Iowa 141 lber Real Woods (photo courtesy of Mark Lundy; LutteLens.com)
The loosening of the transfer rules has basically changed college sports in general. In terms of college wrestling, the fans have already seen some of the top teams reload with talent via the portal and several former top recruits find new homes. The following looks at the most impactful transfers for this season. Remember, only wrestlers who have started at a new school for this season are included.
125: No. 22 Stevo Poulin (Northern Colorado)
Poulin was a highly regarded recruit in the class of 2021. He originally signed with NC State and went 6-0 during a redshirt year with the Wolfpack. After that season, he transferred to Northern Colorado and has been the starter at 125 pounds since the jump. Poulin has gone 23-4 so far this season. His ranking took a bit of a hit this week after he dropped a 4-2 decision against fellow freshman No. 21 Jore Volk (Wyoming) last weekend. However, Poulin still appears to be an NCAA qualifier with the potential for more.
133: No. 15 Joe Heilmann (Rutgers) and No. 16 Brody Teske (Iowa)
The most talked-about transfer this past offseason was likely Teske, who relocated to Iowa City after stints with Northern Iowa and Penn State. However, he has been slowed by injuries and has had only six matches so far this season.
The most impactful transfer has actually been Heilmann who now represents Rutgers after four seasons with North Carolina. He has gone 20-6 with three of those losses coming recently in the Big Ten meat grinder schedule. However, Heilmann does hold wins over Michael Colaiocco (Penn) and Rayvon Foley (Michigan State).
After getting back on track with a dominant 12-0 major decision over King Sandoval (Maryland), Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale spoke with InterMat.
“He has been wrestling great all year long,” he said. “Joey has trained his tail off. He has a workmanlike attitude every single day he steps in the room. It is this time of year. This is it for Joey, he gets it, understands it and is fired up about it, and he is starting to get better at the right time. I’m pretty excited about that.”
141: No. 2 Real Woods (Iowa)
Perhaps the most impactful transfer of the year appears to be a legitimate contender for the crown at 141 pounds. Woods has found a new home with the Hawkeyes after finishing sixth last year for Stanford. He has won all 11 of his bouts this season. Woods has not racked up the bonus points, but he already has wins over three top-10 ranked wrestlers: No. 5 Brock Hardy (Nebraska), No. 6 Beau Bartlett (Penn State) and No. 9 Frankie Tal-Shahar (Northwestern).
The number-one ranked wrestler at this weight, Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado), is also undefeated this season at 18-0. Woods does hold a win over Alirez from last season. If the rankings hold, these two could be headed for a rematch in the NCAA finals.
149: No. 25 Sam Hillegas (West Virginia)
Hillegas was a two-time PIAA state champion and a three-time WPIAL champion on the high school level. While at North Hills high school, he was coached by former West Virginia All-American Vertus Jones. After two seasons with Virginia Tech, Hillegas followed in his former coach’s footsteps and transferred to West Virginia. He has worked his way into the rankings with victories over the likes of No. 26 Jarod Verkleeren (Virginia) and No. 28 Tyler Badgett.
165: No. 24 Holden Heller (Pittsburgh) and No. 23 Gerrit Nijenhuis (Oklahoma)
Heller qualified for the 2021 NCAA tournament at 157 pounds while wrestling for Hofstra. He redshirted last season and eventually transferred to Pittsburgh. Heller has been the starter with the new team from the jump, and he has gone 10-5. He has picked up key wins No. 17 Justin McCoy (Virginia) and No. 16 Joshua Ogunsanya (Columbia).
After back-to-back qualifying seasons for Purdue, Nijenhuis is now on the roster for Oklahoma. He has dropped back down to 165 pounds and has built an 11-4 record Nijenhuis went 2-2 at this first open tournament to start the year, but he then went on an eight-match winning streak to put himself into the rankings. After a bit of a slide, he got back on track last weekend with a 3-1 victory over Hunter Mays (Rider).
174: No. 11 Edmond Ruth (Illinois)
Ruth started his collegiate career at Lehigh and spent last season wrestling unattached. During his off year, he won both the Clarion Open and the substitute Midlands event known as the Illinois Matmen Open. He eventually found a new home in Illinois where he has gone 23-3 and steadily climbed the rankings. Ruth has already picked up wins over No. 8 Peyton Mocco (Missouri), No. 12 Rocky Jordan (Chattanooga), No. 20 Nick Incontrera (Penn) and No. 16 Nelson Brands (Iowa).
184: No. 8 Matt Finesilver (Michigan)
Before joining the Wolverines, Finesilver was a three-time NCAA qualifier for Duke. After transferring to Michigan, he has moved up to 184 pounds and gone 17-5. Finesilver has rocketed up the rankings recently with wins over No. 13 Layne Malczewski (Michigan State), No. 14 Brian Soldano (Rutgers) and No. 10 Travis Wittlake (Oklahoma State).
197: No. 2 Michael Beard (Lehigh)
If Woods has been the most impactful transfer this season, then Beard is a close second. Beard signed with Penn State out of high school and finished seventh as a redshirt freshman in 2021 to become an All-American. After being forced to sit behind NCAA champion No. 3 Max Dean, Beard transferred to Lehigh. Not only has Beard cemented himself as a title contender with the Mountain Hawks, but he has also knocked off Dean earlier this year.
285: Jared Campbell (Glenville State)
Transfers have not made a huge impact in the heavyweight rankings on the Division I level, but the same can’t be said one step down in Division II. Campbell joined Glenville State this past offseason after previously wrestling for Notre Dame (Ohio) where he was a 2020 NCAA qualifier. At the new school, he has gone 27-1 with his only loss coming against former Purdue wrestler and returning All-American Shawn Streck (Central Oklahoma). Campbell not only won the Ohio Intercollegiate Open, but he has also gone 3-0 against Division I opposition including a win over No. 25 Michael Wolfgram (West Virginia). Campbell’s arrival at Glenville State has contributed to the ascension of the program. After finishing 44th at the NCAA tournament last season, the Pioneers are ranked 18th in the latest rankings.