Nic Bouzakis photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
1) Blair and Wyoming Seminary will continue to dominate the national scene
Surprise! The pre-eminent powers in high school wrestling have once again reloaded. They are going to go at it at places like Ironman, Beast of the East, National Preps, and in a dual. Recently it’s been Blair that has had the upper hand. This year, both brought in an extremely talented class of transfers with Sem filling its lineup nearly top to bottom with household names such as Nic Bouzakis and Kolby Franklin, a pair of Fargo champions from this past summer. Last year was all about Blair breaking points records left and right at major tournaments, could Wyoming Seminary return the favor this time around and regain the crown?
2) Someone will come from off the radar to be one of the best in the country
This happens every single year. At the beginning of the year, you have a kid who’s unranked who many people haven’t heard of. Then you look up in March and he’s a state champion who has won a number of big tournaments along the way. Last year, Shayne Van Ness began the year for Blair having been a backup as a freshman. Now he’s the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the country and a Super 32, Ironman and Beast of the East champion. Who will be the fast riser this year? Well, it’s hard to predict. But some initial names I would advise everyone to keep an eye on are Manny Rojas of Detroit Central Catholic (MI), Chase DeBlaere of Simley (MN), and Erik Gibson of Forest Hills (PA).
3) One of the best teams in the nation will reside in Texas
Texas?! That’s right, Texas! The Allen Eagles program has been on the rise over the course of the last decade and this year should be the best team Allen has had yet. The program that produced Bo Nickal is now loaded with studs throughout the lineup, starting with brothers AJ and Anthony Ferrari, who return after a year at Blair Academy (and Bergen Catholic). Add to them Braxton Brown, No. 10 in the country at 113, as well as Elise Brown Ton, No. 18 at 160, and you have the beginnings of a stout team from top to bottom in not just duals, but also tournaments. The Eagles will have the chance to test their mettle nationally at both the Reno TOC and the Zinkin Invitational.
4) No. 1 at 132 will change hands a number of times
Ok, so we don’t know that this one will happen. Current No. 1 Shayne Van Ness can absolutely run the table this season and never look back, but he’s got a pack of hungry dogs right on his tail. Van Ness came out of a loaded four-man bracket at Who’s #1 to take the top spot, but Ryan Jack, Jesse Mendez and Dom Serrano will all have the chance to repay the favor throughout the season. Jack and Van Ness could hit at Beast of the East in a clash of the titans, and even if the two don’t meet, Blair’s schedule ensures Van Ness will have to go through a meat grinder to remain undefeated.
5) There will be upsets
The one thing we can predict with the most amount of certainty is that we’re bound to have plenty of uncertainty. Big upsets happen every year. We saw it last year with No. 1s Ryan Anderson, Alex Facundo, Robbie Howard and more falling. We’ll see it again this year. And the best part is these upsets are normally instances you can’t sense are coming. It’s part of that star-making process we talked about in our second point. At some point this season, one or more of the titans of the rankings will fall.