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  • Photo: Tony DiMarco

    Photo: Tony DiMarco

    A History of Freshmen Beating #1 (2014-24)

    Last Friday night, we saw one of the most shocking upsets of the 2023-24 campaign as Michigan’s true freshman, Sergio Lemley, majored top-ranked, returning NCAA finalist Real Woods of Iowa. Lemley came into the match ranked 19th in the nation, was highly regarded coming out of high school (#11 in the Class of 2023) and had some solid wins; however, defeating a wrestler of Woods’ caliber seemed to be a tough ask from the young Wolverine. 

    Whenever the wrestling community is in an uproar about an accomplishment, I like to try to provide some perspective and look at the win through a historical lens. Has something like this ever happened before? If so, how frequently? 

    In reference to Lemley downing Woods, obviously, freshmen have been number one ranked wrestlers before, but how often have they done so is what I was wondering. 

    After some crowd-sourcing through the InterMat staff and some trusted confidants, I did some digging and found that while that accomplishment doesn’t happen every day, but also isn’t totally rare. In fact, we already had it happen once this season. 

    Below are freshmen who have beaten number one ranked wrestlers since 2013-14. As you can see, this is almost a “who’s who” list of college wrestling (and international) for the last decade. There aren’t any flukes on this list or one-hit wonders. That bodes well for Lemley, along with Ryan Crookham, who also achieved this feat in week two of the 2023-24 season. 

    Ryan Crookham (Lehigh) over Vito Arujau (Cornell): 2023 Journeymen Collegiate Classic

    Fresh off a dominating run at the 2023 NCAA Tournament and a Senior world title at 61 kg, most assumed that Vito Arujau’s only competition this season would come from three-time national runner-up Daton Fix (Oklahoma State). No one told that to Ryan Crookham. From the time Crookham stepped on a high school mat, he was regarded as one of the top wrestlers in the Class of 2022. Injuries prevented him from competing as frequently and his recruiting ranking slipped a bit (#20). Last year, while redshirting, Crookham went 8-1, but didn’t necessarily do anything to hint at being able to threaten Arujau. 






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