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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    The Next Five: Top Recruiting Classes Outside the 2021 Rankings

    Keith Gavin (left) at the 2021 NCAA Championships (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    On Tuesday, InterMat released our 2021 Recruiting Class Rankings. Competition for a place in the top-25 was extremely stiff. Ten to 12 teams that missed the cut were in consideration for the list. Since there was such a thin margin between the squads that made the list and those that didn't, we thought we'd outline five additional classes that were notable and will help improve their particular schools in the future.

    Without even intending on it, this list features five teams from five different conferences. This is not a ranking, so they have been placed in alphabetical order.

    Air Force

    2021 Recruits:

    #123 Tucker Owens - Mustang, OK (133); #170 Mason Ding - Carrollton Creekview, TX (285); #179 Jack Ganos - Arrowhead, WI (165); #205 Gavin Gross - Odessa, MO (165); #228 Aiden Warren - Perry Meridian, IN (197); #262 Andrew Wenzel - Dakota, IL (184); Brenden Barnes - Benedictine, VA (133); Brooks Gable - Dallastown, PA (149/157); Nick Gonzalez - Montini Catholic, IL (125/133); Josh Miller - Central Dauphin, PA (141); Gage Musser - Commodore Perry, PA (165/174)

    Air Force has steadily improved their recruiting game in each of the last four seasons. The 2021 Class followed that pattern and almost earned Sam Barber's team a place among the top-25. Six members of the top-300 have decided to enroll at the Air Force Academy. Like the other service academies, Air Force can recruit on a national scale, which they have done here, though it is heavy on Pennsylvania talent. Brooks Gable, Josh Miller, and Gage Musser were all state placewinners as seniors. The top-ranked recruit of the bunch is Tucker Owens, a four-time Oklahoma state finalist and two-time champion. Owens dropped a close match in the state finals this year to Cael Hughes, a fourth-place finisher at this year's Cadet World Team Trials. Two-time Texas state champion, Mason Ding, flew under the radar for the majority of his high school career, but that changed after he was third at the 2020 Super 32. Other top recruits include Wisconsin champ Jack Ganos and three-time Missouri winner, Gavin Gross. The Falcons sent Illinois native Jared Van Vleet to the national tournament in 2021, so they've gone back to Illinois and returned with state finalists Nick Gonzalez and Andrew Wenzel. While there isn't any one big superstar in the group, there's plenty of capable collegiate wrestlers in the mix.


    2021 Recruits:

    #112 AJ Corrado - Burrell, PA (165); #122 Sebastian Garibaldi - White Plains, NY (285); #162 Drew Clearie - Nazareth, PA (184); #203 James Araneo - Ward Melville, NY (184); #263 Tony Pray - Creighton Prep, NE (197); #271 Ian Oswalt - Burrell, PA (141); Sam McMonagle - West Chester Henderson, PA (149); Mason Spears - Franklin Regional, PA (149); Harrison Trahan - McDonogh, MD (174)

    Like Air Force, Brown's 2021 class has a strong Pennsylvania feel to it. And that's a good thing. Burrell, a perennial power in PA's AA classification, has a pair of grapplers on the way to Rhode Island. AJ Corrado, is a four-time state medalist, two-time finalist, and a champ as a senior. Teammate Ian Oswalt, also found the podium four times, never finishing lower than fifth, and appeared in state title matches as a junior and senior. Outside of Burrell, Drew Clearie was a three-time state placer, finishing third in each of the last two years. Clearie was also fourth at the 2019 Beast of the East. Sam McMonagle and Mason Spears are both PA placers, with McMonagle getting onto the podium twice. Outside of Pennsylvania, Sebastian Garibaldi and James Araneo have placed top-five in New York's larger division and excelled in off-season dual competition. Finally, Bears head coach Todd Beckerman went back to his roots and picked up a National Prep kid from Maryland, Harrison Trahan. Trahan was a National Prep runner-up in 2020 and a two-time placer at the event. With all of the attention given to the Columbia's and Penn's of the world for their recent recruiting success, don't overlook Brown. This group will certainly improve the overall talent in the Bears wrestling room and help them battle up the standings in the EIWA.


    2021 Recruits:

    #72 Cole Rees - Wyoming Seminary,PA (184); #116 Colin Nation - Tampa Prep, FL (197); #145 Conor Maslanek - Pelham, NH (197); #171 Sebastián Melguizo - Miami SW, FL (133); #181 Brandon Hoselton - Prairie Central, IL (197); Jared Hopkins - Colony, AK (141); Nino Prisco - Fox Lane, NY (285)

    Year one of the Scotti Sentes era in Buies Creek (as the head coach, at least) was a success on the mat and the recruiting trail. Sentes' wisely brought in Daryl Thomas, formerly of Old Dominion, who has established himself as one of the top recruiters in the nation. Together, the Camel staff assembled a class that includes five of the top-200 high schoolers in the nation. The biggest name is Cole Rees. Cole placed in the top four three times at the National Prep Championships for perennial powerhouse Wyoming Seminary. Rees also has a title at NHSCA Freshman Nationals and a runner-up finish at the Powerade on his resume. He, along with Colin Nation, Conor Maslanek, and Brandon Hoselton, are a powerful quartet that will provide significant help to Campbell's upperweights. Maslanek broke out this fall by making the semifinals at the Super 32. The Camels staff was already on to the New Englander, though. Hoselton jumped into high school and won an Illinois title as a freshman at 195 lbs. He added another title and finals appearance, along the way. Nation is an extremely intriguing prospect, as he moved to Japan and has been involved in MMA training. Before leaving the states, Nation won a state title and was fourth at Freshman Nationals. Sebastian Melguizo had a great showing at the Grappler Fall Classic, winning the 125 lb title, but hasn't always been consistent at those types of events. With seven NCAA qualifiers returning, Campbell isn't in desperate need of help right away, but getting a class like this should get the train on the tracks going forward (and upward) in 2022-23 and beyond.

    Little Rock

    2021 Recruits:

    #48 Matt Bianchi - Two Rivers, WI (149); #102 Cayden Auch - Neosho, MO (184); #163 Jayden Gomez - Gilroy, CA (141); #164 Cougar Andersen - Skiatook, OK (184); #204 Apollo Gothard - Lemont, IL (285); #288 Cade Manion - Deer Creek, OK (141); Jake Adams - Bentonville, AR (133); Chance Davis - Enid, OK (174); Mack Hubbel - Blue Valley Southwest, KS (285); Reid Nelson - Simley, MN (125)

    The second full recruiting class for Neil Erisman's team is excellent and you could have made a case that they belonged in the top-25. In fact, their highest-ranked recruit, #48 Matt Bianchi, was higher on the big board than anyone from the teams that came in at 23-25. Bianchi is the latest in a line of three brothers that have already enrolled at Little Rock. Older brother, Paul, was the Trojan's first national qualifier in 2021. Matt was a double Fargo All-American at the 16U level in 2019, taking fifth or higher in both styles. He became a four-time Wisconsin state champion this year. #102 Cayden Auch achieved the same feat in Missouri. Erisman, an Oklahoma State alum, used his pull within the state to grab a pair of big boarders (Cougar Andersen and Cade Manion) along with Chance Davis. The trio combined to win six Oklahoma state titles. Perhaps the steal of the group was getting two-time Illinois state finalist Apollo Gothard. Apollo also was fifth at the Super 32 last fall, as well. The demise of the Fresno State program left former Bulldog-commit Jayden Gomez without a home temporarily. Gomez, California placewinner and Junior freestyle All-American, will now enroll at Little Rock. While the high school scene is still growing in Arkansas, Erisman and his staff have done well signing talent at some of the nearby, deeper states (Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma). This class is another piece in a solid foundation that the Trojan staff has managed to assemble less than three years.


    2021 Recruits:

    #35 Luca Augustine - Waynesburg, PA (174); #75 Brock McMillen - Glendale, PA (141); #130 Ethan Finch - Sheffield, PA (197); #244 Cole Hivnor - Lake Catholic, OH (184); Emory Taylor - McCallie School, TN (149/157)

    While not a huge class, Pittsburgh's group has a few potential superstars and it serves a bigger purpose. For years, fans have speculated how the Panthers would be if top local talent chose to stay home. Keeping all of the studs from Western Pennsylvania is never realistic for any program, but head coach Keith Gavin and staff have been able to retain more talent from their own backyard and the results have shown on the mat. A pair of homegrown, local kids made the national finals for Pitt (Jake Wentzel and Nino Bonaccorsi) in 2021. Waynesburg's Luca Augustine had a breakout year in 2019-20 with top-five placing at the Ironman, Beast, and Powerade. He was even more consistent in 2020-21 as he won a Pennsylvania state title and defeated a past champion (Trey Kibe) to do so. A week earlier, Kibe downed Augustine in the Super Regional final. Also from that half of the state is Brock McMillen and Ethan Finch. McMillen is a four-time state finalist and three-time champion. He hasn't competed that frequently on the national scene, so he could be even higher than his current #75 ranking. Finch was largely unknown outside of Western Pennsylvania before taking fourth at the 2020 Super 32. He went on to make the AA state finals this season. Cole Hivnor has placed fourth on two occasions at the Ohio state meet and brings depth to the upperweights. Four-time Tennessee state champ Emory Taylor is from associate head coach Jordan Leen's backyard. With an improving set of high school talent on the horizon, Tennessee could be a go-to for Leen and the Panthers in the future. Though this group is outside of the top-25, it fills some needs (141/149/157) and will help keep Pitt in the mix for an ACC crown going forward.

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