Perhaps the deepest concentration of talent the high school wrestling world will see during the season, the Walsh Ironman Tournament annually kicks the action into high gear. Regardless of which rankings you use, an obscene amount of top teams are present here including at least six of the top eight in the country.
The field is also laden with some of the top individuals as tournament director, Bob Preusse, extends invitations to bring in guys like Brandon Rolnick, Travis Gallegos, Jesse Delgado, and other nationally ranked wrestlers.
Without further ado, weâ€™ll breakdown the favorites, and storylines, by weight class, in anticipation of what should be another memorable kick-off.
We also turn back the clock a bit, and list the finalsâ€™ results from five years ago.
Last Year: Nick Brascetta (ST Eds) def. Mark Grey (Blair) 6-3
2004: Jayk Cobbs dec. Daniel Kolodzik 4-2
Handicapping the first weight class is particularly tough early in the season when several starters are new to the line-up. But 103 does have some standout names. Kevon Powell of Montini (IL) was a Fargo placer this summer and earned the top seed despite going 0-2 here last year. He may still be undersized as he wrestled 98lbs this summer. St. Ignatius Soph, George DiCamillo, is the only returning placer (8th) back at 103. He gets the 2nd seed with Blair Academy So. Max Hvolbeck, who won NHSCAâ€™s Preseason Nationals, getting the 3 seed.
Billy Rappo (Council Rock-South)
Cory Stainbrook (Streetsboro)
Dean Heil (St Eds)
Kaleb Lemaire (Ceasar Rodney)
Ryan Taylor (SPG)
Evan Botwin (Wyoming Seminary)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Max Hvolbeck (BA) over Billy Rappo (CRS)
Last Year: Devin Carter (CBurg) dec. Hunter Steiber (Monroeville) 8-4
2004: Aaron Hart (SPG) dec Rollie Peterkin (BA) 6-4
Along with 152, 112lbs might be the deepest weight of the tournament. The top seed here goes to National Prep Champ Evan Silver who lost just once here last year (to Hunter Stieber) at the same weight in taking 3rd. On his side of the bracket, Silver will face competition from 4th seeded Jimmy Gulibon, who dominated his way to a state title as a freshman.
In the bottom half, Alex Cisneros (Selma, CA) who won a state title and NHSCA
Freshman Nationals last year gets the 3 seed. The 2nd seed goes to Wyoming Seminaryâ€™s Dom Malone, a placer (5th) at 103 last year. Last weekend, Malone beat Joey Dance of Christiansburg. Dance won Super 32â€™s and Fargo Cadet FS this off-season. Dance is also in this side of the bracket as the 6th seed, setting up a potential quarterfinal match-up with Cisneros.
Corey Keener (7th) of Blue Mountain and Alfredo Gray (6th) of Wadsworth also both placed last year at the Ironman at 103lbs.
Ryan Brooks (Marlow)
Daniel Gaytan (Clovis)
Jordan Hancock (Troy)
Trey Balasco (CR-South)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Jimmy Gulibon (Derry) over Dom Malone (Seminary)
Last Year: Jamie Clark (ST Eds) dec Sean Boyle (BA) 5-3
2004: Lance Palmer (ST Eds) dec Ross Gitomer (BA) 5-0
This weight features a good number of previous Ironman placers with head-to-head history. The top seed is Monroevilleâ€™s Hunter Steiber, last yearâ€™s runner-up at 112lbs. On his side of the bracket is 4th seeded Ty Mitch,Â Ironman participant who has collected a pair of Ohio state titles and this summers Junior FS National crown. Setting up an interesting quarterfinal match, Nick Brascetta (SPG), last yearâ€™s 103lb champ, is seeded 5th. Also on that side of the bracket is Broomfieldâ€™s (CO) Courtland Hacker who placed eighth here last year.
Down below, Jerome Robinson got the nod as the second seed. Robinson, of St. Ignatius, won last yearâ€™s Ohio state title and Octoberâ€™s Super 32 belt. He placed 4th at 112 here last year ahead of 3 seed Kegan Squire (Wadworth) who placed 6th and Reynoldâ€™s Mason Beckman, the 7th seed, who placed 5th.
Although heâ€™s seeded just sixth, Mark Grey is set up quite well. Wrestling for Blair Academy, Grey won National Prepâ€™s, was a runner-up to Brascetta here last year, and was a Cadet Fargo Finalist this summer. His potential match-ups include Squire in the quarters and Robinson/Beckman in the semiâ€™s. I like his chances to get to the finals.
Christian Bailey (Davis, OK)
Geoff Alexander (Shady Side)
Kyle Johnson (Seminary)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Ty Mitch (Aurora) over Mark Grey (BA)
Last Year: Sammie White (Perry) dec Zach Neibert (SPG) 7-5
2004: Jordan Frishkorn (Great Bridge) dec Cam Doggett (SPG) 7-2
Not because of depth issues, but because both wrestlers are that good, 125 appears to be a two-horse race putting top seeded Logan Steiber (Monroeville) and 2nd seeded Devin Carter (Christiansburg) on a collision course/ Both wrestlers have won just about everything under the wrestling sun: Ironman, Fargo, multiple state titles, etc.
Up top with Steiber will be Walshâ€™s Johnni DiJulius a State Champ and St. Edâ€™s Gus Sako a state runners-up and previous Ironman placers. Another tough competitor is Dylan Dâ€™Urso (Reynolds) who placed third at 103 here last year.
On the bottom side, Carterâ€™s main competition is likely to come in the form of CA state champion, Jesse Delgado (Gilroy), who is the 3 seed. Other main challengers will be Jerry Huff of Broomfield, who was a Fargo AA this summer, and Burrellâ€™s Dave Makara, who placed 6th here last year at the same weight.
Jake Corrill (Moeller)
Ryan Hunsberger (Faquier)
Drew Stone (Oak Harbor)
Chase Ferman (Broken Arrow)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Logan Steiber (Monroeville) over Devin Carter (CBurg)
Last Year: Chris Villalonga (BA) dec Felipe Martinez (SPG) 6-1
2004: Adam Frey (BA) dec Matt Dunn (Reynolds) 6-5
This is the first weight (of a few) in which there is a notable scratch. St. Paris Grahamâ€™s Bo Jordan is out.
Defending Ironman Champ, Jamie Clark (St Eds) leads the way as the top seed and the consensus pick to win it. In his half, Frank Martellotti (SSA), who recently signed to wrestle at Penn State next year, sits as the 4 seed and Nick Babcock of Broomfield (CO), a placer at 103 last year, is seeded 5th. A good early round match-up will be Soph. Case Garrison (Bishop Lynch) and Walshâ€™s Nate Skonieczny, the 8th and 9th seeds, respectively.
Cody Pack (Quincy) a CA state finalist has flown in on a solo mission. As the 2 and 3 seeds, Pack and Westlakeâ€™s Nick Lawrence are the top dogs of the bottom bracket. Also figuring to be in the mix is Tyler Raunzahn (Blue Mtn), who was 5th here last year.
Todd Preston (BA) is unseeded. Depending upon where he falls in the bracket, he could throw a monkey wrench into things. Another unseeded kid is Seminaryâ€™s Eric Morris, a freshman buzzsaw that had a tremendous youth career. Maybe this yearâ€™s Felipe Martinez?
Colten Rasche (Montini)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Jamie Clark (St Eds) over Eric Morris (Seminary)
Last Year: David Taylor (SPG) dec. Joe Waltko (N. Allegheny) 16-3
2004: Brandon Shelton (El Reno) dec Travis Blasco (BA) 8-5
The scratch at 135 is Council Rock-Southâ€™s Josh Dziewa, who is out with a shoulder injury.
Monroevilleâ€™s Cam Tessari is the third top seed from his school in a span of 4 weights. On his side of the bracket, heâ€™ll have to deal with 4 seed Luke Goettl (Mingus AZ), a Fargo GR Champ and Iowa St. signee. Also up top is 5 seed Simon Kitzis of Seminary who, despite a DNP performance here last year, has fared well in several national tournaments, including a win vs. eventual FS National Champ Dziewa at Fargo, where Kitzis would eventually place 4th.
Nick Pena of Selma (CA) also looms in the top bracket. Pena placed 3rd at the CA state tournament last year and 5th in Octoberâ€™s Super 32â€™s. Another mouth-watering, Round of 16 match-up will likely pit Pena and Bishop Lynch 9 seed, Troy Silver against each other.
Last year at this event, Felipe Martinez (SPG) burst onto the scene by upsetting blue-chipper Tony Ramos and winning runner-up honors. A Martinez-Ormsbee semi would be wild, and likely, as they are the 2 and 3 seeds. Ormsbee, a National Prep Champ for Blair, took fourth here in 2008, losing to Joe Waltko and splitting matches with Josh Kindig.
Jordan Rich (Central Mtn), who placed 5th at 125 last year, is also in the bottom bracket. He, along with 7th seeded Shawn Fayette (Miamisburg) will have a lot to say about how the bottom half unfolds.
Scott Bosak (Kiski Prep)
Alec Dieter (Clovis)
Zach Epperly (Christiansburg)
Zack Dailey (Perry)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Cam Tessari (Monroeville) over Austin Ormsbee (Blair)
Last Year: Andrew Alton (CM) dec Collin Palmer (St Eds) 5-3
2004: Mikey Benefiel (Montini) dec Sean Nemec (St Eds) 4-3
Another scratch here as Blue Mountain star and Oklahoma State Cowboy recruit, Josh Kindig injured a knee at the Lock Haven Open.
Defending Ironman Champ, Chris Villalonga is the overwhelming favorite to repeat. But the top half is deep with talent and heâ€™ll face tough opponents almost every match. The quarters will see him get the winner of 8 and 9 seeds Ian Miller (Oak Harbor) and Brian Brill (Central Mtn), a Fargo Cadet runner-up. In the other quarters, a likely match-up between the 4 and 5 seeds will pit NHSCA Soph. National Champ Caleb Ervin of Kentucky against Cody Broomall of Smyrna (DE), who placed 3rd in the same tournament.
The top two seeds in the bottom bracket are Stephen Robertson of Montini, who placed 8th at 125 here last year and Travis Shaffer (Derry) a 4th place finisher at Super 32â€™s
Evan Henderson (Kiski)
Clinton McAlester (Clovis)
Isaac Jordan (SPG)
Brady Epperly (Christiansburg)
Matt Martoccio (CR-South)
Nate Ball (Wadsworth)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Chris Villalonga (Blair) over Evan Henderson (Kiski)
Last Year: Dylan Alton (CM) dec Brian Stephens (SPG) 5-3
2004: Dustin Schlatter (Perry) tech-fall Eric Medina (BA)
Andrew Alton is in a good position to find himself back in the finals. The 2008 Ironman Champ, who has since won another PA state title, another Fargo title, and last month won the ESU College Open, should handle the top bracket.
His top opponents will likely be 4th seeded Arizona state champ Logan Addis (Mingus) or Matt Stephen (SPG), the 5 seed, in the semis.
In the bottom half, one of the more underappreciated wrestlers in the country, Brad Squire (Wadsworth) is the 2 seed. Squire is a 3x Ohio state placewinner. Opposite him in the 3 slot is CA State Champion Cody Rodebaugh of San Lorenzo Valley.
Another wrestler to watch out for is St. Edâ€™s Anthony Salupo seeded 6th. The Lehigh signee is certainly capable of winning this side of the bracket.
Robert Henderson (Kiski)
James Linkous (Christiansburg)
Cody Bye (Bishop Lynch)
Andy Candiello (North Allegheny)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Andrew Alton (Central Mtn) over Cody Rodebaugh (San Lorenzo)
Last Year: Brandon Rolnick (Lawrenceville) dec Nick Sulzer (St Eds) 3-1
2004: Chris Brown (Great Bridge) dec Ian Henisch (Ponderosa) 22-8
The third consecutive weight that has a returning champ, this bracket does double duty as two defending Ironman Champs are present. Dylan Alton won last yearâ€™s title at 145 while Brandon Rolnick of Lawrenceville Prep won at this very weight. While theyâ€™re the two favorites, this weight is anything but a forgone conclusion. The deepest weight class in the tournament, there are seven wrestlers here who have signed on to wrestle for Division I schools. And thatâ€™s just the seniors. Every match-up in the Round of 16 will be worth watching at this weight.
Alton gets the nod as the top seed. Up top with him will be 8 and 9 Harrison Hightower (University School), an Ohio state champ, and Cody Allala (Hopewell), a Virginia state champ . The winner will likely meet Dylan in the quarters.
Another R16 match-up that should be a dandy is 5 seed, David Habat, St. Iggyâ€™s State Champ and Edinboro signee, versus Ceasar Rodneyâ€™s Isaiah Meade, a Fargo Cadet AA. The winner will likely face Kiski Prepâ€™s Jason Luster in the quarters. Last year at Ironman, Habat and Luster tangled for 3rd with Luster coming out on top, 3-1.
In the bottom half, Rolnick will await the winner of the 7/10 match-up between Smyrnaâ€™s Kenny Boyles and Blairâ€™s Jesse Shanaman, who placed 6th last season.
The 3 seed is Steven Hernandez of Bishop Gorman (NV) whoâ€™s won multiple state titles, Fargo, and all three NHSCA class events. A potential quarterfinal match waits for him with Travis Gallegos (Foothill, CA) who placed third in his state tournament and 5th at Super 32â€™s at 160.
Travis McKillop (Burrell)
Bryce Caiazzo (Seminary)
Rich Eva (Christiansburg)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Dylan Alton (Central Mtn) over Steven Hernandez (Bishop Gorman)
Last Year: Zach Toal (Troy) dec. Kyle Lang (Brecksville) 5-3
2004: Dave Irwin (SPG) dec Mack Lewnes (St Joes) 13-3
In the top half, we might be in for a semifinal that revisits last yearâ€™s Ohio state final. That match saw Westervilleâ€™s Josh Demas, the 4th seed here, score in the waning moments to capture the state title over Nick Sulzer (St. Eds), the top seed, and who lost in the Ironman finals last year to Rolnick at 152.
The second seed is Pierce Harger (Moeller), an Ohio state champ who placed 4th here at 145 last year. Opposite him in the 3 slot is Zach Skates (OK), also a state champion, who was one round from placing at 152 in last yearâ€™s Ironman.
Trey Adamson (Bishop Lynch)
Brad Wukie (University School)
Chris Moon (Seminary)
Konner Witt (Oak Harbor)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Josh Demas (Westerville) over Pierce Harger (Moeller)
Last Year: Ed Ruth (BA) dec Ethan Lofthouse (Mt Crest) 10-3
2004: Phil Keddy (Unitah) dec Dave Thompson (SPG) 3-0
Chris Phillips, one of the countryâ€™s top juniors, is Monroevilleâ€™s 4th top seeded wrestler. Heâ€™s the overwhelming favorite here, but he should get some good tests from 8th seed Clint Allala (Hopewell) and the winner of Alex Utley, the 4th seed of CVCA and SPGâ€™s Huston Evans, who, as just a freshman placed 7th at 160 last season.
In the other half of the bracket, Shady Sideâ€™s Matt Cunningham, a state champion and Cornell recruit, grabbed the 2 seed. Third seed is Tanner Eitel of Bishop Lynch.
One wrestler to keep an eye on is unseeded Justin Lozano of Selma (CA) who looked very impressive in taking 4th at Super 32â€™s, including a 10-3 victory over New Jerseyâ€™s Nick Visicaro.
Johnny Field (Bishop Gorman)
Zach Nevills (Clovis)
Todd Gaydosh (Padua)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Chris Phillips (Monroeville) over Matt Cunningham (SSA)
Last Year: Max Huntley (BA) dec. Max Thomusseit (SPG) 4-3
2004: Patrick Bond (Great Bridge) dec Hudson Taylor (BA) 3-1
A scratch here as Morgan MacIntosh (Calvary Chapel, CA) will not be available.
The top few guys here are solid. Starting with Evans, who double AAâ€™d in Fargo this summer, as the top seed. On his side of the bracket is CA placer, Tommy Burriel, the 4th seed, and Matt Chavez of Mingus.
The bottom half should feature an interesting semi between 2nd seeded Max Thomusseit of SPG, a runner-up at Ironman last season, and BL import, Steve McPeek, a Fargo AA and Super 32 runner-up. Both of these guys are horses, although McPeek is a rather small 89lber, and Thomusseit is on the really big end.
Cody Johnson (Broken Arrow)
Bobby Lavelle (CR-South)
Chris Smith (Parkersburg)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Mike Evans (BA) Steve McPeek (BL)
Last Year: Joe McMullen (WySem) dec Ben Krakower (BA) 5-0
2004: Jason Marshall (SPG) dec Cody Gardner (CBurg) 3-1
One last notable omission as Don McNeil (Wyoming Seminary) has not been cleared for eligibility.
The #1 seed, Tank Knowles (Calvary Chapel) is the prohibitive favorite here. As just a soph last year, Knowles placed 4th at the tough California state tournament.
His main competition in getting to the finals will come from Brian Beattie (Burrell), the 4 seed, who was an NHSCA Soph National Runner-Up.
In the other side, it should be a showdown between two Ohio guys: Nick Tavenello (Wadsworth) and Beau Wenger (Fairless Hills). Watch for Brook Gosch (Blue Mountain) to throw his hat in the ring, too.
Joe Gatto (Padua)
Spencer Willett (Brecksville)
Mark Meyer (SPG)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Tank Knowles (CC) over Beau Wenger (Fairless Hills)
Last Year: Jeremy Johnson (Brecksville) fall Zach Corl (Blue Mt)
2004: Steve Dumas (Brush) dec Mike Edwards (Reynolds) 6-4
Thereâ€™s a good crop of experienced heavies here, at least 8 deep.
Terry Williamson (Broken Arrow), who finished 4th at 215 last year, gets top billing. Heâ€™ll have to contend with Brooks Black (Blair) early. Black, a freshman in his first year at Blair, won Fargo Cadets this summer.
The other quarter bracket features Wadsworthâ€™s Ben Buzzelli, a 6th place finisher here last year, and 5th seed Ross Ferraro of Montini.
In the bottom half, the top two seeds are National Prep Champ, Mike McMullen (Seminary) and last yearâ€™s Ironman Runner-Up, Zach Corl of Central Mountain.
Max Gladstone (Findlay)
TOMâ€™s Pick: Mike McMullen (Seminary) over Brooks Black (Blair)
By: Willie Saylor, Editor