*Zach Kelly, (Grad) PA – Super 32 Runner-Up
#7 Thomas Bullard, GA (11) – 2X State Champ
#11 Tommy Forte, IN (12) – State Champ
#15 Jakob Restrepo, NY (12) – State Runner-Up
#17 Justin Thomas, CA (11) – State 3rd
#3 @145 Josh Maruca, PA (12) – 3X State Placer
#8 @145 Drew Hughes, IN (11) – State Runner-Up
#12 @145 Neal Richards, VA (12) – 3X State Champ
#17 @145 Jake Wentzel, PA (11) – State 3rd
#18 @145 Kaleb Young, PA (11) – State 5th
Dalton Clark, NC (12) – State Champ
Elijah Cleary, FL (11) – State Runner-Up
Michael Comunale, PA (12) – 2X State Placer
Isaiah Crosby, FL (12) – State Champ
Alec Donovan, NJ (12) – State 7th
Sean Glasgow, NJ (12) – 2X State Qualifier
Austin Kraisser, MD (11) – State Champ
Dewey Krueger, WI (12) – State Champ
Adam Martz, MD (12) – State Champ
Chris Mauriello, NY (11) – State Champ
Gavin Murray, NJ (12) – State Runner-Up
AJ Pedro, NH (10) – National Prep 3rd
Taleb Rahmani, OH (12) – 3X State Placer
Joseph Tavoso, NJ (12) – State 4th
Joe Trovato, NJ (12) – 3X State Placer
First things first, I’ll address Kelly. He’s currently in limbo; out of high school eligibility but a year away from college. As a result he’s not featured in the rankings, but if he were it would likely be #2 at 152 behind Mason Manville. Kelly’s spending the year at the OTC in Colorado Springs training Freestyle, but this weekend he’ll take a detour to pursue a Folk national title. He was a Super 32 runner-up last year, losing a tight finals match against 4X Ohio state champ Jacob Danishek.
On paper Kelly is the favorite, but he hasn’t competed a ton over the past year so it’s tough to gauge where he is. There’s no shortage of contenders, but the biggest threat to knock him off is definitely #3 Maruca. He was one of the summer’s biggest stars, placing 3rd at Junior Freestyle Nationals with some gigantic wins along the way.
The remainder of the field features 8 nationally ranked wrestlers. At 152 it's #7 Bullard, #11 Forte, #15 Restrepo, and #17 Thomas. Featured in the 145 rankings are #8 Hughes, #12 Richards, #17 Wentzel, and #18 Young. There’s not a ton of separation among them, but I’m especially high on Hughes. He had a rough state tournament last spring but bounced back with a phenomenal offseason. I’m also expecting a big tournament out of Bullard. He’s been pretty quiet since winning an NHSCA title in April, but I like where his trajectory is headed. Forte was 5th at Super 32 last year and is another guy that I could easily see making a deep run.
Several unranked guys also stand out as potential placers. The most noteworthy is Crosby who finished 6th at this weight a year ago. Kraisser, Mauriello, and Murray should all be squarely in the mix to place as well. Don’t forget about Pedro either. I don’t quite see him placing, but he’s a top 50 sophomore with an extremely bright future.
PICKS: 1) Kelly 2) Maruca 3) Hughes 4) Bullard
#2 Fox Baldwin, FL (12) – 4X State Champ
#3 Alex Marinelli, OH (11) – 2X State Champ
#7 Josh Ugalde, NJ (12) – State Runner-Up
#9 Daniel Bullard, GA (11) – 2X State Champ
#10 Ben Schram, OH (12) – State 3rd
#12 Trace Carello, IL (11) – State 4th
#13 Carver James, IL (12) – 2X State Champ
#14 Dayton Racer, IA (12) – MN State Champ
#19 Owen Webster, MN (11) – State Champ
#8 @170 Brett Bye, SD (12) – State Champ
#14 @152 Cole Walter, PA (12) – 2X State 3rd
#19 @145 DJ Hollingshead, PA (12) – State 4th
#20 @152 Joey Gunther, IL (12) – State 6th
Corbin Allen, VA (12) – State Champ
Paden Bailey, OK (12) – 2X State Runner-Up
Blaise Benderoth, NY (12) – State 3rd
Louie DePrez, NY (10) – State 3rd
Dakota Greene, FL (12) – State Champ
Trapper Hayes, MO (12) – State Champ
Jason Hoffman, NY (10) – State 4th
Andrew Hoskins, OH (12) – State Runner-Up
Cody Hughes, ME (12) – New England Runner-Up
Kade Kitchens, AL (12) – 2X State Champ
Elliott Pedigo, VA (11) – State Champ
Deyaun Trueblood, CO (11) – State Champ
This is an absolute bear of a weight. Top end talent and depth to boot. The biggest names on the chart are definitely #2 Baldwin and #3 Marinelli. Baldwin has been a staple on the national scene for what feels like ages. This will be his last shot at a Super 32 title following finishes of 5th and 3rd the past couple years. On the flip side Marinelli has limited experience at major national tournaments, but in 2 years of high school wrestling he’s already a 2X Ohio champ and 2X Ironman runner-up. Neither is shy about scoring points or taking chances, so this matchup should be dynamite if it goes down.
However, nothing is a lock in a bracket as deep as this one. The biggest threat to unseat one (or both) of the favorites is #6 Ugalde. On paper, I think he’s a half-step behind Baldwin/Marinelli and a whole step ahead of the next tier.
That leaves 10 additional nationally ranked wrestlers. The best of the bunch is probably #8 Bye. He’s down a weight after earning Junior Freestyle AA honors at 170 this summer. Those ranked at 160 are #9 Bullard, #10 Schram, #12 Carello, #13 James, #14 Racer, and #19 Webster. Meanwhile, #14 Walter and #20 Gunther move up from 152 while #19 Hollingshead moves up from 145. In addition to Bye, I’m also predicting a strong performance from Schram. He’s a returning Super 32 AA and 3X NHSCA champ who logged a lot of miles over summer.
The most notable unranked names are Allen and Bailey, both of whom are top 150 recruits in the senior class. Deprez is the top underclassmen. He AA’d at Flonationals this spring and is a top-50 sophomore. Hughes is another guy I could see doing some damage. He came within a couple matches of placing at Super 32 last year and is a former NHSCA champ.
PICKS: 1) Baldwin 2) Marinelli 3) Ugalde 4) Schram
#6 Taylor Lujan, GA (12) – 3X State Champ
#14 Juan Garcia, CT (12) – New England Runner-Up
#19 Sean Kennedy, TN (12) – State Champ
#10 @ 152 Colston DiBlasi, MO (12) – 2X State Champ
#12 @ 152 Zach Hertling, NJ (12) – State 3rd
Trevor Allard, NY (12) – State Champ
Brett Donner, NJ (11) – State 3rd
Fritz Hoehn, MA (12) – 2X New England Placer
Connor Lawrence, NY (12) – State Runner-Up
Caleb Little, GA (10) – State Champ
Andrew McNally, OH (11) – State 5th
Devon Pingle, MI (11) – State Champ
Jaquon Sowell, NC (12) – State Champ
Idris White, PA (12) – State 7th
Kyle Wojtaszek, NJ (12) – State 7th
This is right around where the depth tends to drop off at preseason tournaments. The field is far from weak, but the 5 nationally ranked wrestlers here is tied for the 2nd lowest total of any weight. I’m a huge fan of #6 Lujan. Outside of Spencer Lee at 113, he’s probably the safest pick of the tournament. He had a breakout performance at Super 32 last year, upsetting 3X Michigan champ Drew Garcia in the semis before falling to 4X Pennsylvania champ Chance Marsteller in the finals. He’s a savvy wrestler who knows how to win close matches, and I’d be pretty shocked if anyone currently listed at 170 were to upset him.
After Lujan the field opens up a ton. #14 Garcia and #19 Kennedy are ranked at 170, while #10 DiBlasi and #12 Hertling are making a big move up from 152. I’m not super confident picking any of them to make the finals, but I like Hertling’s odds the best. He hasn’t been heard from much since an injury ended his high school season, but last year he notched some big wins to place 7th at this event.
I could see a bunch of different unranked guys placing, but Donner and Little definitely stand out the most. Both are underclassmen with tremendous upside and I wouldn’t be shocked if either made a run to the finals. Pingle is another guy who I think will find a spot in the top 8. He looked terrific at the GFC a couple weeks ago.
PICKS: 1) Lujan 2) Hertling 3) Donner 4) DiBlasi