Jump to content



  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Where did NCAA Champions Rank on the Big Board? (2017-21)

    2021 NCAA Champion AJ Ferrari (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    If you've followed wrestling for any length of time, you've heard the expression "rankings don't mean anything" or some variation of the saying hundreds of times. That's the beauty of our sport; two wrestlers get to settle it on the mat without help from teammates or other variables. You win or lose. If you're the lower-ranked wrestler, you have the opportunity to control your own destiny and prevail. To use another common phrase in wrestling circles, "that's why matches aren't wrestled on paper."

    Looking at it from a high school to college transition standpoint, we have heard plenty of stories of unheralded wrestlers thriving once they reach college and outperforming more highly ranked studs. You don't have to go very far back in time to see some excellent examples of wrestlers that were unknown nationally coming out of high school, yet ended up on the top of the podium in late March. Again, that's another fun aspect of our sport, seeing who adjusts (or doesn't) to the next level of competition. It's unpredictable and keeps fans/wrestlers/coaches/media members on their toes.

    Having said all that, it would be foolhardy to use the blanket statement that "rankings are worthless." Word on the street is that we could have a new set of Big Board rankings courtesy of MatScouts in the near future. With that in mind, we've decided to check out the last five years of worth of NCAA champions to see exactly how these wrestlers were viewed coming out of high school.

    By and large, the wrestlers that have been the best during this time span were targeted early as having potential for greatness. Sure, there are a few exceptions, and that's what keeps everyone motivated. Now, this isn't to diminish the accomplishments of the top-ranked wrestlers that have found success in college. They still have had to put in the time and work to make it at the collegiate level.

    At a later date, we may delve deeper into these types of Big Board analysis. Part of the reason why higher-ranked wrestlers are having such success is because of the rankings process itself. When there were fewer national-level events, rankers had less information to use when tabulating Big Boards. With Cadet/Junior Trials, Fargo, Junior/16U Duals, In-season tournaments, the Super 32, Who's #1, NHSCA grade-level nationals, USAW regionals, there are plenty of opportunities for wrestlers to make a name for themselves and knock off a ranked opponent or two.

    Below you'll find the NCAA champions from 2017-21 (#1 seeds in 2020) and their respective Big Board ranking during their senior year of high school.

    2021

    125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) #2 Class of 2017

    133: Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) #12 Class of 2018

    141: Nick Lee (Penn State) #9 Class of 2017

    149: Austin O'Connor (North Carolina) #12 Class of 2017

    157: David Carr (Iowa State) #5 Class of 2018

    165: Shane Griffith (Stanford) #19 Class of 2018

    174: Carter Starocci (Penn State) #9 Class of 2019

    184: Aaron Brooks (Penn State) #2 Class of 2018

    197: AJ Ferrari (Oklahoma State) #1 Class of 2020

    285: Gable Steveson (Minnesota) #1 Class of 2018

    This is remarkable! All ten NCAA champions from this past year finished in the top-20 of their respective senior class. The "lowest" of the group being Shane Griffith who was 19th in the Class of 2018. That particular class already has five NCAA titles and it's top two wrestlers each have one.

    10/10 in the top 20


    2020

    125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) #2 Class of 2017

    133: Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern) #78 Class of 2016

    141: Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) #9 Class of 2016

    149: Pat Lugo (Iowa) #74 Class of 2015

    157: Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) #97 Class of 2016

    165: Alex Marinelli (Iowa) #3 Class of 2016

    174: Mark Hall (Penn State) #1 Class of 2016

    184: Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa) #13 Class of 2015

    197: Kollin Moore (Ohio State) #44 Class of 2015

    285: Gable Steveson (Minnesota) #1 Class of 2018

    Of course, these are the number one seeds from the 2020 NCAA Championships in lieu of actual champions. While some of the usual suspects (#1-3 ranked wrestlers) were represented, there were some wrestlers in the back half of the Big Board that earned top seeds (Rivera, Lugo, Deakin).

    5/10 in Top 20

    7/10 in Top 50

    10/10 in the Top 100


    2019

    125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) #2 Class of 2017

    133: Nick Suriano (Rutgers) #2 Class of 2016

    141: Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) #3 Class of 2017

    149: Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) #12 Class of 2013

    157: Jason Nolf (Penn State) #4 Class of 2014

    165: Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) #19 Class of 2017

    174: Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) #1 Class of 2015

    184: Drew Foster (Northern Iowa) Not Ranked in Class of 2014

    197: Bo Nickal (Penn State) #6 Class of 2014

    285: Anthony Cassar (Penn State) Not Ranked in Class of 2014

    The 2019 class is the most recent that includes a wrestler(s) that did not appear on his senior Big Board. Drew Foster was a remarkable in-state find for the UNI coaching staff. He went from 15-18 as a redshirt freshman to the program's first national champion since 2000. Also at 285 lbs, Anthony Cassar prevailed highlighted by a win over Gable Steveson in the semis. Cassar only qualified for the New Jersey state tournament once (which he won) and was off the radar for most observers.

    8/10 in Top 20

    2/10 Not Ranked


    2018

    125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) #2 Class of 2017

    133: Seth Gross (South Dakota State) #47 Class 2014

    141: Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) #3 Class of 2017

    149: Zain Retherford (Penn State) #2 Class of 2013

    157: Jason Nolf (Penn State) #4 Class of 2014

    165: Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) #3 Class of 2015

    174: Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) #1 Class of 2015

    184: Bo Nickal (Penn State) #6 Class of 2014

    197: Mike Macchiavello (NC State) Not Ranked in Class of 2013

    285: Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) #1 Class of 2014

    Overall, a class full of high school superstars! Eight of the ten national champions were ranked in the top-six or higher of their respective classes. Of course, Mike Macchiavello was an excellent signing from NC State and one that developed significantly once in Raleigh. After his first two years, Macchiavello was 20-22. He took a redshirt and them emerged as a contender on the national level.

    8/10 top 20

    9/10 top 50

    1/10 Not Ranked


    2017

    125: Darian Cruz (Lehigh) #37 Class of 2013

    133: Cory Clark (Iowa) #23 Class of 2012

    141: Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) #15 Class of 2013

    149: Zain Retherford (Penn State) #2 Class of 2013

    157: Jason Nolf (Penn State) #4 Class of 2014

    165: Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) #3 Class of 2015

    174: Mark Hall (Penn State) #1 Class of 2016

    184: Bo Nickal (Penn State) #6 Class of 2014

    197: J'den Cox (Missouri) #5 Class of 2013

    285: Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) #1 Class of 2014

    If it wasn't for the 2021 crop of national champions, we'd think of this group as one of the hallmarks for wrestling up to your rankings. Eight of the ten champions were ranked in the top-15 overall coming out of high school. Even the other two, Cruz and Clark, were in the top-40 so they were very highly thought of and regarded. This is also a testament to Penn State's excellent recruiting. Not only do they have five national champions, they had winners from four different recruiting classes (2013-16).

    8/10 top 20

    10/10 top 50

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now



×
×
  • Create New...