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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    How Did the Extra Year of Eligibility Impact Top Prospects in the Class of 2021?

    Wisconsin freshman Dean Hamiti (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)

    One of the main storylines of the 2021-22 collegiate wrestling season has been the extra year of eligibility doled out by the NCAA, which has led to some sixth-year super seniors (and beyond). Those seniors, that otherwise would have moved on, have made for some stacked weight classes.

    For instance, at 141 lbs, the top-three wrestlers #1 Nick Lee (Penn State), #2 Jaydin Eierman (Iowa), #3 Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers), all have already qualified for four NCAA Tournaments. In a normal circumstance, all three would not be wrestling in 2021-22. Additionally, #4 Stevan Micic has been aided by a regular redshirt, two Olympic redshirt years, and the free year. Sticking with 141 lbs, other members of the top ten that would have normally exhausted their eligibility include #5 Dylan Duncan (Illinois), #7 Kizhan Clarke (North Carolina), and #9 Chad Red Jr. (Nebraska).

    So with all of the super-seniors back for one last ride, what are some of the unintended consequences of their return? One seemed to be, fewer opportunities for true freshmen to stand out. My hypothesis was that the 2021-22 season would feature less prominent freshmen getting thrust into starting roles, because of the presence of their highly-decorated veteran counterparts.

    The first step was to determine who exactly gets the label of prominent or blue-chip freshmen? While the exact number could probably vary on a yearly basis, for the sake of this study, let's say that blue-chip freshmen are those ranked in the top-25 of their graduating class of high school.

    The easy part was figuring out which true freshmen have been given the green light this year. As the idea for this article was just a thought in my head, only Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin) and Carter Young (Oklahoma State) had been stripped of their redshirts and allowed to compete immediately. That seemed like an extremely low number; just two of the top-25 seniors in the country had broken into their respective starting lineups as freshmen. Before I could get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), Spencer Lee announced he would not be able to continue the 2021-22 campaign and Drake Ayala was pulled from redshirt, bringing the total up to three.

    So what does three mean? Is that higher/lower/equal to past years? Let's find out. Since the Class of 2013 (the first year of availability for MatScouts BigBoard), 5.5 of these “blue-chip” true freshmen have initially competed. That's vibes with my initial instinct that three was a low number.

    A big variable that was excluded in this exercise was counting wrestlers from the Class of 2020. Since the 20-21 season was counted as a free year, many true freshmen were used in dual action and it did not impact their eligibility, like it would in a typical year. Just for argument's sake, 13 wrestlers from the Class of 2020 got the nod from their schools in the 2021 postseason. That number would be higher than any other year surveyed. It still is not an apples-to-apples comparison, because some many now have started had it been a normal year.

    To take it a step further for the Class of 2021 (the current true freshmen). Let's see how many have been blocked by a sixth-year (or more) senior.

    #5 Shayne Van Ness (Penn State) - 2021 NCAA champion Nick Lee is back at 141 lbs. It's reasonable to think that if Lee was unavailable, some combination of Bartlett and Van Ness would have handled 141/149.

    #8 Chance Lamer (Michigan) - Chance Lamer has competed at 141 and 149 lbs this year. At both weights, the Wolverines have wrestlers who have taken advantage of extra eligibility (Micic and Kanen Storr). While they have depth in this area, it's a possibility that Lamer may have gotten the call this year.

    #9 Alejandro Herrera-Rondon (Oklahoma) - Sixth-year senior Justin Thomas is Oklahoma's current starter at 157 lbs. Herrera-Rondon certainly would have been in the mix without Thomas in the lineup.

    #13 Cael Valencia (Arizona State) - Both of ASU's main options as 174 lbs have freshman eligibility, so Valencia is not blocked. With the Sun Devils in the NCAA trophy hunt, there's still the possibility we see Valencia this season.

    #16 Wyatt Henson (Iowa) - Starter Jaydin Eierman is in his seventh year of collegiate competition. His return certainly could have prevented Henson from starting immediately, though Hawkeye head coach Tom Brands can be reluctant to start true freshmen.

    #18 Caden McCrary (North Carolina) - The Tar Heels have Clarke at 141 lbs, who is a super-senior. It's not a lock that McCrary would have gotten the nod, as there are plenty of options for Coleman Scott's team in this range.

    #20 Cooper Flynn (Virginia Tech) - At first glance, it may not seem like Cooper Flynn was impacted by the extra year, but how about this? It's evident that 2021 All-American Sam Latona is huge for 125 lbs and will need to go up in the future. If AA Korbin Myers didn't return this year, maybe Latona is already up. If so, that would open a slot for either Flynn or possibly Eddie Ventresca to start at 125.

    Without the extra year of eligibility, it's not a given that all seven of these blue-chippers would have been starting in year one, but a few of them would have, for sure.

    Now, we have to remember, just because a wrestler is currently in redshirt, doesn't mean he'll stay there for the remainder of the year. Mark Hall made his official debut on January 20th. Mason Parris came out of redshirt during Michigan's first dual in January of 2019.

    Below are wrestlers since the Class of 2013 that competed immediately as true freshmen. Those that delayed enrollment for a year/grayshirted are not included.

    Numbers next to a wrestler's name indicate their ranking within their respective class.

    2021 (3)

    #4 Drake Ayala (Iowa)

    #6 Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin)

    #11 Carter Young (Oklahoma State)

    2019 (7)

    #3 Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado)

    #5 Jordan Decatur (Ohio State)

    #6 JoJo Aragona (Rutgers)

    #11 Ryan Anderson (Centenary)

    #16 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska)

    #19 Michael Colaiocco (Penn)

    #24 Reece Witcraft (Oklahoma State)

    2018 (4)

    #1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota)

    #3 Mason Parris (Michigan)

    #12 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State)

    #17 Patrick Glory (Princeton)

    2017 (5)

    #2 Spencer Lee (Iowa)

    #3 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell)

    #9 Nick Lee (Penn State)

    #14 Quentin Hovis (Navy)

    #17 Austin DeSanto (Drexel)

    2016 (9)

    #1 Mark Hall (Penn State)

    #2 Nick Suriano (Penn State)

    #9 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)

    #10 Isaiah White (Notre Dame)

    #11 Jack Mueller (Virginia)

    #12 Drew Hughes (Michigan State)

    #13 Mitch McKee (Minnesota)

    #19 Matt Correnti (Rutgers)

    #22 Dakota Geer (Edinboro)

    2015 (4)

    #5 Myles Martin (Ohio State)

    #7 Joseph Smith (Oklahoma State)

    #10 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State)

    #15 David McFadden (Virginia Tech)

    2014 (4)

    #1 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)

    #8 Micah Jordan (Ohio State)

    #20 Tyler Smith (Bucknell)

    #21 Ryan Millhof (Oklahoma)

    2013 (11)

    #2 Zain Retherford (Penn State)

    #4 Joey Dance (Virginia Tech)

    #5 J'den Cox (Missouri)

    #9 Adam Coon (Michigan)

    #13 Eric Morris (Harvard)

    #14 Domenic Abounader (Michigan)

    #18 Edgar Bright (Pittsburgh)

    #21 Mike Racciato (Pittsburgh)

    #22 Brandon Jeske (Old Dominion)

    #24 Russell Parsons (Army West Point)

    #25 Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State)

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