Valencia/Hokit photos courtesy of Cam Kramer; Martinez photo courtesy of Richard Immel
This is the fourth installment of looking at the particular recruiting trends from a specific state. We’ve already hit New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, so we’re going across the country to take a deep dive into California’s recruiting. The first three states previewed churn out All-Americans and national champions on a yearly basis and California is in that elite company, as well.
In six of the last seven seasons, at least one California native has brought home an NCAA title. Since the year 2000, Californians have been responsible for 16 national championships. Not only have wrestlers from Cali won, but they have also captured multiple NCAA titles. Since 2000, six California wrestlers have won at least two NCAA titles (Stephen Abas, Chris Pendleton, Jake Varner, Jesse Delgado, Isaiah Martinez, and Zahid Valencia). Twice in the last decade has the number-one overall recruit in the country come from California (Anthony Valencia - 2015 and Morgan McIntosh - 2011).
Unlike some of the states we have covered previously, California doesn’t have an in-state presence that’s mostly responsible for hoarding top recruits. Most of the blue, blue-chippers have left the states. Only three top-25 wrestlers ended up staying at home in the last decade, #11 Jaden Abas (Stanford), #14 Bryce Hammond (CSU Bakersfield), and #24 Josh Hokit (Fresno State). With the lack of DI programs in California, these high-powered, high school recruits have been forced to look outside the borders of their home state.
One program that has reaped the benefits from California natives looking elsewhere is Arizona State. Zeke Jones signed the Valencia brothers to anchor a top-ranked recruiting class of 2015 and has continued to go back to Cali. His squad hauled a massive Class of 2019 and it includes a pair of California natives that could be in the 2020-21 starting lineup. The Sun Devils prove to be an attractive landing spot for California as it’s in the Pac-12, highly competitive nationally, and semi-close to home (compared to other DI programs).
It will be interesting to do this exercise a decade from now and see how trends change. With the hiring of Chris Pendleton, by Oregon State, the Beaver staff has already begun to raid California for top-talent. Surprisingly enough, Oregon State had only signed one top-100 recruit from California in the last decade. By the early looks of it, those numbers will increase significantly by 2030.
A program that has started to keep some of the top-talent in-state and probably will for the foreseeable future is Fresno State. The Bulldogs program was resurrected for the 2017-18 and coach Troy Steiner and crew have been busy ever since. Eight top-100 recruits have made their way to Fresno State since then and Josh Hokit even became the team’s first All-American under Steiner. Some early success should only increase the Bulldogs recruiting powers.
One of the surprising findings is noticing how well Michigan State has done in California. The Spartans have a pair of top-50 incoming freshmen headed to East Lansing and have signed four top-100 recruits in the last four years. Roger Chandler is steadily building Michigan State back towards prominence and California could play a vital role in that growth. Stay tuned in 2021 to see if anyone else from the state heads to Michigan.
Below you will find an alphabetical listing of all DI teams that have signed a top-150 recruit from California in the last decade (2011-20). In parentheses, you’ll find their high school, followed by their ranking in their respective recruiting class. The rankings are courtesy of TOM from 2017-20 and before that, they are from my old D1CW site. Also, to credit schools that have developed talent once they made it to the wrestling room, I’ve also included non-ranked wrestlers that ended up either earning All-American honors or receiving a top-16 seed at the NCAA Tournament.
Those from California that wrestled at an out-of-state school such as Blair Academy or Wyoming Seminary were not factored in. We also only factored in wrestlers that signed with a college initially. Transfers were not included/updated.
Giano Petrucelli (Clovis) #87 Class of 2020
Natrelle Demison (Bakersfield) #133 Class of 2012
Mike Longo (Corona) #96 Class of 2014
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