Oklahoma recruit KJ Evans (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
We are just a few days away from the first whistle blowing at the FargoDome as the Junior/16U National Championships will occur. The event returned in 2021, after it was canceled in 2020, and had an incredibly deep field. This year's group looks even better.
Over the next couple of days, we'll go conference-by-conference to preview recruits from each school and their chances for success. We have only included recruits that have been tabbed to participate in one of the tournaments. We're moving on to the Big 12. The Big 12 is home to three of the top-ten classes from 2022 with #2 Iowa State, #4 Missouri, and #6 Oklahoma State. In addition, schools like Northern Iowa, North Dakota State, Oklahoma, South Dakota State, and Wyoming have been in the national rankings recently. What it comes down to is there's a lot of young talent coming into the Big 12.
Below are the Big 12 recruits that are scheduled to appear in Fargo:
Mike Avelar, Arizona (160) - Class of 2023
EJ Beloncik, Oklahoma (160) - Class of 2023
Josh Cordio, Massachusetts (182) - Class of 2023
Soren Herzog, Minnesota (195) - Class of 2023
Trason Oehme, South Dakota (145) - Class of 2023
Competition has really intensified during the past few years in regards to high-level recruiting with the service academies. Air Force is no different as the Falcons have verbals from a #115 Soren Herzog and two others close to the Big Board with Josh Cordio and Trason Oehme. Last year, Herzog placed in both styles at the 16U level. His high was a runner-up finish in Greco-Roman. That was the same placement for him this spring at the UWW Cadet Trials. It marked the second time he broke the top-eight at that event in Greco. New England champion Josh Cordio also earned NHSCA Junior National All-American honors in April. Finally, we have Trason Oehme, who was a Fargo All-American in 2019 after finishing eighth in 16U Greco-Roman.
Evan Frost, Iowa (132)
Jacob Frost, Iowa (138)
Tate Naaktgeboren, Iowa (182) - Class of 2023
We mentioned in an earlier preview that Team Iowa will be one to beat in Junior freestyle and three future Cyclones will help in those efforts. The Frost twins have not AA'ed yet in Fargo, but have both finished on the podium at the Super 32. Both were also state freestyle champions this year. Also seeking his first All-American honor here is Tate Naaktgeboren. Last year, Naaktgeboren was sixth in UWW Cadet freestyle and has a pair of state titles to his credit.
J Conway, Indiana (160)
Easton Hilton, Missouri (145)
Carter McCallister, Missouri (138) - Class of 2023
Zeke Seltzer, Indiana (138)
The Mizzou Tigers had a massive Class of 2022 that ended with a number four ranking from Intermat. One of the key components of that class was Zeke Seltzer, a three-time Indiana state champion. Seltzer has placed in the freestyle portion of Fargo in each of the last three years. He was second and sixth in 16U and fifth last summer at the Junior level. Fellow, multiple-time Indiana champion J Conway is seeking to make his best mark nationally. Moving along to the in-state prospects, Carter McCallister was third in 2019 in 16U and Easton Hilton, a Missouri state champion as a freshman and a freestyle champ this year.
North Dakota State
Walker Bents, Minnesota (138)
Gavin Drexler, Wisconsin (145)
Boeden Greenley, North Dakota (152)
Brendan Howes, Minnesota (152)
Landen Johnson, Minnesota (152)
Maxwell Peterson, Minnesota (145)
As always, the Bison have the home field advantage as the tournament is held on their campus. Not surprisingly, North Dakota State has a large, strong group of entrants. Gavin Drexler is the only one in the crew that has past experience on the podium. In 2019, he was a 16U runner-up in Greco. There is a trio of Minnesota state champions in the fold, with Walker Bents, Landen Johnson, and Maxwell Peterson. Expect them to excel in both styles.
Trever Anderson, Iowa (126)
Garrett Funk, Iowa (132)
Cory Land, Alabama (132)
Garret Rinken, Iowa (120) - Class of 2023
Wyatt Voelker, Iowa (195)
The 2022 Northern Iowa recruiting class just slipped into our rankings this year by taking over the #25 slot. Most of the parties responsible for such a ranking have entered the tournament. The highest ranked of the bunch is Alabama star Cory Land. While Fargo took place in 2021, Land was in Budapest, where he picked up a Cadet World silver medal in Greco. With that in mind and three top-three finishes at the Super 32, he'll be in the title mix, in both styles here. The same can be said for Wyatt Voelker, who has been a double AA in both 2019 and 2021. Last year, Voelker took home the big stop sign in Greco and was eighth in freestyle. Lightweight Trever Anderson has some history in the FargoDome with an eighth place finish in 2019 in 16U freestyle. Both Garrett Funk and Class of 2023 recruit, Garret Rinken, and have had success at small schools in-state, but are looking for some national-level accolades.
KJ Evans, Oklahoma (152) - Class of 2023
AJ Heeg, Oklahoma (182) - Class of 2023
Dylan Newsome, Ohio (170) - Class of 2023
Dylan Russo, Ohio (220) - Class of 2023
Anthony Santaniello, New Jersey (138) - Class of 2023
Lou Rosselli and staff have amassed an incredible Class of 2023 on the recruiting front and most of the key players are expected to compete in Fargo. They'll have five top-100 wrestlers from that class take the match, with #29 KJ Evans leading the way. Evans has been remarkably consistent in his results at massive freestyle/Greco tourneys. Last year, he was a runner-up in 16U freestyle and fourth in Greco. That was the exact same placement for Evans at UWW Cadets this year. Rosselli and staff went back to his old stomping grounds, Ohio, and picked up a pair of high-quality big men named Dylan. Newsome and Russo. Both were NHSCA Junior National Champions earlier this year. At the other end of the lineup is Anthony Santaniello, a three-time New Jersey state finalist and one-time champ. Finally, you have AJ Heeg, an Oklahoma state champion at a deep weight class.
Cael Hughes, Oklahoma (132) - Class of 2023
Jersey Robb, Oklahoma (195) - Class of 2023
Cutter Sheets, Oklahoma (152)
Sam Smith, Oklahoma (120) - Class of 2023
With all of the seniors removed from national rankings, Cael Hughes has ascended to the top spot at 132 lbs. He'll attempt to justify such lofty billing by winning his second career Fargo title. In 2019, Hughes was a finalist in 16U in both styles, coming away with the win in 94 lb freestyle. In April, Hughes took fourth in UWW Cadet freestyle. Also getting on the podium at Cadet's was Jersey Robb, who finished seventh at 92 kg. Robb has won a pair of state titles in the 6A classification. Cutter Sheets and Sam Smith were both state runner's-up this year and are sons of two of the best OSU wrestlers ever (Mike and John).
South Dakota State
Thomas Dineen, Minnesota (195) - Class of 2023
Brock Fettig, North Dakota (170)
Luke Rasmussen, South Dakota (220)
Caleb Thoennes, Minnesota (132)
Kail Wynia, Minnesota (220)
While South Dakota State has a solid group heading to Fargo, Caleb Thoennes is the only one with prior placement at the tournament. Thoennes was a 16U national champion in Greco three years ago and fifth in freestyle. He's grown significantly since then, as those results came at 88 lbs. Even without Fargo credentials, the rest of the group has been able to make an impact nationally throughout their high school careers. This spring both Thomas Dineen and Luke Rasmussen captured NHSCA grade level titles. Dineen's came at the Junior level and Rasmussen's was at Seniors. Kail Wynia had a sixth-place showing at the Super 32 last fall that put him on the map. Brock Fettig is a two-time North Dakota state champion and a three-time finalist.
Luke Van Orden, Nevada (145)
The Wolverines will be represented by Luke Van Orden, a Nevada state champion who has claimed Western Regional championships in both styles.
Matthew Dolan, West Virginia (113) - Class of 2023
An in-state stud will be the representative for West Virginia in Matthew Dolan. A two-time state champion, Dolan also won an NHSCA Junior National title this spring.
Cole Brooks, Oklahoma (145) - Class of 2023
Brayden Sonnentag, Wisconsin (126) - Class of 2023
Last year, Wyoming shocked the conference and nation by hauling in the #13 overall recruiting class. The Cowboy staff has already shown that this wasn't just a "one-year" outlier. Wyoming already has verbals from a pair of top-60 recruits in the Class of 2023, one of which will be in action in Fargo. He is Cole Brooks, a two-time Oklahoma state champion. Joining Brooks is Brayden Sonnentag, who is a past Fargo AA. Sonnentag was seventh in 2019 in 16U Greco-Roman. This year he was sixth at NHSCA JR's.