Sidney Flores of Bishop Amat, Calif, had advanced to the CIF state tournament in three consecutive years but never achieved All-State status, until this year. Seeded fourth in the 120-weight class, Flores knew the road to an individual state championship wasn’t going to be an easy one. Nevertheless, his training in the off-season with Reece Humphrey and The Titan Mercury Wrestling Club helped him take his wrestling skills to another level. After defeating twelfth-seed Patrick Ramirez, De La Salle, in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, Flores went on to compete against returning state champion Ethan Leake of Buchanan. Up 4-0 at one time during the match, Flores used his scrambling abilities to hold off Leake’s attacks and get the 6-5 upset victory.
5. Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold
As a former wrestler, I cannot forget the names of the wrestlers that got the best of me and defeated me during my scholastic career. The same could be said for Quentin Hovis of Poway, Calif, who was eager to face off with David Carr, Massillon Perry, Ohio, in the finals of the 2016 Walsh Jesuit Ironman tournament, hoping to vindicate himself after suffering a 4-3 loss in the finals of the Beast of the East tournament in 2015. Entering the third period down 1-0, Hovis escaped tying the bout. He then took Carr straight to his back to earn a takedown and two near fall points to win the match 5-2 and become the top-ranked wrestler in the country at 152. Both athletes went on to win their respective state tournaments.
4. Hong Goes Down in The First Round
After a long battle with the PIAA regarding his eligibility to compete for North Allegheny, the second-ranked wrestler in the country at the time Eric Hong, fell, 7-3, to unheralded senior Ryan Resnick of Owen J. Roberts in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA state tournament. Before their state match, Hong was 2-0 against Resnick and was undefeated on the season with a 29-0 record. Regardless of their previous meetings, Resnick dominated their match as he earned all three takedowns, while Hong’s points came via escapes. Hong was a 2015 National Prep runner-up for Georgetown Prep in Maryland and got clearance to compete for North Allegheny in January.
3. Kyle Lawson loses For the First Time in the OHSAA state tournament
Qualifying for the OHSAA state tournament is an accomplishment by itself, placing or winning it makes you an elite wrestler. Lawson’s decorated career included three consecutive state championships and winning other elite tournaments. His first state titles were won while he competed for St. Paris Graham, while his last one was at Olentangy Liberty. Entering the Div. I tournament, he was one of the favorites to win it all and become the 29th four-time state champion in Ohio. However, that feat was never accomplished as he was upset in the quarterfinal round by Cody Surratt of Wadsworth, 3-2, and sent to the consolation bracket where he wound up in sixth place after forfeiting his final two matches.
2. Wyoming Seminary Halts Blair Academy’s Winning Ways
What was supposed to be a historic undefeated season for the Buccaneers of Blair Academy turned into a bad dream on a cold Friday evening as fab freshman Alfonso Martinez of Wyoming Seminary (145) gained the major decision over Anthony DeMartino of Blair Academy, 11-2, in the last contested match to help the Blue Knights upset Blair Academy, 31-27, in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Carpenter Athletic Center. Despite winning just six matches, bonus points were the key as Wyoming Seminary scored three falls and won by injury default at 113 to tally up 24 points in just four matches. The Blue Knights went on to place second at the 82nd Annual National Prep tournament, placing 12 wrestlers.
1. Do You Believe in Miracles?
Forget about heavy underdog Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson in 1990 or the U.S. hockey team defeating the Russians in 1980. The upset by Austin DeSanto, Exeter, PA, over three-time undefeated PIAA champion Spencer Lee of Franklin Regional might be the biggest upset EVER! After suffering a tech-fall loss to Lee last season in the state finals, DeSanto used that setback as a driving forced to help him achieve greatness this season. With five seconds left in the third period of their PIAA championship match and down 5-4, De Santo used a slide by or shrug as it’s known to get the winning takedown that would send shock waves around the country. DeSanto received the most outstanding wrestler award of the tournament and received a standing ovation from the 7,000 plus fans inside the Giant Center. Lee wound up 144-1 in the talented high school wrestling state of Pennsylvania.