Illinois signee Kannon Webster at the 2022 Walsh Ironman (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
We're on track to release our team recruiting rankings on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, so thank you to everyone for their patience! But, before starting you're holiday weekend, here's a little taste of recruiting reading for fans of that particular area.
Yesterday, Pittsburgh announced the signing of New Jersey state champion Anthony Santaniello. On MatScouts' final Class of 2023 Big Board rankings Santaniello came in at a cool #18. He was certainly the highest-ranked signee of the still-young Keith Gavin era. So that begged the question, when was the last time Pittsburgh hauled in a recruit equal to or higher than Santaniello's ranking? After finding out the answer (it's below), we've decided to look at the Class of 2023 and see how many of these "highest ranked recruit since…" we could discover.
As usual, the parameters. We just looked at MatScouts Top-50 for the Class of 2023. We didn't include every single program. For a program like Penn State or Ohio State, they tend to get extremely highly ranked recruits every year, so saying "the highest-ranked recruit since 2022" is sort of unnecessary.
So, let's get down to it! I didn't expect to include the first two wrestlers (schools) on this list:
#1 Meyer Shapiro (Cornell)
Shapiro is the first Cornell recruit to hold the number one overall spot in his respective classes' recruiting rankings since these types of lists became prevalent in 2005. Before Shapiro, the highest-ranked recruits coming into Ithaca were Yianni Diakomihalis (2017), Chris Villalonga (2010), and his future head coach Mike Grey (2006). Those three were all ranked #3 overall.
#7 Beau Mantanona (Michigan)
It's a good sign that the last Michigan wrestler to have a top-seven ranking was the Wolverines most recent national champion, Mason Parris. He also became the first Michigan wrestler to win the Hodge Trophy and already has a spot in Final X, just less than three months removed from his final collegiate bout.
#10 Kannon Webster (Illinois)
Like Mantanona/Michigan, there's some good karma associated with the Illini's most recent top-ten recruit. Prior to Kannon Webster, you have to go back to 2013 to find the last time Illinois signed a top-ten wrestler (#8). He was Isaiah Martinez who went on to become one of the all-time greats in school history with two national titles and four finals appearances. Webster was also the first recruit to commit after the hiring of Mike Poeta as the school's head coach in 2021.
#12 Marc-Anthony McGowan (Princeton)
Princeton has really stepped up its recruiting results within the last decade or so. Even so, you have to go back to 2015 to find the last time Princeton hauled in a recruit ranked #12 overall or higher. Of course, that recruit ended up being one of the trailblazers of the program, Matt Kolodzik (#8). He would become the team's first freshman All-American and got on the NCAA podium three times before the cancelation in 2020.
#18 Anthony Santaniello (Pittsburgh)
On Thursday news came out that Anthony Santaniello had been released from his NLI commitment to Oklahoma and would be signing with Pittsburgh, joining his older brother Vince. The last time Pitt had a top-20 recruit? 2013 with #7 overall Cody Wiercioch. That was a highly acclaimed recruiting class that didn't necessarily work out well for the Panthers. Pittsburgh also brought in a top-20 recruit, early in his career via transfer, when Micky Phillipi came in from Virginia.
#21 Nasir Bailey (Little Rock)
This is a relatively easy one to figure out. Nasir Bailey is the highest-ranked recruit ever signed by Neil Erisman's program. Of course, Little Rock has only been in existence since 2018 and its first year of competition was 2019-20. Erisman's team has had some huge recruiting classes (numbers-wise) over the first couple of years, as you'd expect, but a recruit of Bailey's caliber could take the program to the next level.
#25 Dario Lemus (Maryland)
You would think that Jaxon Smith or one of the members of Maryland's #8 ranked recruiting class would have cracked the top-25 in the Class of 2021, but they weren't. Smith was the highest at #36. So, you'd have to go all the way back to 2005 to find the last time Maryland had a top-25 recruit. He was #17 Hudson Taylor who went on to be one of the top wrestlers in Maryland history, a three-time All-American and perennial title contender.
#34 Jasiah Queen (Drexel)
One of the more under-the-radar top 50 recruits from 2023 was New Jersey state runner-up Jasiah Queen. Queen was a Fargo All-American last summer and a Beast of the East runner-up in the regular season. He's the highest-ranked recruit to sign with Drexel since #17 Austin DeSanto in 2017. Drexel fans hope that Queen has the accomplishments that DeSanto had, yet does it in a Dragon singlet.
#43 Cooper Haase (Army West Point)
The Army West Point team continues to get better on the recruiting trail. They've been on an upward trajectory for about the last five years or so. The centerpiece of this year's recruiting class is Super 32 fourth place finisher Cooper Haase. Haase is the highest-ranked recruit to commit to Kevin Ward's team since Markus Hartman (#30) in 2018. Hartman went on to qualify for the NCAA tournament on three occasions.