Nathan Tomasello photo courtesy of Richard Immel; Malik Heinselman photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
While looking ahead to the 2018-19 college season, we must look back at some of the stars that have moved on and figure out how they will be replaced by their respective teams. There is no blanket answer to the question, “How do you replace (insert graduated stud wrestler’s name here),” but each team has a solution of their own. Some have impact transfers, others have proven wrestlers changing weights, some have a promising freshman, while others hope that existing wrestlers in the program jump levels in their development. Whatever is the case, it’s never easy replacing a great, but let look at how each team plans on making up for their departed stars.
Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) – Four-time NCAA All-American, 2015 NCAA Champion, Four-time Big Ten Champion.
Tomasello has been a stalwart at 125 for the Buckeyes for his career, wrestling three of his four seasons at the leadoff weight class. From day one, he has been an NCAA title favorite for his entire career. For a team like Ohio State that continually expects to contend for a team title, it will be hard to replicate Tomasello’s consistently high level of production.
Replacement: Brakan Mead (So) or Malik Heinselman (TFr)
Mead will likely get the first crack at the spot. He filled in for Tomasello last season, as a true freshman, when he was rehabbing from an injury. His overall record was 9-11, but only 1-7 during dual meets. During his high school career, Mead was an Ohio state champion as a senior and a two-time state finalist, overall. Tom Ryan has demonstrated over the years that he is not hesitant about going to true freshmen, so if Mead isn’t the answer at 125, Malik Heinselman would likely get a shot. Heinselman was a three-time Colorado state champion and won three freestyle championships in Fargo. He also has represented the United States at the Cadet (2015, 2016) and Junior (2017) World Championships in each of the last three years. The question surrounding Heinselman in 2018-19 is his size. His weight class last year at Junior worlds was 50 kg (approximately 110 lbs), and he wrestled as a senior in high school at 120 pounds. The conventional wisdom is that he may be best served with a redshirt year to grow into a DI 125 lber.
Darian Cruz (Lehigh) – Three-time NCAA All-American, 2017 NCAA Champion, Three-time EIWA Champion
In 2017, Darian Cruz brought home the first NCAA championship for Lehigh in six seasons. He went from an undersized, unseeded All-American as a true freshman, to a number one seed at the NCAA Championships his senior season.
Replacement: Connor Schram (Sr.)
Graduate transfer Connor Schram was given a sixth-year of eligibility and will use that year back in his home state wrestling for Lehigh. If healthy, there shouldn’t be too much of a drop-off from Cruz to Schram. However, Connor has been bitten by the injury bug over his five-year career. In 2017-18, Schram had a solid start to his season and was wrestling for fifth-place at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational when he suffered a knee injury that would keep him out for the remainder of the season. In the previous three seasons, Schram was a three-time NCAA qualifier for the Cardinal, highlighted by an eighth-place finish at the 2016 NCAA Championships. Coincidentally, at that tournament, Schram defeated Cruz 3-1 in the Round of 16. If Connor is unable to wrestle for any reason or given a rest by the Lehigh coaching staff, the team does have a group of young 125 lbers that could fill-in, including redshirt freshman Matt Parker and true freshman Jaret Lane and Mitchell Polito.
Bryce Meredith (Wyoming) – Three-time NCAA All-American, Two-time NCAA runner-up, 2018 Big 12 Champion
Bryce Meredith leaves Wyoming as one of the most decorated wrestlers in program history. After transferring from NC State, Meredith surprised the nation with his run to the NCAA finals in 2016. Bryce proved he was no fluke by getting onto the podium again as a junior, and even earning a number one ranking in the country his senior season. Not only will his production on the mat be missed, but he also has meant more to his wrestling program than almost everyone on this list.
Replacements: Jacob Greenwood (TFr) or Chase Zollman (TFr)
At this point of the year, it’s unclear who will emerge as the eventual replacement for Meredith. Unless a veteran cuts down from 149, the started may end up being a true freshman. Zollman was a top-100 recruit and comes in with more national-level credentials. Though he was never a California state finalist, Chase was fifth in Junior National freestyle in 2017 and won the Reno Tournament of Champions. Greenwood is a four-time Colorado state champion that has placed in the top three at the Doc Buchanan Invitational in each of his last two seasons.
Zain Retherford (Penn State) – Four-time NCAA All-American, Three-time NCAA Champion, Two-time Hodge Trophy winner
Penn State only lost two qualifiers from their 2018 NCAA Championship winning team, but obviously, the most significant void is the loss of Zain Retherford. After wrestling as a true freshman in 2013-14 and redshirting the next year, Zain returned to the Nittany Lions lineup and did not lose a match over the final three years of his career. Retherford will obviously be impossible to replace, but the Nittany Lions will really be hard pressed to find anyone that can go through three seasons, only failing to earn bonus points in nine bouts.
Replacements: Brady Berge (Fr) or Jarod Verkleeren (Fr)
It looks like Brady Berge may have the upper hand at this point when it comes to winning the starting spot at 149 lbs. During his redshirt season, Berge’s only competition came at 157 where he went 4-1, losing only to two-time NCAA qualifier Mike D’Angelo (Princeton). Brady will be representing the United States at 70 kg this fall, wrestling at the Junior World Championships in Trnava, Slovakia. In 2015, Berge was a Cadet World team member, as well. His competition Jarod Verkleeren was also a teammate of Berge on the Cadet World team in 2015, where Jarod won a gold medal at 63 kg. Verkleeren’s redshirt campaign was spent at 149 lbs, where he won the Bearcat Open and placed seventh at the Southern Scuffle. His Scuffle losses came at the hands of All-American Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa) and two-time NCAA qualifier Jared Prince (Navy).
Ronnie Perry (Lock Haven) – 2018 NCAA runner-up, Three-time NCAA qualifier, Two-time EWL champion
Ronnie Perry became one of the darlings of the 2018 NCAA Championships, with his series of upsets on the way to the NCAA Finals. Though it was his first time getting onto the podium, he had been a fixture in the lineup for the Bald Eagles. What should be encouraging for Lock Haven fans is that Perry was not a blue-chip recruit, he grew over time, so maybe his replacement can flourish under Scott Moore, as well.
Replacement: Collin Glorioso (So)
From the returning wrestlers on the Lock Haven roster, it looks as if Collin Glorioso will be the one who emerges at 149 lbs. Glorioso redshirted the 2016-17 season and amassed a 24-9 record in open competition. Last year, while competing exclusively in open tournaments, Collin was 12-6. He has yet to wrestle in a dual meet for the Bald Eagles, but his overall body of work while unattached is encouraging.
Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) – Four-time NCAA All-American, 2016 NCAA Runner-up, Three-time Big Ten runner-up
The 2018-19 Hawkeye lineup is pretty much intact except for 149 lbs with the graduation of Brandon Sorensen. Brandon has the misfortune of being in the same weight class and conference as Zain Retherford, one of the best collegiate wrestlers of all-time. Otherwise, Sorensen may have an NCAA title or two under his belt.
Replacement: Patricio Lugo (Jr)
Iowa is probably better off than any other team in trying to replace their departed star. While some of the freshmen on this list may have a bigger upside, Lugo is the most dependable option, with the best track record. Lugo went 63-18 in two seasons starting for Edinboro. As a true freshman he came up a match shy of earning All-American honors, and as a sophomore, he captured his first EWL title and entered nationals as the eighth seed. He is one of the few collegiate wrestlers with a win over Sorensen on his resume. Now after spending a year-plus redshirting in the Iowa room under the direction of the Brands brothers and with a deeper array of practice partners, the sky is the limit for Lugo.
Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) – Four-time NCAA Finalist, Two-time NCAA Champion, Four-time Big Ten Champion
Like a few others on this list, Isaiah Martinez leaves as perhaps the best wrestler in the history of his school. Martinez was the first wrestler since Cael Sanderson to go undefeated as a freshman and achieved the rare feat of earning a top seed at nationals four times, and his two NCAA titles put him in a tie for the most in Illinois history.
Replacement: Johnny Mologousis (Fr)
It looks like the successor to Martinez will be redshirt freshman Johnny Mologousis who spent his initial year in Champaign at 157 lbs. Competing unattached he compiled a 9-6 record, which was highlighted by a runner-up finish at the season-opening Michigan State Open. In high school, Mologousis was a two-time Illinois state runner-up in Class 3A. The Illini have also have Iowa-transfer Joey Gunther, those he wrestled in the 2017-18 season at 174 lbs, and looks likely to stay there this year.
Bo Jordan (Ohio State) – Four-time NCAA All-American, 2017 NCAA Runner-up, 2017 Big Ten Champion
The second of three, four-time All-Americans that the Buckeyes need to replace, Bo Jordan was a consistent force in Ohio State’s lineup his entire career. He never finished lower than fifth at NCAA’s and third in the Big Ten, despite battling lingering foot and leg injuries for the better part of three seasons. Jordan also never wrestled below his seed at the NCAA Championships.
Replacement: TeShan Campbell (Sr)
The most likely scenario to replace Bo Jordan starts with 2018’s 165 lber TeShan Campbell moving up a weight class. Campbell transferred to Ohio State from Pittsburgh before the 2017-18 season with high hopes. He was coming off an ACC title and a top ten seed at the 2017 NCAA Championships. After the change of the calendar from 2017 to 2018, TeShan went into a big slump losing six straight dual meets and was winless in conference duals. Though Campbell was able to pick up a pair of wins at Nationals, it’s safe to say that his junior season was not up to his expectations. Could weight have been a problem with his struggles? We’ll see as he moves up to 174 in 2018-19.
Michael Macchiavello (NC State) – 2018 NCAA Champion, Two-time NCAA Qualifier, Two-time ACC runner-up
One of the best success stories of the 2017-18 season came from NC State’s Michael Macchiavello who claimed the NCAA title at 197 lbs, despite never having ‘AA’ed before. Macchiavello had only qualified for nationals once prior. He was the first North Carolina native to win an NCAA title since Tab Thacker did so for the Wolfpack in 1984.
Replacement: Tyler Johnson (Jr)
For NC State to duplicate the success of last seasons fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships, they will need to replace NCAA Champion Michael Macchiavello adequately. Years of good recruiting has put the Wolfpack in position to have depth at most other spots in the lineup, though they may have questions at 197. Tyler Johnson has been in the program for a few years now and has a career record of 15-15. He has appeared in seven duals over two seasons, winning three of them. While he has better pre-collegiate credentials than Macchiavello, Pat Popolizio’s staff hopes that he breaks out in his junior season, like Macchiavello.
Jared Haught (Virginia Tech) – Three-time NCAA All-American, 2018 NCAA Runner-up, Two-time ACC Champion
Jared Haught came up just short in his quest to become the Hokies first NCAA Champion, losing to conference foe Macchiavello in the NCAA Finals. Haught had previously defeated him in all of their prior meetings. Over his career, Jared developed from an unheralded recruit to become only the fourth three-time All-American in program history.
Replacement: Tom Sleigh (Sr)
Initially, it looked like the successor to Haught would be the in-state product, John Borst. John was a runner-up to Jacob Warner at the UWW Junior World Team Trials and had a 20-5 record while redshirting. Then the Hokies got the services of graduate transfer Tom Sleigh, formerly of Bucknell. Sleigh was a three-time NCAA qualifier for the Bison and had a 2017 season where he was second in the EIWA and the 13th seed at Nationals. Last year his season was ended early with an injury. Either way, with Sleigh or Borst, Virginia Tech should get good production out of this weight class in 2018-19.
Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) – Three-time NCAA Champion, 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist, Two-time World Champion
After winning three World/Olympic championships during his collegiate career, Kyle Snyder will now get the opportunity to leave folkstyle wrestling behind and focus strictly on freestyle. Snyder lost only one match over the final three years in Columbus and became the first heavyweight since Carlton Haselrig in 1987-89 to win three NCAA Championships.
Replacement: Chase Singletary (Fr)
Though it’s impossible to replace Snyder, the Buckeyes have had their share of time to prepare for life without Snyder over the past three years. Due to his international schedule, Snyder has missed big chunks of the Buckeyes regular season slate. Stepping in for Kyle will be redshirt freshman Chase Singletary, a two-time National Prep and Ironman champion from Blair Academy. Singletary had an impressive 22-3 record last year while redshirting. He picked up titles at the Princeton Open and the Purple Raider Open and looks ready to compete as a high-quality DI 285 lber.
Adam Coon (Michigan) – Three-time NCAA All-American, Two-Time NCAA Runner-up, Two-time Big Ten Runner-up
Like Brandon Sorensen, Coon had bad-timing, as he was in a weight class that included the great Kyle Snyder. Adam was able to get a win over the Olympic gold medalist in their dual meet, though he came up just short in the Big Ten and NCAA finals. Earlier this offseason, TOM wrote about Coon’s career and how he is the best 285 lber without an NCAA title the past twenty years, minimum.
Replacements: Mason Parris (TFr) or Luke Ready (Fr) or Zachery Nemec (Fr)
The long-term replacement for Coon will be Mason Parris. It’s up to Parris and the Michigan coaching staff as to when that process will begin. In a perfect world, Mason would be best served to spend a year bulking up into the weight class, as he was a 220 lber this past high school season. Initially, he may struggle with the upper echelon at the weight class, which are currently all full-sized heavys. However, the Wolverines will be looking to win another NCAA team trophy and neither of the other two options, Ready and Nemec, had a record above .500 during their redshirt season.
Jacob Kasper (Duke) – Two-time NCAA All-American, Three-time NCAA Qualifier, Three-time ACC Finalist
Jacob Kasper grew from a non-NCAA qualifier at 184 lbs as a freshman, to a two-time NCAA All-American at 285 pounds. He also was one of the most entertaining wrestlers in recent memory, with a brash confidence that forced fans and critics alike to take notice of him and Duke wrestling.
How do you replace Jacob Kasper? At this time there is no clear-cut heavyweight in line. Duke does have three 197 lbers Alec Schenk, Louis Castellano, and Araad Fisher. One of the three could bump move up in 2018-19.