Iowa signee Drake Ayala (Photo/Cam Kramer; CamKramerPhoto.smugmug.com)
This weekend the Junior National Duals took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A bit of history was made on the freestyle side of things as the team from Iowa captured its first title since 2005. On the Greco-Roman front, Illinois won their third straight crown.
The event featured plenty of squads packed with talent, sure to make an impact at the next level. We have combed through the results and found five college teams that â€œwonâ€ the Junior Duals, based on the performance of their recruits. These didn't necessarily have to be wrestlers that have signed with a program; they can come from wrestlers that have verballed.
The Hawkeyes two recruits in action, Drake Ayala and Caleb Rathjen, are both from the Class of 2021 and incoming freshmen for Tom Brands' crew. Ayala was among the top pound-for-pound seniors in the country (#4), so it's not surprising to see him on this list. He has the goods to be the next great lightweight for a University that has produced dozens over the last 40+ years. Ayala was a late addition to the loaded Iowa team at Junior Duals and ended up leaving with the OW award from the freestyle tournament. Ayala crushed the competition with tech falls in all nine of his bouts. Only three opponents even got on the scoreboard against the 126 lber from Fort Dodge. Some of his notable wins from the duals include double Fargo Junior National Champion, Andre Gonzales (California) and Vincent Robinson (Illinois). Ayala's teammate, Rathjen, won eight of his nine freestyle bouts on the weekend. His only setback was a one-point loss to Jordan Williams (Oklahoma), the #14 recruit in the Class of 2022. Rathjen managed to put double-digits on the board in all eight of his wins. His most significant win was by a 10-5 score over Matt Bianchi (Wisconsin), who finished one spot (#48) ahead of Rathjen on the final Big Board of 2021. Rathjen also had a dominating 10-0 tech over freshman sensation, Kael Voinovich (Ohio).
The program that brought you upperweight national champions like Mike Macchiavello and Nick Gwiazdowski has another couple of studs in the pipeline. #16 Chase Horne (Georgia) and #32 Dylan Fishback (Ohio) both were 8-0 in freestyle competition. Both are rising seniors from the Class of 2022. Fishback projects at 197 lbs, while Horne is definitely a heavyweight. Horne distanced himself from the field by outsourcing the competition 52-1, a total that doesn't include a forfeit or a fall. He was able to pick up three wins over two ranked opponents. Horne teched #23 (weight class rank) Max Acciardi (New Jersey) and defeated #13 (weight class rank) Nicholas Rowland (Oklahoma), twice. Once via tech and the second time with a fall. Horne went 3-0 in Greco and did not surrender a point. Fishback took out an impressive group of opponents. He teched a pair of top-100 graduated seniors in Quayin Short (Minnesota) and Aaron Azyerov (New Jersey) and pinned #15 (weight class ranked) AJ Heeg (Oklahoma), who is one of the top sophomore big men in the nation. Also on the hit list was Wyatt Voelker (Iowa), who was ranked one slot ahead (#4) of Fishback in the latest national rankings at 195 lbs. His 9-4 win over Voelker was the closest of the tournament. Team Ohio did not have an entry in Greco, so Fishback did not compete in that tournament.
The future is looking bright for the Oklahoma Sooners as they saw two of their verbals from the Class of 2022 combine to go 12-1 in freestyle. 106 lber Christian Forbes was a perfect 6-0, while 160 lber John Wiley was 6-1. In Greco, it was Wiley who went unbeaten and Forbes who suffered a lone loss. Only one of Forbes' six freestyle wins came via regular decision. He was able to tech California stud Ray Ray Harris (though Harris returned the favor in Greco). Wiley hung on to edge #94 MJ Gaitan (California) 9-8 in one of his early bouts, then proceeded to pin his next three opponents. The last of which was #83 Landon Johnson (Minnesota), whom he pinned in under a minute. Gaitan was the only opponent who could go the full distance with Wiley in Greco, though he nearly teched him, winning by nine points.
South Dakota State
Two of the cornerstones of South Dakota State's #12th ranked recruiting class were on display in Tulsa, as #59 Derrick Cardinal and #71 Cael Swensen combined to go 11-1 in freestyle for Minnesota Blue. Cardinal either teched or pinned all five opponents. His last victory was a 13-2 tech over Nain Vasquez (Illinois), which was the final match in the third-place win over Team Illinois. In addition to teching the three-time Illinois state medalist, Vasquez, Cardinal also teched 16U freestyle All-American Ismael Ayoub (Ohio). Derrick only saw action in two Greco bouts, going 1-1. His loss came in a 15-12 shootout to Nasir Bailey (Illinois). Though Swensen suffered a loss to #14 Victor Voinovich (Ohio), he did register a pair of high-quality wins beating New Jersey state champ Andrew Troczynski and Oklahoma State recruit Angelo Ferrari. Swensen put up ten points on Troczynski and eight against Ferrari. In Greco Swensen was even better. He went 7-0 and picked up a win against Cadet Greco-Roman World Team member Braden Stauffenberg, 3-2.
Last week after Wyoming received a verbal commitment from #35 Jore Volk, we did a deep dive into Cowboy recruiting under head coach Mark Branch (2008-present). The Class of 2022 is shaking out to be the best in recent memory for Wyoming. The future Cowboy stars were on display in Tulsa, as Class of 2021 signee Quayin Short joined Volk on Minnesota's Blue team, which took third at the duals. In freestyle, Volk went unbeaten with techs or falls in three of his five wins. The two opponents that went the distance with him were National Prep champ, Brennan Cernus (Ohio) and Illinois third-place finisher William Baysingar. Short went 4-1 in freestyle. Minnesota's depth allowed for substitutions for both Volk and Short. Similar results were compiled in Greco. Short won eight of nine bouts, while Volk won all four. Volk crushed three opponents before prevailing in a 9-9 shootout against Carter Bailey (California). Short only went the distance in one of his eight wins.