There will always be debates among wrestling fans about which NHSCA Senior Nationals weight classes were the greatest ever and why. Wrestlers develop at different rates, which makes it very difficult to determine which weight classes are truly the greatest. A wrestler who may not have been a title contender at the NHSCA Senior Nationals can turn out to be a multiple-time All-American, NCAA champion or Olympic champion. Conversely, a dominant NHSCA Senior Nationals champion is sometimes never heard from again in the sport.
With hindsight being 20/20, I'm going to look at the 10 greatest NHSCA Senior Nationals weight classes based on post-high school accomplishments.
2001, 119 Pounds
In 2001, Joe Dubuque (New Jersey), a future two-time NCAA champion at Indiana, came out on top at 119 pounds in what is arguably the most talent-filled weight class in the history of NHSCA Senior Nationals. Dubuque's run to the NHSCA Senior Nationals title included a quarterfinal victory over future NCAA champion Nate Gallick (Arizona), semifinal win over future World Team member Nick Simmons (Michigan) and a finals victory over New Jersey state champion Ricky LaForge, who later became an NCAA qualifier at Hofstra. On the bottom half of the bracket, future World Team member Shawn Bunch (Kansas) topped future two-time NCAA champion Travis Lee (Hawaii) in one quarterfinal match, while LaForge edged future two-time All-American Tom Clum (Colorado) in tiebreaker in the other quarterfinal match.
All-Americans (in order of finish): Joe Dubuque (New Jersey), Ricky LaForge (New Jersey), Nick Simmons (Michigan), Nate Gallick (Arizona), Travis Lee (Hawaii), Shawn Bunch (Kansas), Jacob Palomino (California) and Drew Opfer (Ohio)
2005, 145 Pounds
Dustin Schlatter of Ohio edged Brent Metcalf of Michigan in the finals of NHSCA Senior Nationals in 2005 at 145 poundsIn 2005, the nation's top two 145-pounders, Dustin Schlatter (Ohio) and Brent Metcalf (Michigan), both four-time state champions, were on a collision course to meet in the finals of NHSCA Senior Nationals. The two met earlier that season, with Metcalf winning that meeting 4-3 in tiebreaker. In the NHSCA Senior Nationals semifinals Metcalf, a six-time Junior Nationals champion, faced future NCAA champion Gregor Gillespie (New York) and came out on top 6-3. Schlatter, a nine-time national champion at the time, dominated future NCAA runner-up Chase Pami (Nevada) 17-4 to reach the finals. Also in the weight class but failed to place was Mike Cannon (Maryland), who would go on to earn three All-American honors at American.
Schlatter-Metcalf II lived up to the hype. Schlatter scored a quick takedown and rode out Metcalf to lead 2-0 after the opening period. Metcalf picked up a takedown in the second period, but trailed 4-2 heading into the final period. Metcalf pushed the pace in the third period and cut the deficit to 4-3 after Schlatter was called for a second stall call. In the final five seconds Metcalf was in on a single leg and nearly scored a takedown, but Schlatter fended off the attack and held on for the 4-3 victory.
All-Americans: Dustin Schlatter (Ohio), Brent Metcalf (Michigan), Gregor Gillespie (New York), Joseph Cornejo (Kansas), Chase Pami (Nevada), Tyler Grayson (Missouri), Tom Fazio (New Jersey) and Lewis Gonzalez (California)
Four of the 13 NHSCA Senior Nationals champions in 2005 would go on to win NCAA titles (Photo/The Mat Slap)2005, 189 Pounds
While the 145-pound weight class may have been getting the most attention in 2005, the 189-pound weight class that same year produced just as many NCAA champions (three), as well as an Olympic gold medalist and UFC champion. Mike Pucillo (Ohio), who would go on to win an NCAA title and make two NCAA finals at Ohio State, finished on top of the podium in the weight class by defeating future Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner (California) 8-5 in the championship match. Three years later the two wrestlers would meet again in the NCAA finals at 184 pounds, with Pucillo once again coming out victorious.
The semifinal matches in 2005 pitted Varner against future NCAA champion Max Askren (Wisconsin) on the top side, and Pucillo opposing future UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones (New York) on the bottom side. Fifth-place finisher Louis Caputo (Missouri) was a two-time All-American at Harvard. Seventh-place finisher Trevor Perry (Michigan) would go on to become a three-time NCAA qualifier and reach the round of 12 while at Indiana.
All-Americans: Mike Pucillo (Ohio), Jake Varner (California), Max Askren (Wisconsin), Jon Jones (New York), Louis Caputo (Missouri), Taylor Moore (Missouri), Trevor Perry (Michigan) and Levi Wofford (Nebraska).
1992, 140 Pounds
In 1992, four-time undefeated state champion Cary Kolat (Pennsylvania) earned the NHSCA Senior Nationals title at 140 by defeating Roger Chandler (Ohio), a state champion for national wrestling power St. Edward High School. Kolat and Chandler would meet in the NCAA finals five years later in 1997, with Kolat winning that match 6-2. Kolat, who now serves as the head wrestling coach at Campbell, went on to become a two-time NCAA champion and three-time World/Olympic medalist. Third-place finisher Chris Bono (Florida), now South Dakota State's head wrestling coach, became an NCAA champion and three-time All-American at Iowa State before going on to have a successful international wrestling career.
All-Americans: Cary Kolat (Pennsylvania), Roger Chandler (Ohio), Chris Bono (Florida), Kyle Porter (California), Mark Petras (Pennsylvania), Jason Hartman (Ohio), Ryan Edmundson (Indiana) and Craig Wise (Ohio)
1993, 171 Pounds
In 1993, Mitch Clark (New York) won the NHSCA Senior Nationals title at 171 pounds. Five years later Clark dominated college wrestling at 177 pounds while at Ohio State, winning by technical fall in the NCAA finals over West Virginia's Vertus Jones. Clark finished his collegiate career with a record of 119-27 and earned two-All-American honors. Interestingly, the wrestler who placed six spots lower in the same NHSCA Senior Nationals weight class rose to even greater heights in wrestling. That wrestler: Brandon Slay (Texas), 2000 Olympic gold medalist. Slay, a three-time state champion, reached the NCAA finals twice, but never won an NCAA title. It wasn't until after college that Slay became the best in the United States, and then the best in the world. Jason Robison (Pennsylvania) defeated Aaron Simpson (Arizona) in the third-place at NHSCA Nationals in 1993, and both would go on to become a multiple-time All-Americans at the Division I level. Robison earned All-American honors three times, while Simpson placed twice.
All-Americans: Mitch Clark (New York), Grant Johnson (Maryland), Jason Robison (Pennsylvania), Aaron Simpson (Arizona), Jason Street (Montana), Robert Armey (Iowa), Brandon Slay (Texas) and Frank Field (Massachusetts)
Roger Kish of Michigan defeated J.D. Bergman of Ohio to win the NHSCA Senior Nationals title at 189 pound in 20032003, 189 Pounds
In 2003, Roger Kish (Michigan) solidified himself as one of the nation's top seniors across all weight classes by winning a weight class (189 pounds) at NHSCA Senior Nationals that would eventually produce multiple NCAA champions and a World Team member. In the quarterfinals the future Gopher two-time NCAA finalist took out future NCAA Division III champion Jared Massey (Minnesota), then topped future NCAA champion Phil Davis (Pennsylvania) in the semifinals, before beating future World Team member J.D. Bergman (Ohio) in the finals. Also in the weight class was future three-time All-American Wynn Michalek (Michigan), who lost to Davis in the second round and then was knocked out of the tournament by John DaCruz (Massachusetts).
All-Americans: Roger Kish (Michigan), J.D. Bergman (Ohio), Joe Williams (California) Phil Davis (Pennsylvania), Clay Kehrer (Texas), Dino Razzano (Ohio), Jared Massey (Minnesota) and Kyle Narkiewicz (Pennsylvania)
2001, 189 Pounds
Of the eight NHSCA Senior All-Americans in 2001 at 189 pounds, four were Division I All-Americans (three of the four were multiple-time All-Americans), and one was a three-time NCAA champion. Jake Rosholt (Idaho), who would go on to win three NCAA titles while at Oklahoma State, won six straight matches to claim the title at 189 pounds. Rosholt defeated future two-time All-American and UFC fighter Ryan Bader (Nevada) in the quarterfinals, then needed overtime in the semifinals to get past another future two-time All-American, Chris Skretkowicz (New Jersey), who is currently the head wrestling coach at VMI. In the finals Roshholt earned a convincing 7-1 decision over Phil Hard (Pennsylvania). Placing fifth in the bracket was Kyle Cerminara, who would later become Buffalo's first Division I All-American.
All-Americans: Jake Rosholt (Idaho), Phil Hard (Pennsylvania), Ryan Bader (Nevada), Rusty Blackmon (Tennessee), Kyle Cerminara (New York), Chris Skretkowicz (New Jersey), K.C. Walsh (Washington) and Joel Edwards (Pennsylvania)
1997, 152 Pounds
Donny Pritzlaff and Joe Heskett were college rivals in the late 90s and early 2000s, meeting in the NCAA finals at 165 pounds in both 2000 and 2001. Pritzlaff, who wrestled collegiately at Wisconsin, won both those meetings, but both wrestlers would go on to finish as four-time All-Americans. Their rivalry, though, started before college. In 1997, the two met in the finals of NHSCA Senior Nationals at 152 pounds, with Heskett getting the win. Finishing third in the weight class was Rick Springman, who went on to become a two-time All-American at Penn.
All-Americans: Joe Heskett (Ohio), Donny Pritzlaff (New Jersey), Rick Springman (Pennsylvania), Steve Strange (California), Charlie Rallo (Missouri), Travis Nagel (Minnesota), Jared Rolph (New Hampshire) and John Christopher (New York)
1996, 112 Pounds
In 1996, three-time state champion Stephen Abas (California) won the NHSCA Seniors Nationals title at 112 pounds, defeating fellow three-time state champion Evan Robinson (Florida) in the finals. Finishing third in the weight class was Jody Strittmatter (Pennsylvania), who would go on to earn two NCAA Division II titles at Pitt Johnstown before transferring to Iowa and earning two Division I All-American honors and finishing as an NCAA runner-up to Abas in 2001. Strittmatter's third-place victory at NHSCA Nationals in 1996 came over Eric Schmiesing (Minnesota), a wrestler who would go on to become a two-time All-American and four-time NCAA qualifier at Hofstra. The seventh-place finisher in the weight class was future U.S. Open champion Matt Azevedo (California), who currently serves as the head wrestling coach at Drexel.
All-Americans: Stephen Abas (California), Evan Robinson (Florida), Jody Strittmatter (Pennsylvania), Eric Schmiesing (Minnesota), Sky Thacker (Florida), Paris Ruiz (California), Matt Azevedo (California) and Brent Thompson (Ohio State)
1998, 130 Pounds
Like a three other weight classes highlighted, the two wrestlers who met in the finals of NHSCA Senior Nationals in this weight class would later meet on the big stage for the NCAA title. In 1998, Eric Larkin (Arizona) defeated Jared Lawrence (Idaho) to capture the NHSCA Senior Nationals title at 130 pounds. Five years later, Larkin defeated Lawrence to win the NCAA title at 149 pounds, and also claimed the Dan Hodge Trophy that year. Both Larkin and Lawrence finished their collegiate wrestling careers as four-time All-Americans and NCAA champions. Finishing third in that weight class was St. Edward product Mike Kulczycki (Ohio), who would go on to become an All-American and four-time NCAA qualifier at Michigan. Fifth-place finisher Jeremy Spates (Oklahoma) earned All-American honors at Missouri. Spates is now the head wrestling coach at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
All-Americans: Eric Larkin (Arizona), Jared Lawrence (Idaho), Mike Kulczycki (Ohio), Justin Flores (California), Jeremy Spates (Oklahoma), Steven Bradley (Indiana), Fabian Sandoval (California) and Doug Hess (Ohio)