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Eight Recruiting Classes That Missed the Top 25, Yet Will be Very Useful

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photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com

Earlier this week, TOM released its recruiting rankings and 25 DI schools were mentioned and lauded. As we stated in the initial article, recruiting is an inexact science and can be evaluated from many different angles. Also, just because a team does not make the top-25, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t haul in a recruiting class that will be very productive. With that in mind, we’ve scanned the remaining teams that missed the top-25, yet had impressive classes that deserved some mention. Below you’ll find eight programs that signed a group that will undoubtedly elevate their teams to new heights. 

Air Force

#62 John Martin Best (Parkersburg, WV) 157; #87 Giano Petrucelli (Clovis, CA) 165/174; Garrett Bowers (Christian Brothers, TN) 157; Valor Buck (Servite, CA) 165; Gabe Hawthorne (White River, WA) 157; Garrett Henigin (Blairsville, PA) 197; Matt Kaplan (Lake Highland Prep, FL) 197/285; Garrett Kuchan (Christiansburg, VA) 133; Ty Ryan (Raymond Bellis, AZ) 174; Ben Stemmet (Yorkville, IL) 197; Alec Viduya (Roncalli, IN) 141; Robert Woodcock (Southern Regional, NJ) 165

We actually mentioned Air Force in this column last year. The Falcons continue to bring in talent at a higher level and greater numbers than any time in the previous decade. Getting a pair of top-100 recruits, which they have with John Martin Best and Giano Petrucelli, is a remarkable feat, no matter what program you’re with. Best had an excellent 2019-20, starting with a fifth-place showing at NHSCA Junior Nationals, then a finals appearance in Fargo in Junior freestyle. After taking sixth at the Super 32 and fifth at the Ironman, Best won the Powerade. Petrucelli was a four-time California state medalist that went from fourth at 132 lbs as a junior to a state champion at 170 lbs. Giano was also a finalist at the Doc Buchanan this year. 

Other notables in the Falcons recruiting class are Matt Kaplan, Garrett Kuchan, Ty Ryan, and Alec Viduya. Kaplan was the fourth-ranked 220lber in the Southeast and placed top-five at the Beast of the East and the Doc B. Kuchan is a three-time Virginia finalist that also had a strong showing at the Beast, went he was fifth at 132. He finished the year fifth in the Southeast in a tough weigh. Ty Ryan was a two-time Arizona state champion that was undefeated as a senior and was third in the South at 170 lbs. Viduya bookended his career with a pair of Indiana state titles and was ninth in the Great Lakes.

For a program that was not able to push through any wrestlers to the national tournament in 2020, getting help at all weight is welcomed. A lot of focus has been directed towards the middleweights, so look for those to be strong for Sam Barber’s team in the coming years.

Bucknell

#84 Dorian Crosby (Cathedral Prep, PA) 197; #124 Kurtis Phipps (Norwin, PA) 125/133; #154 Austin Walley (Ellwood City, PA) 184; Miles Bassett (Ladue Watkins, MO) 174; Kieran Calvetti (Delbarton, NJ) 197; Nick Delp (Kiski Area, PA) 174; Matthew Kidwell (Father Judge, PA) 165; Logan Sanom (Detroit CC, MI) 149; Thomas Spirk (Saucon Valley, PA) 141

Earlier this month, TOM spoke with Bucknell head coach Dan Wirnsberger and one of the topics broached was the team’s impressive recruiting class. While recruiting is truly a staff effort, Wirnsberger gives credit to Eric Morrill for spearheading the team’s impressive 2020 group. The Bison have three Pennsylvania state champs (Dorian Crosby, Kurtis, Phipps, Austin Walley) that will stay in-state and head to Lewisburg in the fall. Crosby was a three-time state placer that made the Junior freestyle finals last summer in Fargo. Phipps made three Pennsylvania state finals and also captured a trio of titles at the Powerade. Walley got some national attention in the fall with a third-place finish at the Super 32 and improved upon his fourth-place finish as a junior by winning a AA championship this season.

The big three aren’t the only recruits of note who have signed with Bucknell. Kieran Calvetti, Nick Delp, and Thomas Spirk have all placed at either the Pennsylvania or New Jersey state tournament during their high school career. Additionally, Wirnsberger’s team has inked a state finalist from one of the nation’s top programs Detroit Central Catholic. That recruit is Logan Sanom, who placed three times at the Michigan state meet. 

Without the ability to redshirt most of their student-athletes, Bucknell will need these top recruits to contribute from day one. If this group is as good as advertised, it could help the Bison rise up the ranks of the EIWA and challenge that upper-tier that includes Cornell, Lehigh, Princeton, and Army West Point.

Edinboro

#82 Gabe Willochell (Greater Latrobe, PA) 141; #98 Max Millin (Massillon Perry, OH) 285; #165 Ryan Burgos (Hilton, NY) 141; #167 Jacob Lagoa (Lakeside, OH) 174; Sully Allen (Sharon, PA) 157; Beau Dillon (Salem, NH) 197; Ethan Ducca (Lakeside, OH) 165; Aaron McDaniel (Waynesville, MO) 165; Andre Ruiz (Ridgefield Park, NJ) 125

Rewind two years ago when Matt Hill took over as Edinboro’s head coach and the program had to deal with the transfer of seven former national qualifiers. Frankly, it’s remarkable that Hill has been able to maneuver through the loss of those talented wrestlers, qualify two for nationals this season, and sign a class like this. 

Really it has the “look” of those Edinboro classes from when Hill was competing at the school under Tim Flynn. 

Talented PA kid that lost at the state tournament and has a chip on his shoulder (check) : Gabe Willochell

Kid from a neighboring state that blossomed as a senior (check): Max Millin

Talented kid that may be overlooked because he’s from New England (check): Beau Dillon

Decorated studs at the small school level in a power state (check, check): Jacob Lagoa, Ethan Ducca

New York state champion (check): Ryan Burgos

If you can’t tell, I’m very excited about this class for Coach Hill and Edinboro. DI wrestling is more fun when schools like Edinboro are consistently churning out AAs. This could be the next step in getting back to that practice.

Little Rock 

#126 Josiah Hill (Bakersfield, CA) 285; #139 Gavin Carter (Washburn Rural, KS) 197; Khyler Brewer (Staley, MO) 133; Zane Davis (Allen, TX) 197; Alex Hernandez (Poway, CA) 165; Austin Keal (Mill Valley, KS) 141; Tanner Mendoza (Corona del Sol, AZ) 174; Tyler Ross (Lawson, MO) 165; Brooks Sacharczyk (Blackman, TN) 184; Josh Sarpy (North DeSoto, LA) 125; Keegan Slyter (Olathe North, KS) 133

Last year Little Rock’s first full recruiting class made this list, as well. Neil Erisman’s first-class set a solid foundation for the program and this one will help in the same way. The Trojans staff already has made a significant dent into the Class of 2021, too. Erisman and Little Rock got in early on Josiah Hill and Hill ended up winning the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Doc Buchanan before capturing a California state title. Another upperweight, Gavin Carter, accounts for the two top-150 ranked recruits that signed with Little Rock in 2020. Carter was a three-time placer during his time in Fargo. Just missing the top-200 was Khyler Brewer, a two-time Fargo AA, and a three-time Missouri finalist. Brewer capped his high school career with a state title over a highly-acclaimed opponent. 

Two strategic points about Little Rock’s recruiting stand out to me. One their ability to grab talent from their region. Carter, Zane Davis, and Keegan Slyter finished the season ranked in the top-five in the South. With Arkansas still growing at the high school level, it is imperative to draw talent from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Carter, Slyter, and Austin Keal are aboard from Erisman’s home state of Kansas. Davis is from Texas, while Oklahoma is well-represented in the early commits from the Class of 2021.

I also like the fact that the Little Rock staff has signed wrestlers from powerful programs, ones that routinely crank out DI wrestlers. Bakersfield (CA), Staley (MO), Allen (TX), Poway (CA), along with Christian Brothers (MO) in 2019, are all high schools that they can return to each year and pick up college-ready wrestlers. 

Lock Haven

#35 Tyler Stoltzfus (St. Joseph’s, PA) 174; #163 Will Betancourt (Manheim Central, PA) 133; #199 Dashawn Farber (Nazareth, PA) 149; Killian Delaney (West Chester Henderson, PA) 125; Cory Johnston (Glendale, PA) 197; Sage Serbenta (Cedar Springs, MI) 184; Kaleb Snodgrass (Van Buren, OH) 285; Nick Stonecheck (Buford, GA) 157; Billy Talmadge (High Point, NJ) 141; Tanner Updegraff (Hershey, PA) 165

Transfer: Ashton Eyler (Iowa Central CC) 165/174

A late push from a pair of wrestlers that previously signed with Old Dominion (Sage Serbenta and Nick Stonecheck) almost vaulted Lock Haven into a spot in the top-25. First and foremost, the Bald Eagles will get the services of Tyler Stoltzfus, the top-ranked 170 lber in the nation. Tyler swept through the 2019-20 season with titles at the Ironman, the Powerade, and the PA state tournament. He finished his high school career as a three-time state medalist. The other Pennsylvania state champion of the crew is Will Betancourt, who captured the title at 120 lbs after placing fifth and seventh. Stonecheck is a four-time Georgia state champion that was third at NHSCA Junior Nationals last year. He concluded his HS season ranked second in the Southeast. The last top-200 recruit of the bunch is Dashawn Farber, a Beast placer that finished top-three in the state in each of the previous two years. 

Both Killian Delaney and Cory Johnston are multiple time PA placewinners, while Tanner Updegraff was third in the big school division. Out of New Jersey, Billy Talmadge got onto the podium twice and Kaleb Snodgrass was an Ohio state finalist. Also from Ohio is Iowa Central transfer Ashton Eyler who finished third at the NJCAA National Championships this year. 

Aside from the transfer of Chance Marsteller, Scott Moore has largely worked his magic at Lock Haven with recruits who flew under-the-radar in high school. It will be fun to see how he and his coaching staff develop a top-flight recruit like Stoltzfus. 

Navy

#25 Andrew Cerniglia (Notre Dame-Green Pond, PA) 165; #151 Grady Griess (Northwest, NE) 197, #195 Matthew Rogers (Wantagh, NY) 174/184; Gavin Bell (Beavercreek, OH) 184; Dayton Delviscio (Malvern Prep, PA) 125/133; Luke Lucerne (Council Rock North, PA) 133; Gage DeNatale (Locust Valley, NY) 133; Logan Sciotto (Rocky Point, NY) 141; Nate Smith (Bishop McDevitt, PA) 125; AJ Tamburrino (Hatboro Horsham, PA) 157; Grant Treaster (Newton, KS) 125

Expectations will be sky-high in Annapolis with the start of the Cary Kolat-era in the fall of 2020. With a solid recruiting class like this one, Kolat will have a lot to work with. The most obvious piece is two-time Pennsylvania state champion Andrew Cerniglia. During the high school season, Cerniglia was a runner-up at the Ironman and a winner at the Beast of the East. To win his second title, Andrew had to go through a two-time champion himself, in Thayne Lawrence. Coming in from Nebraska is two-time state champion Grady Griess, who was also fifth at the Ironman. Grady was the top 220 lb wrestler in the Midwest Regional Rankings following the season.

After the big two is a whole lot of semi-local talent from Pennsylvania and New York. Matthew Rogers and Gage DeNatale were both NY state champs, while Logan Sciotto was third. Rogers ended up atop the Northeast Regional Ranking at 182 lbs. Luke Lucerne, Nate Smith, and TJ Tamburrino all placed in the top-three at least once during their high school tenure in PA. On the prep school front in Pennsylvania, Dayton Delviscio was a three-time National Prep placewinner that was eight at the Beast. Grant Treaster has a family history at the Naval Academy as his father, Matt, was an All-American for the school in 1987 and his older brother Logan will be a senior in 2020-21. Grant is a two-time Kansas state champion that came up just shy of capturing a third, as a senior. The class is rounded out by Gavin Bell, who did not get a chance to claim his first Ohio state title this year, but was a placer at the Super 32. 

In most circumstances, when there’s a coaching shakeup, it’s typical for a bunch of recruits and existing wrestlers to look for other programs. I don’t foresee this being an issue because, while a coaching staff matters, at a service academy, the wrestlers are committing to the lifestyle and future it will provide. So, you can count on seeing these wrestlers suit up for Kolat in the future.

Penn

#102 Jackson Dean (Cesar Rodney, DE) 149/157; #103 Ryan Miller (Blair Academy, NJ) 125; CJ Composto (Westfield, NJ) 133; Max Hale (Downington West, PA) 184; Ethan Hernandez (Norwalk, OH) 174; Josh Labarbera (Montini Catholic, IL) 197; Vince Mannella (Woodward Academy, GA) 141; Jesse Martinez (Riverdale, FL) 184; Nicholas O’Connell (Southern Regional, NJ) 165; Lukas Richie (Downington East, PA) 133; Kaya Sement (Pope John XXIII, NJ) 149; Dante Stefanelli (Delbarton, NJ) 165; Connor Strong (Mt. St. Joseph, MD) 174; Malachi Wiley (Woodward Academy, GA) 174

For the past two seasons, the Penn Quakers have landed in the top-15 in the recruiting class ranking. Last year’s class with ranked #9 while 2018’s was #13. Both featured substantial incoming classes, primarily consisting of wrestlers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Those groups were anchored by a top-25 talent; in 2019, it was Michael Colaiocco and before that, Anthony Artalona. This incoming class doesn’t have that same blue-chipper that can jump in right away and climb into the top-15. That doesn’t mean this group won’t be extremely beneficial to Roger Reina and staff as they continue to build an EIWA power. The top senior in the state of Delaware, three-time state champion Jackson Dean, will make the short trek to Philly this fall. He was a two-time placer at both the Ironman and the Beast. The Quakers continue to add talent from Blair Academy after signing two-time National Prep champion Ryan Miller. 

We mentioned that Penn has relied on New Jersey for talent and they have three wrestlers that have placed in the top-three at the NJ state tournament with CJ Composto, Kaya Sement, and Dante Stefanelli. In recent years, the Quaker staff has ventured down south for talent and this year, they came back with three-time Georgia champion, Vince Mannella, two-time Georgia runner-up Malachi Wiley, and two-time Florida champion Jesse Martinez. Closer to home, Max Hale was a two-time Pennsylvania state fifth-place finisher. Finally, coming in from the midwest is Illinois state champion Josh Labarbera and Ohio runner-up Ethan Hernandez. Labarbera was a three-time Fargo All-American, while Hernandez was a 2019 NHSCA Junior National finalist.

Overall, the Quakers have received another excellent talent infusion. Of course, based on three years of extensive, talented recruiting classes there are only so many spots in the starting lineup. We’ll have to see in the future how these fights for a starting role progress.

Purdue

#15 Gerrit Nijenhuis (Canon-McMillan, PA) 184; #64 Jacob Rundell (Oak Park-River Forest, IL) 125; #174 Trey Kruse (Stillwater, MN) 149; Dorian Keys (Brownsburg, IN) 285; Cooper Noehre (Greenfield Central, IN) 157; Macartney Parkinson (Mount Vernon, IN) 184

After their best season in over a decade, it doesn’t look like there are any signs of slowing down out of Purdue. Tony Ersland’s team has inked a wrestler in Gerrit Nijenhuis that finished the year ranked second in the nation and 15th overall in the senior class. That’s simply a level of recruit that hasn’t signed with Purdue in some time. Nijenhuis has a resume that’s longer than his wonderful mullett. In addition to a pair of Pennsylvania state titles and two other top-three finishes, Gerrit was a Junior National freestyle finalist and a champion at both the Super 32 and the Powerade, just within the last year. With two-time national qualifier Max Lyon in the fold, Nijenhuis should have the opportunity to redshirt, if needed. The second top-100 recruit in this class is Jacob Rundell. Jacob, a 2018 Illinois state champion, has placed four times in Fargo, never lower than fifth-place. This season he was third at the Super 32 and a finalist at the Doc Buchanan.

After the two top-100 wrestlers, there’s still plenty of talent coming into West Lafayette. Trey Kruse had an excellent senior season claiming his first state title after winning the Bi-State Classic and the Minnesota Xmas Tournament. Kruse finished as the top senior 145 lber in the Midwest and fifth overall. Last season, the Boilermakers bumped up Thomas Penola from 197 to 285 and he responded by making the NCAA Championships. If they want to move Penola back down, there’s another talented big man in the room in Dorian Keys. Dorian was an Indiana state champion in 2019 and was third this season. Also, from their home state, Purdue nabbed Cooper Noehre, who made the state finals last year. Indiana state qualifier Macartney Parkinson rounds out the class and provides more help at the upperweights. 

While this class is small in number, compared to some others, the Purdue coaching staff did an excellent job at targeting weights with senior starters in 2020-21. That’s an area that I value when evaluating classes. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, their top three recruits will be able to redshirt next year behind veterans and not be rushed. 

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