Nick Suriano after winning his NCAA Title in 2019 (Photo/WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
In the most recent edition of Willie's Friday Mailbag, a reader asked Willie to name the â€œBiggest transfer that has happened.â€ From an all-time standpoint, Willie mentioned Steve Mocco and Cary Kolat, who both are certainly in the discussion. Looking at more recent competitors, Willie deemed Jaydin Eierman to be the most impactful, judging by his influence on the 2021 NCAA team race. We've decided to take a deeper look at some of the most successful recent transfers.
Though there were many quality candidates, we shaved the list down to the top-20. To qualify, a wrestler has had to compete for his new team sometime between 2017-21 (the last five years).
With some much action in the transfer portal, expect this list to change if we attempt it again in another year or two. Just this offseason, All-Americans Patrick Brucki, Max Dean, and Kyle Parco have changed schools. Additionally, Evan Wick is in the transfer portal. Stanford wrestlers Jaden Abas, Shane Griffith, and Real Woods were in the portal and their respective statuses' are uncertain.
But before getting too far ahead of ourselves, look at the top-20 wrestlers that transferred from 2017-21.
20) Grant Leeth (Missouri - Duke)
Pre-Transfer: 14-4 in 2014-15 at Duke
Post-Transfer: 47-11 from 2015-20 at Missouri
Heralded as one of the biggest signees for Duke in the last decade, Grant Leeth put together a promising redshirt campaign for the Blue Devils before coming back home to Missouri. Leeth missed two full seasons with injuries and most assumed his collegiate career was over. 2017-18 saw Leeth make a stunning comeback and he went 26-5 and finished the year sixth in the nation. Grant started off strong in 2018-19, but suffered another season-ending injury at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. He would end in his career the following season by finishing third at the MAC Championships and earning a #17 seed at the ill-fated 2020 NCAA Tournament.
19) Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State - Ohio State)
Pre-Transfer: 0-0 in 2019-20 for Ohio State
Post-Transfer: 10-4 in 2021 for Penn State
It's safe to say that if we make this list again in a few years, Greg Kerkvliet could be significantly higher. The Nittany Lion big man has four years of eligibility remaining, so there's plenty of time to pad his stats. Kerkvliet signed with Ohio State out of high school, but did not finish the first semester before transferring to rival Penn State. Despite suffering through injuries in 2021, Kerkvliet managed to finish seventh in the nation. In St Louis, his national tournament was highlighted by a major decision win over Tate Orndorff (Ohio State) in the seventh-place bout and a major over Lehigh All-American Jordan Wood.
18) Zeke Moisey (Nebraska - West Virginia)
Pre-Transfer: 84-37 from 2014-18 for West Virginia
Post-Transfer: 13-12 in 2018-19 for Nebraska
The run of Huskers starts here with Zeke Moisey. Moisey is better remembered for electrifying the NCAA crowd during the 2015 tournament in St. Louis. As an unseeded freshman, Moisey downed second-seeded Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) before pinning Thomas Gilman (Iowa) in the semis. A year later, Moisey earned a bid to nationals but couldn't compete due to injuries. After a redshirt season, Moisey went 26-11 and made the podium for a second time, despite coming in as the 13th seed. As had been the case for most of his career, Moisey's time at Nebraska was marred by injuries. He was only 13-12 and went two and out at NCAA's.
17) Jason Tsirtsis (Arizona State - Northwestern)
Pre-Transfer: 85-14 from 2013-16 for Northwestern
Post-Transfer: 21-8 in 2017-18 for Arizona State
One of only two NCAA Champions that has transferred and competed within the last five years is Jason Tsirtsis. The top recruit in the Class of 2012 redshirted immediately for Northwestern, then won a national title as a freshman. Just to make the finals, Tsirtsis knocked off a returning champion (Kendric Maple - Oklahoma) and a future champion (Drake Houdashelt - Missouri). Two years later, after tragedy struck his family, Tsirtsis needed a change of scenery and moved on to Arizona State. While Tsirtsis took some lumps during the regular season and was seeded lower than ever (10th) at nationals, he was able to perform at the right time and was seventh at nationals. He finished with three conference titles (2 Big Ten and 1 Pac-12) and three All-American honors.
16) Willie Miklus (Missouri - Iowa State)
Pre-Transfer: 80-23 from 2014-18 for Missouri
Post-Transfer: 27-6 in 2018-19 for Iowa State
Especially as a younger wrestler, Willie Miklus shined when the lights were the brightest and stakes at their highest. Miklus finished seventh in the country as a freshman, despite entering the tournament without a seed. Just to get on the podium in 2015, Miklus took out the fifth, tenth, and 15th seeds. A year later, he was seeded 14th and made the NCAA semifinals. After earning All-American honors for the third time, Miklus decided he needed to return to Iowa to be near his ailing father. Miklus closed out his career by wrestling up to his pre-tournament seeding and finishing sixth, which cemented his status as a four-time NCAA All-American.
15) Eric Montoya (Nebraska - Campbell)
Pre-Transfer: 33-17 in 2012-13 for Campbell
Post-Transfer: 77-32 from 2014-17 for Nebraska
Eric Montoya got the nod right out of the gate from Campbell and qualified for nationals after receiving an at-large berth. Montoya then went to Nebraska and sat out for a year before earning the starting role at 133 lbs in 2014-15. Despite coming into the 2015 national tournament unseeded, Montoya ended the year a match shy of earning All-American honors. He would get on the podium in each of the next two years, finishing fifth as a junior and sixth as a senior. In both years, he was fifth in the Big Ten and the seventh seed at nationals. In dual action, during his senior season, Montoya scored a win over eventual NCAA champion, Cory Clark.
14) Isaiah White (Nebraska - Notre Dame)
Pre-Transfer: 28-2 in 2016-17 for Notre Dame
Post-Transfer: 70-21 from 2017-20 for Nebraska
The only wrestler on this list to transfer from a non-DI program is Isaiah White. As a freshman, White captured a national title for DII Notre Dame. Throughout his career with Nebraska, White was a model of consistency amongst a loaded weight class. As a junior, White was seeded seventh in the nation after finishing fifth in the Big Ten. He would outwrestle his pre-tournament ranking and take fifth at nationals. That year he handed the eventual national championship, Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech), the final loss of his title-winning campaign. White was named an NWCA All-American in 2020 after finishing third in the Big Ten and receiving the fifth seed at nationals.
13) Demetrius Romero (Utah Valley - Boise State)
Pre-Transfer: 21-16 in 2016-17 for Boise State
Post-Transfer: 75-16 from 2017-21 for Utah Valley
It seems like a lifetime ago that Boise State actually had wrestling, but Demetrius Romero was a member of that last Bronco team. He is also the only wrestler on this list that had to transfer due to his school dropping wrestling. Boise State's loss was Utah Valley's gain as Romero has thrived while in Orem. 2018-19 was Romero's breakout year, where he went 28-5 and became the first Wolverine wrestler to win a Big 12 title. He eventually came up a match shy of earning All-American honors. After an injury derailed his 2019-20 season, Romero started the 2021 campaign on fire. He entered the NCAA Championships unbeaten after claiming his second Big 12 crown. Romero was go on to make the national semifinals before settling for sixth place.
12) Korbin Myers (Virginia Tech - Edinboro)
Pre-Transfer: 58-23 in 2016-18 for Edinboro
Post-Transfer: 32-12 in 2018-21 for Virginia Tech
Perhaps no one on this list came into his own during their senior season like Korbin Myers did in 2021 (we know, he has another one in 2021-22, too). Myers was a three-time national qualifier headed into 2021, but had never been seeded higher than 14th and won more than two matches at the Big Dance. This year Myers ran through the ACC in the regular season, before unseating two-time conference champion Micky Phillipi in the finals. That win, along with Myers' entire body of work, gave him the number three seed at nationals. At nationals, Myers earned a place in the semifinals, before coming back to place fourth.
11) Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers - Northwestern)
Pre-Transfer: 74-12 from 2017-2020 for Northwestern
Post-Transfer: 12-3 in 2021 for Rutgers
It seems hard to believe that Sebastian Rivera was the tenth seed in 2018 as a freshman for Northwestern at his first NCAA Tournament. He ended up sixth, with two of his losses at the tournament coming to past NCAA Champions. Rivera established himself as an NCAA title favorite after a pair of wins over returning champion Spencer Lee. The second came in the Big Ten finals, which provided him with the top-seed at the NCAA Championships. A year later and a weight class higher, Rivera would win his second Big Ten title and was named the one seed again at nationals. That Big Ten win came in front of a raucous Rutgers crowd that would soon become his home fans. Rivera moved up to 141 lbs in 2021 for Rutgers and claimed a spot on the NCAA podium for the third time in his career.
10) Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven - Oklahoma State)
Pre-Transfer: 6-5 in 2015-16 for Oklahoma State
Post-Transfer: 72-7 from 2017-19 for Lock Haven
One of the top overall recruits in the high school Class of 2014 and a Pennsylvania legend, Chance Marsteller, went to Oklahoma State for a redshirt year and then saw action in five duals during the 2015-16 season for the Cowboys. Marsteller then transferred back to his home state to compete for Lock Haven. Under the tutelage of Scott Moore, Marsteller stayed focused and earned All-American honors in both years competing for Lock Haven. He was fourth in 2018 and third in 2019 when the NCAA tournament was held in Pennsylvania. Also, as a senior, Marsteller won his first conference title and was a finalist at the Southern Scuffle. He also became Lock Haven's first two-time All-American since Mike Maney did so in 2002 and 2003.
9) Austin DeSanto (Iowa - Drexel)
Pre-Transfer: 30-7 in 2017-18 for Drexel
Post-Transfer: 52-12 from 2018-21 for Iowa
Before he became teammates with Spencer Lee at Iowa, Austin DeSanto made himself a household name as a high school senior by handing Lee the only loss of his career in the state finals their senior season. DeSanto went on to have an interesting run at Drexel, downing All-Americans Montorie Bridges and Stevan Micic at the Cliff Keen and making the Round of 12 as a true freshman. That was a feat achieved by only four other Drexel wrestlers since 2008. DeSanto left after that season for Iowa, where his career took off immediately. He has been seeded in the top-seven at nationals every year since the move to Iowa City. At his two NCAA Tournaments for the Hawkeyes, he finished third and fifth. In 2018-19, DeSanto grabbed a win over the eventual NCAA Champion, Nick Suriano (Rutgers).
8) Jesse Dellavecchia (Rider - Binghamton)
Pre-Transfer: 15-9 in 2015-16 for Binghamton
Post-Transfer: 67-10 from 2018-21 for Rider
Last week our MAC correspondent Courtney Woods released an excellent story detailing Jesse Dellavecchia's struggles at Binghamton and his subsequent transfer to Rider.
Based on his pre-collegiate credentials, Dellavecchia would be the most surprising member of this group. Dellavecchia had an amazing final two years with the Broncs going 41-3 in 2020 and 2021. Both years he was seeded fourth at the NCAA Championships. He stunned the crowd in St. Louis and watching around the nation as he pinned top-ranked, undefeated, Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) to advance to the 2021 finals.
7) Seth Gross (Wisconsin - South Dakota State - Iowa)
Pre-Transfer: 90-17 in 2015-19 for South Dakota State, Redshirted at Iowa
Post-Transfer: 27-2 in 2019-20 for Wisconsin
Seth Gross started his career at Iowa, but never officially competed for the Hawkeyes. He came into his own at South Dakota State, making the NCAA finals as a sophomore in 2017. Gross then went on to become the Jackrabbits first DI national champion a year later in 2017-18. That season, the only loss on Gross' resume came up a weight against Bryce Meredith (Wyoming). Following his title run, SDSU head coach Chris Bono left for Wisconsin. Gross initially tried to finish his career in 2018-19 in Brookings, but was injured in his only bout of the year. The following season he reunited with Bono in Madison. There Gross went 27-2 and finished as the Big Ten runner-up to Sebastian Rivera. He was in line to compete as the second seed at the 2020 NCAA Championships.
6) Pat Lugo (Iowa - Edinboro)
Pre-Transfer: 63-18 in 2015-17 for Edinboro
Post-Transfer: 44-11 in 2018-20 for Iowa
Speaking of student-athletes who were negatively impacted by the cancellation of the 2020 tournament, Pat Lugo sits atop of the list. Lugo was typically in the mix during his time at Edinboro, but really jumped levels while competing for the Hawkeyes. In his first year wrestling for Tom Brands' squad, Lugo posted a respectable eighth-place finish at the 2019 NCAA Championships. Lugo really shined as a senior and assumed the top spot in the country after winning the Midlands. In the Big Ten finals, he avenged his only setback of the year to Sammy Sasso (Ohio State). That gave Lugo the top seed at the 2020 tournament, which also ensured he would earn NWCA All-American honors.
5) Joey McKenna (Ohio State - Stanford)
Pre-Transfer: 60-6 in 2015-17 for Stanford
Post-Transfer: 45-5 in 2017-19 for Ohio State
Joey McKenna turned in a record-breaking freshman season for Stanford, going 28-3 with all three losses coming to eventual NCAA finalists that year. McKenna became the first Cardinal freshman to earn All-American honors after placing third. He missed out on the podium as a sophomore, which led to his transfer to Ohio State. McKenna continued rolling for the Buckeyes and finished his career as a four-time conference champion. He was never seeded lower than fourth at the NCAA Championships and only lost a pair of matches to Big Ten opponents while at Ohio State. As a senior, McKenna made the NCAA finals and took defending champion, Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell), to sudden victory before falling. Yianni was responsible for two of his three losses as a senior.
4) Stevan Micic (Michigan - Northwestern)
Pre-Transfer: Redshirted at Northwestern in 2014-15
Post-Transfer: 74-11 in 2016-19 for Michigan
Amazingly enough, Stevan Micic still has collegiate eligibility remaining if he chooses to exercise an additional year in 2021-22. Micic never officially competed for Northwestern, but has taken a pair of Olympic redshirts and a regular one, as well, plus a COVID-year. Micic has been a title contender throughout his career with the Wolverines. He has never finished lower than fourth at the NCAA Championships and has been seeded second during each of his most recent two appearances. His first time earning the second seed was on the heels of his Big Ten title in the 2017-18 campaign. Micic's most recent dual meet (2/17/19) saw him take out Nick Suriano (Rutgers), the eventual NCAA champion, later that year.
3) Bryce Meredith (Wyoming - NC State)
Pre-Transfer: 15-6 in 2014-15 at NC State
Post-Transfer: 93-15 for Wyoming in 2015-18
As a true freshman, Bryce Meredith got thrown in the mix for NC State and responded with a solid, but not spectacular season. He was unable to qualify for nationals; however, after going 1-2 at the ACC Championships. Just a year later, back in his home state, Meredith made the NCAA finals after starting the tournament as the 14th seed. He earned wins over three, three-time NCAA All-Americans, Micah Jordan (Ohio State), Joey McKenna (Stanford), and former teammate, Kevin Jack (NC State). Though not a darkhorse like his sophomore season, Meredith's junior year saw him take fourth after getting seeded tenth. As a senior, Bryce was seeded first at nationals after collecting his first Big 12 championship. He would go on to lose a tight 7-4 match to freshman Yianni Diakomihalis in his second national final. Both of Meredith's 2017-18 losses came at the hands of Yianni.
2) Jaydin Eierman (Iowa - Missouri)
Pre-Transfer: 91-14 for Missouri in 2016-19
Post-Transfer: 12-1 for Iowa in 2021
Because of the quirks that go along with an extra year of eligibility for COVID-related reasons, Jaydin Eierman has the opportunity to become the first wrestler on this list to All-American five teams. The more pressing issue for Eierman is to win a national title. He came ever-so-close this season before falling to Nick Lee (Penn State) in sudden victory during his first national final. Two weeks prior, Eierman was on the other end of a close decision against Lee. The win gave him his fourth conference title (three in the MAC and 1 in the B1G). Eierman was also an integral addition for Iowa on the team front. His presence helped propel the Hawkeyes to their first team title since 2010. In his previous four trips to the national tournament, Eierman has never finished lower than fifth. He is currently the only wrestler to defeat Diakomihalis current collegiate competition.
1) Nick Suriano (Rutgers - Penn State)
Pre-Transfer: 16-3 for Penn State in 2016-17
Post-Transfer: 54-4 for Rutgers in 2017-19
After winning 16 of his first 17 collegiate bouts, it looked like Nick Suriano may be the replacement at 125 lbs for NCAA champion Nico Megaludis, who had graduated the previous year. Unfortunately, Suriano was injured in his final regular-season dual and was unable to compete in the postseason. That set off a change of events that led to him transferring back home to Rutgers. Suriano made history on a couple of fronts for the Scarlet Knights, becoming their first national finalist in 2018 and then champion a year later. In a Rutgers singlet, Suriano has also claimed titles at the CKLV Invitational, the Midlands, and the Big Ten Championships. Suriano also has a year of eligibility remaining though it's unclear if he'll use it, at this time.