3x NCAA champion Jason Nolf (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
In the offseason, we've done a variety of looks back in time at past recruiting classes. Recently, InterMat dove in to decide which "class" of wrestlers performed best in college. Earlier, we did our usual re-ranking of recruiting classes, five years after the fact.
Today, we're taking a different approach. We looked at each of the 14 current Big Ten 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 14 Big Ten 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 2008
Notables: #13 Jordan Blanton, #53 Conrad Polz, #105 BJ Futrell
The skinny: There's nothing wrong with getting three multi-time All-Americans in the same recruiting class. Blanton, Polz, and Futrell combined to AA seven times, but it's realistic to think they could've done much more. Polz was besieged by injuries during his first few seasons and Futrell was a national title contender before missing his final year because of an injury. Blanton was a consistent force finishing top-five at B1G's every year and placing three times in a brutal weight.
Others: #171 Pat Walker
Runner-Up: The 2013 class wasn't huge, but did include Isaiah Martinez, who went on to have a legendary career in Champaign. He was the first undefeated freshman since Cael Sanderson and a four-time finalist.
Class of 2009
Notables: #46 Ryan LeBlanc, NR Adam Chalfant
The skinny: The highest ranked wrestler of this class, Ryan LeBlanc, went on to have a fine career that included three trips to nationals. In his final appearance, LeBlanc finished a match shy of All-American status. Though unranked at the time, this class featured Adam Chalfant, who made the 2014 Big Ten finals (their most recent conference finalist) and had the highest NCAA seed (3rd) dating back to 2010. Chalfant went on to take sixth at the 2014 national tournament.
Others: #57 Max Ortega
Runner-Up: The 2010 group is the most decorated Hoosier recruiting class in some time, featuring four top-100 recruits. #66 Taylor Walsh went on to make the NCAA finals for Indiana, but the rest of the class featured only one other eventual national qualifier (Joe Duca).
Class of 2012
Notables: #16 Thomas Gilman, #20 Sam Brooks, #23 Cory Clark, #41 Alex Meyer
The skinny: Four All-Americans is remarkable for a single recruiting class. Gilman likely would have been a four-time AA; had it not been for Cory Clark at his weight class in 2014. Those two combined to make four NCAA finals and Clark came away with a title as a senior. The only multiple-time Big Ten champion of the group was Brooks, who AA'ed his final two years. Meyer qualified for nationals in each of his last two years, taking eighth as a junior and making the Round of 12 as a senior.
Others: #15 Nate Skonieczny, #198 Connor Ryan
Runner-Up: You can make an argument for the 2009 class that featured national champions Derek St. John and Tony Ramos. The two combined for seven All-American honors and got to four NCAA finals.
Class of 2009
Notable: #79 Jimmy Sheptock
If we were to do this exercise again, five years from now, the Terps Class of 2021 would certainly be the leader. After redshirting most of the key players, it appears to be a group that could turn the Maryland program around.
But looking back, we'll go with the 2009 class that mainly focuses on Jimmy Sheptock. Every time Sheptock was in the lineup for the postseason, he came away with an ACC title. Sheptock made the national podium on two occasions, highlighted by an NCAA runner-up finish as a senior, after he was given the #1 seed.
Runner-Up: The previous class (2008) featured a two-time All-American, Josh Asper, along with Corey Peltier, who won the ACC as a junior.
Class of 2013
Notables: #2 Adam Coon, #19 Domenic Abouander, #33 Brian Murphy, #114 George Fisher
The skinny: The top-two ranked wrestlers in this class jumped into the Wolverine lineup right away and became contenders for their entire careers. Coon went on to finish in the top-three three times at nationals, including two national finals. While Abounader finally got on the podium as a senior, he was seeded ninth or better all four years in Ann Arbor. Murphy earned All-American honors during his junior season and battled through injuries as a senior. Fisher made the national tournament in 2015.
Others: #99 Payne Hayden, #183 Cameron Kennedy
Runner-Up: The 2007 class included two-time NCAA champion Kellen Russell but didn't have the depth like the 2013 class.
Class of 2009
Notables: #58 Mike McClure
The skinny: The Spartans kept Senior National runner-up Mike McClure in-state and he really blossomed as a junior/senior. McClure was seeded eighth at nationals as a junior, but did not place. As a senior, in 2014, McClure took fifth at 285 lbs.
Runner-Up: The 2007 class had a pair of recruits that were consistent performers for MSU in Anthony Jones and Ian Hinton.
Class of 2010
Notables: #15 Dylan Ness, #20 Nick Dardanes, #78 Scott Schiller, #81 Chris Dardanes
The skinny: The Golden Gophers have been pretty consistent with a very productive guy or two in almost all ten recruiting classes. The 2010 class was an integral part of Minnesota teams that finished second in the Big Ten and NCAA on two occasions. These four combined to earn All-American honors ten times and two Big Ten titles (Ness and Chris Dardanes), along with five conference finals appearances. All but Nick Dardanes each got onto the podium at least three times; Ness was the only four-timer.
Others: #57 Tyler Lehmann, #137 Seth Lange
Runner-Up: The 2009 class is comparable with two-time national champion Tony Nelson leading the way. David Thorn, Kevin Steinhaus, and Danny Zilverberg were AA's at least one time.
Class of 2016
Notables: #6 Chad Red Jr, #30 Eric Schultz, #99 Taylor Venz
The skinny: Because of the Covid year, these three had five years to pad their stats. Red Jr. had one of the most unusual careers, as he suffered his share of losses in the regular season, but shined at the NCAA Tournament, with three podium appearances. Schultz made the finals of the last three Big Ten tournaments, and was seeded in the top-three three times at nationals, before breaking into the All-American ranks in 2022. Venz was fourth in the country as a redshirt freshman and was a Round of 12 finisher three times after that. All three were named NWCA first-team All-Americans in 2020. Additionally, Luke Weber had a very good career, though the bulk of his success (Big 12 title) came for North Dakota State.
Others: #9 Beau Breske, #126 Johnny Blankenship, #145 Luke Weber
Runner-Up: The 2011 class featured four-time All-American James Green, along with perennial contender Jake Sueflohn (never an All-American), and Austin Wilson, who AA'ed as a senior. Donny Longendyke was also a DIII national champion for Augsburg. You could make a case for this group.
Class of 2016
Notables: #46 Sebastian Rivera, #95 Ryan Deakin
The skinny: Seeing how both of their collegiate careers played out, it's a bit surprising to see each with a low (relatively speaking) ranking coming out of high school. Each Rivera and Deakin earned the #1 seed at the NCAA Tournament on two occasions. Rivera finished with a pair of Big Ten titles for Northwestern, while Deakin had three. Deakin was an undefeated national champion in 2022, his third time on the podium. Rivera had four. Both could have padded their stats had they been able to compete at nationals in 2022. Each were favorites in their respective weight classes. Even though Rivera finished at Rutgers, he did more than enough at Northwestern to impact their recruiting class.
Others: #130 Shayne Oster
Runner-Up: The 2010 class was ranked highly at the time due to four top-50 signees. While the entire class didn't pan out as expected, Mike McMullan was a national title contender for all four years. Pierce Harger was an under-the-radar recruit that gave the Wildcats two AA's from 2010.
Class of 2013
Notables: #1 Bo Jordan, #10 Nathan Tomasello
The skinny: Of all of the Big Ten schools, this was probably the most difficult to determine. You could probably make an argument for two or three other classes. That's how well Tom Ryan and staff have recruited. Jordan and Tomasello both redshirted and were integral parts of the Buckeye's only national title-winning team in 2015. That year, Jordan was a conference runner-up and third at nationals. Tomasello won the first of his four B1G crowns and a national title. Both would get on the national podium four times and only once lower than third.
Runner-Up: 2011, 2014, and 2015 all have their strong points. 2011 had three All-Americans, though the group lost steam as their careers progressed (generally). 2014 had Kyle Snyder and Micah Jordan. Myles Martin and Kollin Moore were the headliners from 2015. Arguing over which of the four recruiting classes turned out the best is the definition of "first-world problems."
Class of 2014
Notables: #4 Jason Nolf, #5 Nick Nevills, #7 Bo Nickal, #43 Shakur Rasheed, NR Anthony Cassar
The skinny: Three NCAA champions in a single recruiting class is simply absurd. The same can be said for five All-Americans. Nolf and Nickal both made four NCAA finals and won in each of their final three seasons. Nickal captured the Hodge Trophy, but Nolf is one of the best not to have won in the last decade. Rasheed and Cassar weren't four-year starters/qualifiers, but had a major impact, while in the lineup. Nevills was third in the Big Ten and a two-time All-American, until he was usurped by Cassar.
Others: #90 Gary Dinmore
Runner-Up: It's hard to believe that the Nittany Lions Class of 2019, featuring David Taylor and Ed Ruth isn't the winner here. You could say that that duo may have been more important setting the foundation to be able to sign a class like 2014.
Class of 2016
Notables: #12 Griffin Parriott, #60 Christian Brunner, #104 Devin Schroder
The skinny: This group was incredibly productive for Purdue head coach Tony Ersland and was the foundation for a squad that finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships in 2020. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the NCAA Tournament that year, as a couple of these Boilermakers had a shot to make the national podium. Schroder was seeded fifth and Brunner sixth. Both also made the NCAA bloodround once in their careers. Parriott rounds out the trio with three trips to nationals under his belt. Altogether, these three qualified 10 times.
Others: #28 Shawn Streck, #140 Kobe Woods
Runner-Up: The 2009 class featured a pair of homegrown lightweights that proved to be mainstays in the Boilermaker lineup, Cashe Quiroga and Camden Eppert. Quiroga was a 2010 NCAA semifinalist and a sixth-place finisher.
Class of 2013
Notables: #8 Anthony Ashnault, #56 Tyson Dippery, #193 Nick Gravina
The skinny: The big one here is Ashnault, who finished a legendary high school career in New Jersey and stayed home to become the face of the Scarlet Knights program. Ashnault didn't disappoint with a career that included four All-American honors and an undefeated, national-title-winning season as a senior, in 2019. Gravina ended up going to nationals four times and finishing a match away from the podium, in 2017, while Dippery qualified once. At the end of the day, it's all about Ashnault's impact on the program.
Others: #107 Taylor Jackson, #185 Corey Stasenko
Runner-Up: The 2008 class was important from an intangible perspective as it helped a young coach Scott Goodale set a foundation for future recruiting success. Don't overlook the Class of 2011, which was rather odd. It included a pair of wrestlers that later went on to AA at other schools (#54 Steven Rodrigues and #83 Earl Hall). Billy Smith was an anchor at the end of the Scarlet Knight lineup and Anthony Perrotti was a two-time AA that was the first for Goodale's tenure.
Class of 2008
Notables: #6 Tyler Graff, #11 Andrew Howe, #48 Ben Jordan, #52 Cole Schmitt, #68 Travis Rutt
The skinny: This class was ranked #1 by some publications at the time and it's held up well over the years as its recruits delivered on the mat. Howe jumped into the lineup right away and won the first of his three Big Ten titles and made the national finals. A year later, he'd win NCAA's. Graff was a key figure in some incredible 133 lb weight classes. Even so, he was never lower than fifth and made the NCAA finals as a senior. Add in All-Americans Ben Jordan and Travis Rutt and you have an extremely productive bunch. Schmitt was also productive and a multi-time qualifier.
Others: #111 Trey Bertram, #126 Tom Kelliher
Runner-Up: For the era observed, none of the Badger classes really stack up to 08. The 2012 class that featured #27 Isaac Jordan and #35 Ryan Taylor is the only other that featured more than one future All-American. The Class of 2011 had #62 Conor Medberry and #4 Jesse Thielke; however, Thielke's impact was more felt on the Greco side than in college.