Gavin Nelson at the 2021 Cadet World Team Trials (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
The Minnesota wrestling program has taken the early lead in the 2023 recruiting arms race.
Earlier this month, the Gophers landed the services of Cody Chittum, the nation's top-ranked 145-pounder and the No. 2-ranked prospect in the 2023 class. On Wednesday, they added another large - literally - recruit to their haul.
Gavin Nelson, out of nationally-renowned Simley High School, announced his commitment to the Gophers on Tuesday. Nelson's addition gives Minnesota two top-five recruits in the 2023 class.
Nelson is considered the No. 5 overall 2023 prospect, according to MatScouts, and the third-ranked 220-pounder nationally. He is a 2021 Minnesota state champ, and will represent the United States at the Cadet World Championships next month at 92 kilograms (202 pounds).
Over the last two months, Nelson has showcased his top-tier wrestling talent at some of the country's toughest competitions.
In April, Nelson stormed to first-place at the Cadet World Team Trials in freestyle. He went 5-0 and outscored his opponents 53-1. He notched a 10-0 win over Max Ramberg, a top-200 2022 recruit, in the quarterfinals; a 13-1 win over McCrae Hagarty, a top-100 2023 recruit, in the semifinals, then swept PJ Casale, a top-50 2022 recruit, in the finals, by scores of 10-0 and 10-0, to make the Cadet world team.
Then, just last weekend, Nelson repped Minnesota Blue at the Junior National Duals. He went a combined 13-0 over the four-day competition - 6-0 with 6 technical falls in Greco, 7-0 with 6 technical falls in freestyle - to help Minnesota Blue to a third-place team finish in both styles.
Nelson's commitment is the latest in what's been fast-rising recruiting momentum for Minnesota. The Gophers' 2021 class ranked seventh nationally by MatScouts, highlighted by five top-100 recruits. The 2022 haul features two more top-100 recruits, in #22 Troy Spratley and #63 Hunter Lyden.
Now Nelson and Chittum have become the centerpiece guys in Minnesota's 2023 haul, which is shaping up to be perhaps the best in the country by the time these juniors-to-be officially sign.