Cleveland State recruit Ben Aranda (Photo/John Sachs; Tech-Fall.com)
We are less than a week away from the first whistle blowing at the FargoDome as the Junior/16U National Championships will occur for the first time since 2019. Because of the cancelation of the 2020 tournament, the wrestlers have decided to show up in full force at Fargo. Early entries indicate that it will be the deepest in 10-15 years.
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. Our next conference will be the MAC. It is a league in transition as traditional power Missouri has moved on to the Big 12. At this point, there isn't a clear-cut favorite as to who will step up and take charge of the conference. With some strong recruits, any number of teams is capable of leading. Here are some of the future MAC stars to watch in Fargo:
Eli Sheeran (Texas) - Class of 2021: 195 lbs
The honorable mention â€œBig Boarderâ€ Eli Sheeran will compete in one of the most loaded brackets of the week when he does battle at 195 lbs. The two-time state champion Sheeran was named the Houston-area Wrestler of the Year after pinning his way to his most recent title. Sheeran is certainly a recruit on the upswing, as he has gradually improved throughout his high school career. Though the 195 lb bracket is daunting, Sheeran is capable of a deep run and could turn heads against quality competition. Sheeran has tasted national-level success before as he was eighth in 2019 at NHSCA Sophomore Nationals.
John Altieri (Pennsylvania) - Class of 2021: 152 lbs
Nate Burnett (Ohio) - Class of 2022: 145 lbs
The Golden Eagles have a pair of commits ready to hit the mat, including Nate Burnett, the only rising senior in the conference. Burnett is an Ohio state fifth-place finisher that has excellent bloodlines and legacy at Clarion. His father, Erik, was an All-American for the school in 1992. Additionally, his brother, Mick, a starter for Pittsburgh in 2021, was a Cadet and Junior finalist in freestyle. The younger Burnett has the potential to be one of the better gets in some time for coach Keith Ferraro's team. A 2021 signee also worthy of that title is 2021 PIAA AAA state runner-up, John Altieri. John's a two-time state medalist in Pennsylvania and will not be phased by the competition in Fargo.
Ben Aranda (Illinois) - Class of 2021: 113
The only recruit in the conference that's a returning Fargo All-American? That distinction belongs to Ben Aranda of Illinois and soon-to-be Cleveland State. Before moving along to the collegiate scene, Aranda has some unfinished business. He was a 16U Greco-Roman runner-up in 2019 and a fifth-place finisher in 2018 in freestyle. Also in 2019, Aranda was sixth at the Cadet World Team Trials in Akron, while competing in freestyle. Aranda's success also bled over into the folkstyle scene, as he was a two-time state medalist, taking fourth and second, at some rugged Illinois lightweight brackets. In Fargo, the Junior 113 lb entries tend to be smaller than most weights above it, so getting onto the podium will be slightly more feasible. Also, having someone with Aranda's experience should bode well against younger competition.
Cayden Dotson (Missouri) - Class of 2021: 126 lbs
Caleb Edwards (Ohio) - Class of 2021: 126 lbs
Trent Schultheis (Pennsylvania) - Class of 2021: 195 lbs
Cam Soda (Massachusetts) - Class of 2021: 126 lbs
Zachary Soda (Massachusetts) - Class of 2021: 126 lbs
The award for the largest group of incoming freshmen in the conference at Fargo goes to Matt Hill's Fighting Scots, who have five recruits signed up. It should be easy to follow them as four of the five are slated to compete at 126 lbs. We'll see if any of them hit and make a de facto wrestle-off. The Soda twins hope to be the next in a long line of quality wrestlers for Edinboro from New England. The pair both won New England titles in 2020. Caleb Edwards was a fourth-place finisher in Ohio's DIII, while Cayden Dotson achieved an identical placement competing in Missouri. Up at 195 lbs will be four-time Pennsylvania state medalist Trent Schultheis. Trent was second as a sophomore and third as a senior. He has spent time in the national rankings and likely has the best shot at a deep run out of the bunch. It bodes well for Edinboro that they have such as large group still hungry to compete in Fargo.
Matt Hoelke (New Jersey) - Class of 2021: 152 lbs
Rider will be represented by 2021 state runner-up Matt Hoelke. Matt was one of the surprises of the 2021 state tournament as he made the finals after coming in as the ninth seed. One of his bigger wins came in the quarterfinals when he upset a top-seeded opponent that had previously defeated him in the postseason. Could Hoelke be capable of such magic again? Getting a wrestler that could be labeled a late-bloomer (on the national scene) seems appropriate for Rider, a program that thrives off of such competitors. A strong showing from Hoelke could indicate that he's ready to push for a starting spot in year one with the Broncs.
Caine Tyus (Illinois) - Class of 2021: 145 lbs
Caleb Tyus (Illinois) - Class of 2021: 138 lbs
The Tyus' are the second set of twins among recruits in the MAC. Caine and Caleb combined to capture state medals as both sophomores and juniors. In 2020, Caleb was a state runner-up, while Caine finished third. Both were on the Senior Big Board (Caine #173 and Caleb #211), which represent huge signee's for an improving Cougar team. While competition at 138 and 145 will be fierce, both have their coaching and home state on their side. Traditionally, Illinois has dominated the international styles. The state tends to regular produce wrestlers that outproduce their pre-tournament predictions, year in and year out. The Tyus twins have the feel of wrestlers that could extend this trend.