The ultimate goal of wrestling is to pin your opponent. At the Division I college level, getting the fall consistently requires a level of dominance that is difficult to achieve. Yet, some wrestlers have a knack for turning their opponents over and scoring the most valuable win possible for their team. Below is the list of the top five career pinners returning to the mat this season. Adam Coon (Michigan) would have been fifth on this list with 26 career falls, but he will redshirt this season.
T5 – Cory Clark, Iowa, Senior, 133 – 25 falls
Last year’s national runner-up and now a three-time All-American, Clark has never recorded double-digit falls in a season. This might be the year that changes, though he did take a small step back last year, recording seven falls after managing nine in each of his first two seasons. He is a long way from the top-10 in career falls at Iowa, number 10 on that list is Chuck Yagla with 44 falls, but won’t be worried about that. He has his sites set on the national title and any pins he gets along the way are just icing on the cake.
T5 – Mike Hughes, Hofstra, Senior, 285 – 25 falls (Editor’s Note: It has since been confirmed that Hughes also plans to redshirt this season.)
After recording just two falls during a difficult 13-20 true freshman season, Hughes improved dramatically to go 22-11 with 10 falls in 2014-15. Last year, Hughes was a busy man, wrestling 51 matches, winning 41 of them, and recording 13 falls along the way. He also qualified for the national tournament for the first time, placing third in the EIWA to punch his ticket to New York. He’ll be looking to do so again during his senior campaign. If he gets 50 matches again, expect his pin total to continue to climb rapidly.
#4 – Nathan Kraisser, Campbell, Senior, 125 – 28 falls
Kraisser spent his first two varsity seasons at North Carolina before transferring to Campbell. No matter what color singlet he has worn, or whether he has been at 125 or 133, the one constant has been his ability to get the fall. He got his 10th fall of last season in the first round of the national tournament over the 16th-seed Anthony Giraldo (Rutgers). This season Kraisser heads back down to 125 where he made the round of 12 as a freshman. If he can handle the weight, look for him to challenge for All-American honors and pile up the falls as the season rolls along.
#3 – Gabe Dean, Cornell, Senior, 184 – 30 falls
The most accomplished wrestler on this list, Dean has won two consecutive national titles after a third-place finish in his freshman campaign. Along the way, he has managed to pin almost one-quarter of his opponents. Last year, he wrestled fewer matches, but managed, for the first time, to record more pins than decisions. 184 is a loaded weight class this season, but Dean is the clear favorite. If he can continue to improve his bonus point and fall rates, he could record one of the most dominant seasons in the country this year, despite wrestling some tough competition.
#2 – Dylan Peters, Northern Iowa, Senior, 125 – 36 falls
Peters begins the year in sixth place on the Panthers’ all-time pin list and should move into fifth as he sits just one behind Moza Fay. Fourth on the list is John Kriebs with 53, though, which might be out of reach. Peters flashed the ability to stick top notch opposition a year ago by rebounding from a quarter-final loss at the national tournament to pin the 14th seed, Josh Rodriguez (North Dakota State), and fifth-seed, Ryan Millhof (then Oklahoma, now Arizona State), on his way to his second career sixth-place national finish. Dylan will have title aspirations coming into this year and, if he gets rolling, who knows who he might pin?
#1 – Ross Larson, Oklahoma, Senior, 285 – 42 falls
Larson is a three-time national qualifier for the Sooners and has had double-digit pins in each of his seasons in the line-up. He has 67 career wins, meaning that nearly 63% of his wins have come by way of the fall. He has an outside shot at the school record for falls, which is 58 by Dan Chaid. He would need 17 falls to get there, but he put up 18 in 2014-15 so he has shown the ability to make it happen. Of course, Larson will most want to end his career with an All-American finish which has eluded him thus far.