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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    The Best Recruiting Class for Each ACC School During the Last Ten Recruiting Cycles (2007-16)

    Virginia Tech's 2x All-American Joey Dance (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    Last week, we had a feature that listed the top recruiting class from each school in the Big Ten. That article was a hit, so we've decided to look at other conferences. Right now, you can't talk recruiting without mentioning the ACC. The 2022 recruiting rankings featured three ACC schools in the top ten (NC State #3, Virginia Tech #7, and Virginia #9) and two others in the top 20 (Pittsburgh #15 and North Carolina #16).

    So, here's a refresher in case you didn't catch the Big Ten version:

    We looked at each of the 6 current ACC teams and tried to determine their best recruiting classes in the ten-year cycle of graduated classes (2007-16). That means we didn't consider any classes from 2017 and on, since some or all of a respective school's recruits may still be competing.

    Below are each of the 6 ACC teams, listed alphabetically, along with their top class and notables from that group. Each school also has a "runner-up" listed, another great class that deserved to be mentioned.


    Class of 2014

    Notables: NR Mitch Finesilver, NR Zach Finesilver

    The skinny: Because of limits set by their athletic department, Duke doesn't give out scholarships in wrestling, which hurts their ability to recruit. Especially compared to their in-conference counterparts. The Class of 2014 was important for a few reasons. Primarily getting Mitch Finesilver, a 2019 All-American (4th) and a mainstay in the lineup. Mitch and twin brother, Zach, also opened the door for their younger twins, Josh and Matt. The four qualified for a total of 14 NCAA tournaments while in Durham.

    An overlooked part of this class is that it featured top-50 recruit Grant Leeth. Typically Duke hasn't been able to ink recruits of that ilk; however, Leeth went on to earn All-American honors at Missouri.

    Others: #49 Grant Leeth, NR Alec Schenk

    Runner-Up: Class of 2013

    The Class of 2013 netted multiple-time All-American Jacob Kasper and 2017 national qualifier Connor Bass.

    NC State

    Class of 2016

    Notables: #3 Nick Reenan (TX), #7 Hayden Hidlay (PA), #34 Daniel Bullard (GA), #42 Thomas Bullard, #77 Tariq Wilson (OH)

    The skinny: There was no doubt about who would get the honors for the Wolfpack. This class was lauded as one of the best in the nation, back in 2016, and it holds up six years later. When the smoke cleared, three of NC State's 2016 recruits went on to place top-eight at nationals. Hayden Hidlay was a national contender from day one and earned All-American honors every year at the NCAA Tournament. Tariq Wilson surprised the nation as a freshman, taking third, then AA'ed twice more. Both Bullard's were consistent forces in the NC State lineup, with Daniel placing seventh in 2021. Though injuries slowed down Reenan, he still was productive and competed at nationals three times. In addition to the numbers put up by this class, they also were symbolic in the movement of the program to a consistent national power. This group was an integral part of the Wolfpack NCAA team trophy in 2018.

    Others: #102 Chris Diaz (GA), #123 Kellan Devlin (NY), #135

    Runner-Up: The Class of 2014 can't stack up to NC State's 2016 squad, but it does look much better today than it did at the time. Kevin Jack jumped onto the scene in the second semester of his freshman year, earned the starting spot and was an All-American. He was also in the national title hunt and finished as a three-time AA. Sean Fausz didn't AA, but made the bloodround twice and won an ACC title, as a huge 125 lber. Michael Boykin was the highest regarded recruit of the bunch and was seeded top-15 at nationals on two occasions.

    North Carolina

    Class of 2013

    Notables: #63 Ethan Ramos (NJ), #106 Troy Heilmann (NJ)

    The skinny: Once the Coleman Scott-era got running, UNC had plenty of success on the recruiting trail. In a few more years, an exercise like this probably includes a couple of classes under his watch. But, the 2013 class featured a pair of All-Americans, when that type of thing was a bit more rare in Chapel Hill. Both, Ethan Ramos and Troy Heilmann, would go on to advance to an NCAA semifinal. Ramos as a redshirt freshman and Heilmann as a senior. Though Ramos never made it back to the podium, he did win a pair of ACC titles and was seeded as high as fourth at nationals. Heilmann made the national tournament twice before his breakout senior season. He was only the second AA during Scott's tenure at UNC.

    Others: #124 Josh Lehner (OH)

    Runner-Up: There's an argument to be made about UNC's 2011 class and its quantity over the two AA's in 2013. First and foremost, the Class of 2011 was led by Evan Henderson, who placed top-six at nationals twice and won a pair of ACC crowns. Christian Barber and Alex Utley were both two-time national qualifiers. John Staudenmayer made the trip to nationals four times, receiving the #11 seed as a senior and making the bloodround his freshman year.


    Class of 2010

    Notables: #32 Max Thomusseit (OH), NR Tyler Wilps (PA), NR Shelton Mack (PA)

    The skinny: Like UNC, this feature could end up better in a few years, as Keith Gavin and crew are regularly signing impressive classes. The headliner, coming out of high school, was Max Thomusseit, who ended up being one of the best wrestlers of his era not to make the NCAA podium. He lost in the bloodround in each of his final three years and was seeded fourth and second the final two. Tyler Wilps broke through in a big way making the 2015 NCAA finals, which accounted for his second All-American honor. Wilps also was an ACC champion in both seasons. Shelton Mack was a stalwart at 133 lbs, missing out on All-American honors by a match in 2012.

    Runner-Up: The focal point of the Class of 2016 was Jake Wentzel. The local product went on to win three ACC titles and made the 2021 national finals. Wentzel was also named a second-team All-American during 2020 and finished in the bloodround last season. Pitt signed three top-75 recruits in 2016; however, Wentzel is the one that shined.


    Class of 2016

    Notables: #15 Jack Mueller (TX), #117 Louie Hayes (IL), #121 Jay Aiello (VA)

    The skinny: This may not be a class that comes to mind when talking about the best of the conference, but it's an extremely good one. Jack Mueller was an All-American right out of the gate and is UVA's most recent national finalist. Louie Hayes got on the NCAA podium in 2021 in a deep 133 lb weight class after finishing a match shy as a freshman. Jay Aiello's best shot at earning All-American honors was at the ill-fated 2020 national tournament, where he was set to be the seventh seed after winning ACC's. Aiello was a round of 12 finisher in 2022 and qualified for nationals four times.

    Remember, Micky Phillipi was a part of this group. Phillippi never officially competed for Virginia before transferring to Pitt, where he has won a pair of ACC titles and lost in the bloodround on three occasions.

    Others: #17 Micky Phillipi (PA), #127 Edwin Rubio (NY)

    Runner-Up: Another monster class for the Cavaliers was the 2007 group. It produced one of the program's best-ever in three-time All-American Chris Henrich. Also aboard was three-time qualifier Nick Nelson, a one-time ACC champion and bloodround participant. Danny Gonsor is in the group, as well.

    Virginia Tech

    Class of 2013

    Notables: #6 Joey Dance (VA), #29 Zach Epperly (VA), #86 Dennis Gustafson (VA), #93 Jared Haught (WV)

    The skinny: Getting three multiple-time All-Americans in the same recruiting class is ridiculous! That's what the Hokies did in 2013 as they kept two local prospects, Joey Dance and Zach Epperly, home and cherry-picked Jared Haught from neighboring West Virginia. Add in Dennis Gustafson and you have eight ACC titles. Dance finished top-five at nationals twice and was a title contender for his final three years. During that time he was seeded second at NCAA twice and third once. Epperly's second trip to the podium featured an incredible consolation run to third place. Haught improved every year he was on campus and was a national finalist in 2018. This foursome was instrumental in Virginia Tech's 2016 national tournament that saw them finish in fourth place for the program's first-ever NCAA team trophy.

    Also included is Kevin Norstrem, who made the national tournament as a freshman at 133 lbs.

    Others: #16 Kevin Norstrem (FL)

    Runner-Up: The 2008 class may have been the most important for Virginia Tech. It helped establish a foundation for high-level recruiting and performance on the mat. The 2008 group included two-time All-American Peter Yates, 2013 AA Jarrod Garnett, and Jesse Dong, who was seeded top-seven at nationals three times.

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