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High School Wrestling

Five Breakout Stars from the 2019 Walsh Ironman

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photo courtesy of Richard Immel

Even two days after the conclusion of the Walsh Ironman, there is still plenty to unpack from an incredible tournament. The tournament is billed as the top high school event in the regular season and lived up to its name. There was a dominant team in Wyoming Seminary, an all-time great at the tournament wrapping his Ironman career up (Braxton Amos), and plenty of upsets. Also, there are wrestlers that improved their stock over the weekend and make themselves household names for high school wrestling fans. That is who we are focusing on today, five competitors that had breakout tournaments. While some of these athletes have national credentials behind their name, none are currently ranked and have ever won or placed highly at a tournament with as much prestige as the Ironman. Not all of these wrestlers won their respective weight class, but they did enough to catch our eye and the eyes of fans around the country, not to mention the slew of DI coaches that were on hand, as well. Here are the five breakout performances from the 2019 Walsh Ironman. 

Drew Munch (Wyoming Seminary, PA)

We’re starting this off with Drew Munch, who it may be unfair to, calling him a breakout star. Munch was third at National Preps last season and won the championship as a freshman, so it’s not as if he was an unknown commodity to high school pundits. What Munch has done in 2019-20 is to take his game to another level. Drew made his way to the Ironman finals with pins in all four bouts leading up to the championship. Three of those falls came at the expense of Ohio state placewinner Logan Ours, two-time Virginia champion Evan Buchanan, and Ohio state champion Davin Rhoads. For the championship, Drew downed Ethen Miller (Park Hill), who is considered the #33 prospect in the high school Class of 2021. Munch was never in much danger and cruised to a 10-4 win and the 132 lb title. He was one of three champions at the tournament for Wyoming Seminary. Before this weekend, Munch’s highest finish at the Ironman was sixth place a year ago. It’s safe to say that Munch will also be featured prominently in the next edition of the national rankings, as he was not among the top-20 in the last update. Drew has already signed to compete at the next level with Lehigh.

Dalton Harkins (Malvern Prep, PA)

We’ll get it out of the way immediately. There was some controversy surrounding the officiating in the finals of the 152 lb bout. More specifically, the stall calls. That shouldn’t take away from the tournament that Dalton Harkins turned in, though. Harkins is another wrestler that entered the weekend on the outside of the national high school rankings looking in. Seeded 14th at the 152 lb weight class, Harkins blanked eighth-ranked 160 lber, Bilal Bailey (Thornton Fractional North), in the Round of 16, which started his remarkable run. Next up was third-ranked Cole Handlovic (Bethlehem Catholic), who Dalton upset in tiebreakers, 4-1. To clinch a berth in the finals, Harkins didn’t need extra time against sixth-ranked Peyton Hall (Oak Glen), he just jumped out to an 8-0 lead after two periods and hung on to win 9-2. Dalton put an exclamation point on his championship with an incredible ending to his finals bout against Travis Mastrogiovanni (Blair Academy) ranked second in the nation. With Mastrogiovanni inches against for securing the winning takedown, Harkins used a chin-whip to toss the Blair wrestler to his back, getting a takedown of his own and, more importantly, the fall. In his first three years at Malvern Prep, Dalton has placed third at the National Prep Championships twice and fourth as a junior. He has already committed to wrestling for coach Kevin Ward with Army West Point.

Oh, and Dalton is TOM’s HS Wrestler of the Week!

Jaden Bullock (Oscar Smith, VA)

We are currently in an unprecedented era of college recruiting. There are only a handful of top 100 seniors that are uncommitted in the high school Class of 2020, so most of the top ones at the Ironman were already spoken for. That makes things all the more chaotic when you have a wrestler like Jaden Bullock storm onto the scene. Some began to take notice when the one-time Virginia state champion knocked off the fourth seed, Andrew Donahue (Wyoming Seminary), one of the top sophomores in the nation. This occurred in the quarterfinals when Bullock notched takedowns in the first two periods and never looked back, winning 6-3. It was the semifinal match against top-seeded Nevan Snodgrass (Fairmont) that really made everyone pay attention. The complexion of the bout changed in the first period when trailing 2-1, Bullock locked up a tilted and exposed Snodgrass for two back points, which gave him a 5-2 lead heading into the second period. Another pair of nearfall points, to start off the second period, started to put the match out of reach for Snodgrass. He would go on to win 12-6. Bullock’s surprising win over the seventh-ranked 170 lber in the nation, made dozens of college coaches in attendance scramble to figure out just who this kid was. With the amount of coverage available these days, it isn’t that often where a kid comes seemingly out of nowhere to make the Ironman finals. Some coaches came up to me, knowing I’m from Virginia and asked, just who he was. Of course, I couldn’t give them much more info than state champion at VA’s largest classification (yes, we have six public school champions), a two-time national prep qualifier, and a winner of four matches in Fargo. Expect the recruiting battles to get hot and heavy for this senior that is over six feet tall, well-built, has some good scrambling skills and is tough on top. Even a finals loss to Lock Haven signee Tyler Stoltzfus (St. Joseph’s) didn’t diminish his stock in the minds of the coaches who were watching. 

Gabe Arnold (Wyoming Seminary, PA)

Going into the tournament, what I knew about Wyoming Seminary’s 160 lber Gabe Arnold was that he was a super-talented freshman from Georgia and a cousin of J’Den Cox. Now that his family ties have been mentioned, hopefully, we won’t have to talk about them every time he’s featured on TOM. While Gabe’s performance, that could be quite frequently. At first glance, Gabe appears to be a bit small for the 160 lb weight class. Arnold is competing in a lineup that includes an Ironman champion at 145 lbs (Lachlan McNeil) and a two-time National Prep champion at 152 (Connor Kievman), so he may be wrestling up a weight or two because of the talent around him in the lineup. Even so, based on the results, you’d never know the difference. Arnold was the 16th seed at 160 lbs and knocked off the #4 (John Martin Best), #6 (AJ Kovacs), #7 (Dominic Isola), and #9 (Keegan Rothrock) seeds during his journey through the consolations. He was on the backside after losing to the eventual champion Paddy Gallagher (St. Edward) in the Round of 16, 8-2. That happened to be Gallagher’s closest match prior to the finals. Gabe finished his six-match jaunt through the consi’s by edging Waynesburg junior Luca Augustine, also a surprising consolation finalist, 4-3. One thing I like about Arnold is that he isn’t a fully-developed freshman that will bully his way through the opposition. He still has room to grow and add muscle and no one can question his toughness after what he displayed on Thursday and Friday against older competition. 

Jake Evans (Elyria, OH)

When breaking down the brackets, pre-tournament, I figured that the 182 lb final would probably be chalk with #1 Anthony D’Alesio (Canfield) meeting #2 Rylan Rogers (Blair Academy). Half of it was right as Rylan Rogers made the finals on the bottom half of the bracket. Elyria junior Jake Evans spoiled that potential matchup by busting through and making the finals. Jake survived a Round of 16 battle with Army West Point recruit Walker Stephenson (Hillcrest) before prevailing 4-2 in sudden victory. In the quarters, Evans distanced himself away from Virginia state champion Nathan Warden (Christiansburg), 9-2. Once again, Evans would need extra time and went into sudden victory against the top-seed D’Alesio. Evans ended up getting his hand raised after a fall with only :03 seconds remaining in the period. In the finals, Jake would fall just short of knocking off the seventh-ranked Rogers when he lost 5-4. Jake is a two-time state qualifier that got on the podium for the first time in 2019 when he took fourth at Ohio’s DI division. Judging by his performance at the Ironman, he should be one of the favorites during his next trip to the state tournament.

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