Wrestling 49: Michigan
Steve Widzinski, MichiganGrappler.com
With the high school wrestling season' start approaching, InterMat will be taking fans across the United States of America on a tour of scholastic wrestling. From now until the middle of November, InterMat will introduce fans to the top high school senior wrestlers in the 49 states with scholastic wrestling. From Alaska to Florida, and Maine to California, fans will gain exposure to future college and senior level stars.
Here is a look at Michigan's top ten wrestlers from the Class of 2013 ...
1. Adam Coon (Fowlerville)
Projected 2012-13 High School Weight Class: 285
Projected College Weight Class: 285
Fowlerville's Adam Coon won a USA Wrestling Junior National Triple Crown this year (Photo/Dave Jedlicka)Analysis: Coon entered the high school ranks with high expectations and an even higher ceiling. Needless to say, he has not failed to disappoint, dominating his way to three consecutive state titles in the process of developing into the country's top high school heavyweight. He has perennially been a monster on the USA Wrestling circuit, winning a total of four national championships in Fargo during his prep career, as well as claiming a folkstyle national title this spring. But the accolades do not stop there, as Coon's most impressive accomplishment came last summer when he traveled to Hungary and became the United States' first Cadet World champion since 1999.
Despite his brutal schedule of elite competition, Coon's most impressive attribute throughout his career has been his consistency. He approaches every tournament with the same mindset, and is relentless the entire time he is on the mat. There is nothing flashy about his offense, but he dominates with powerful tenacious hand-fighting backed by outstanding position and reaction time. Due to his lack of close folkstyle matches in recent years, his mat skills probably stand to improve and will continue to develop over the course of his college career. Given his tremendous seasoning and impressive physical ability, Coon is as college-ready as any heavyweight in recent memory and will enter his collegiate career poised to compete for multiple individual national titles in the near future. Coon committed to the University of Michigan on Aug. 23.
2. Ben Whitford (St. Johns)
Projected 2012-13 High School Weight Class: 152
Projected College Weight Class: 149/157
Ben Whitford, like Adam Coon, will be takings his talents to Ann Arbor to wrestle for the University of Michigan (Photo/MichiganGrappler.com)Analysis: It's hard to remember a wrester as fun to watch as Ben Whitford, who has gained notoriety around the nation for his high-flying style as well as his dominance on the mat. Whitford, a Michigan native who spent the first two years of his high school career at Marmion Academy in Illinois, has been a one-man wrecking crew since bursting onto the scene and winning a Cadet National freestyle title in 2009 prior to his freshman season with a classic finals win over Mark Grey of Blair Academy. Since then, he has annihilated competition with regularity in the process of winning national championships in all three styles to go along with three consecutive high school state titles.
A string of injuries kept him out of the big spring and summer events, which is virtually the only thing separating him from Coon for the top spot in this class. Offensively he may be the most dangerous wrestler in the country, and his vast toolbox of filthy attacks on his feet will make Whitford an instant-impact recruit when he hits the mats at the University of Michigan next season. The only area where he may need work transitioning to college is on the mat. However, his athleticism and wide-open style of wrestling should give him the ability to score big points on the best in the Big Ten and the NCAA right away. Regardless of whether or not he redshirts Whitford will immediately be expected to contend for All-American honors, and with continued polishing to his already sensational skills a NCAA championship will be a very attainable objective before his days in Ann Arbor are complete.
3. Ken Bade (Detroit Catholic Central)
Projected 2012-13 High School Weight Class: 135
Projected College Weight Class: 133
Analysis: If college recruiting was like the stock market, chances are that Ken Bade would be a pretty darn good investment. The kid has done nothing but improve throughout his high school career, and shows no signs of slowing down or hitting his plateau. Not only did he dominate the state meet en route to his second state title this season, but he also turned in his best national performance to date by placing fifth in a loaded weight at FloNationals this spring and he was runner-up at the Grappler Fall Classic, losing a great finals match to Oregon State recruit Jack Hathaway of Iowa. His biggest knock is a lack of freestyle success, but everything Bade has shown over the past few years both in and out of state suggest he should be able to make a smooth transition to the collegiate scene. As previously mentioned his motor is terrific, and it is a accompanied by good combination of strength and quickness. Bade's mat wrestling is solid also, and he has proven that he can score points against quality wrestlers from the top position. He can scramble as well as anyone in this class, and he has displayed good mat awareness that should help ease his transition from high school to college. Likely he will be competitive from the onset his college career, and if he continues the trend of improvement he has exhibited in high school Bade could be contending for All-American status a few years down the road.
4. Jacob Schmitt (St. Johns)
Projected 2012-13 High School Weight Class: 130
Projected College Weight Class: 133
Analysis: Since breaking into the high school ranks Schmitt has steadily been one of the class of 2013's premier wrestlers, dominating his in-state competition and excelling on the national stage throughout his career. He has been a model of consistency, with a multitude of strong performances at prestigious national tournaments including a Cadet National Greco-Roman title in 2010, back-to-back runner-up finishes at the FILA Cadet Nationals in 2010 and 2011 along with an All-American performance at the Super 32 Challenge in 2010. All of this success has come with little flash or frill, and a whole lot of old school hardnosed wrestling. He is a banger by nature who is not scared to mix it up with the top guys in the country, as well as a competent rider who doesn't give away any easy points on the mat. In order to maximize his success at the next level, Schmitt will need to tighten up his neutral defense a bit and improve his fluidity in scramble situations. He may be able to come in and wrestle at 125 for a year or two, further valuing his recruiting value. However, Schmitt projects to be a 133-pounder in the long run. He fell short of All-American honors in Fargo this year. However, he has scored notable wins over just about all the big name lightweights in the country over the past couple years. Regardless of the weight he competes at, his brute physicality and wealth of national experience will make Schmitt a highly sought after lightweight investment for a top-tier Division I program.
5. Josh Pennell (St. Johns)
Projected 2012-13 High School Weight Class: 145
Projected College Weight Class: 149
Analysis: It only takes one glance to see that Josh Pennell is powerful kid that can do some serious damage on a wrestling mat. He is built like a house and his overall strength and squatty build make him a nightmare to match up with. Just as importantly, Pennell has great mat awareness and understands how to use his strength to score points without inducing a lot of risk. For proof, look no further than the US Wrestling Greco-Roman Nationals in 2010 and 2011 where Pennell utilized his excellent power and positioning to earn second and third-place finishes at the prestigious event. He has also had a great deal of success on the freestyle circuit, finishing fourth in Fargo in 2010 followed up by a runner-up performance at FILA Cadet Nationals in 2011. Last fall he added a notable folkstyle achievement to his impressive rï¿½sumï¿½, finishing seventh in a stacked weight at Super 32. Over the course of his career he has done a very good job grinding out close matches, combining his strength with superb patience and mat awareness. At times he does seem a bit choppy, so Pennell will need to improve his scrambling ability in order to thrive to the fullest of his abilities at the next level. While a state title has eluded him, falling short in the some of the toughest weights of D2 each year, his plethora of national success should give college coaches nationwide the ease of mind that he can and will be highly competitive at the collegiate level.
6. Mitch Rogaliner (Temperance Bedford)
Projected 2012-13 High School Weight Class: 119
Projected College Weight Class: 125
Analysis: While he may not be as gifted as the other wrestlers on this list athletically, it has not prevented Mitch Rogaliner from proving wrong a slew of doubters and developing into one of Michigan's finest lightweights. A classic overachiever, Rogaliner has developed a style that suits his strengths well and has led to a pair of state titles and some big wins on the national scene. Generally he does not wrestle very well in space, but he neutralizes this weakness by dictating the pace of the match and forcing opponents to wrestle within the positions he is best suited for. His short counter-offense is simply the best I have ever seen, highlighted by a wicked short dump that makes him an extremely frustrating opponent, and his mat wrestling is top notch with a series of dangerous turns and pinning combos on top. Many wrote off Rogaliner's first state title as fluke, but he has silenced any skeptics with several impressive performances on the national stage to validate his status as a top recruit. Rogaliner enjoyed a breakout junior season in terms of national success that raised his recruiting stock significantly, starting when he won one of the strongest weight classes at last year's Grappler Fall Classic in convincing fashion. He then went on to earn All-American honors in the Junior National folkstyle competition and has been very active on the freestyle and Greco-Roman circuit, highlighted by a 10-2 overall record at the Junior National Duals. Rogaliner still needs to add some strength before he can be competitive at the collegiate level, and it would be nice to see him develop a go-to shot for situations when he needs a quick takedown, but the intangibles are there for him to succeed at a major NCAA program. He flies under some national radars. However, with his status as potential lifetime 125-pounder in college, Rogaliner has huge upside and could be a great asset for a big time college to land that will be a force to reckon with atop their lineup for a few years.
7. Payne Hayden (St. Johns)
Projected 2012-13 High School Weight Class: 189/215
Projected College Weight Class: 197
Analysis: College coaches will be hard-pressed to find any 197-pounders capable of matching the motor of Payne Hayden. After spending the first two years of his career at 135 and 140, Hayden made the move up to 189 pounds last year and didn't miss a beat. In fact he posted his best season to date, placing second at the Grappler Fall Classic and fourth at Super 32 before narrowly missing out on a state title at 215 pounds. This offseason Hayden has continued to be one of Michigan's most frequent competitors on the national scene, wrestling well at the Junior National Duals and coming a match away from placing in both styles in Fargo. He possesses a very unique skill set for a wrestler his size, and has the potential to develop into a very good 197-pounder. Hayden wrestlers at a terrific pace that opponents struggle greatly to match, and his scrambling ability will be a huge asset at the college level. If he can put in some additional work in the weight room and continue to gain the strength and size for his weight class Hayden should develop into a very successful college wrestler.
8. Gage Hutchinson (Buchanan)
Projected 2012-13 High School Weight Class: 285
Projected College Weight Class: 285
Analysis: Perhaps the most intriguing prospect in this class is Gage Hutchison, a returning undefeated Division 3 state champion who will be wrestling at heavyweight this season after beginning his career at 160 pounds. There is a lot to like about Hutchison as a recruit, who just recently made a verbal commitment to Eastern Michigan. He has great wrestling skill for a big man, and excellent athleticism that he uses to generate points from all positions. Hutchison's biggest strength may be his upper body wrestling, where he holds very solid position and is not afraid to throw. He is also very capable on the mat, particularly in the down position where his movement is very good and will be critical to his success in college. While his national rï¿½sumï¿½ may not be as long as others, he made a big statement last fall when he defeated Ohio state champion Josh Lehner to win the Grappler Fall Classic. Now the biggest task ahead of him will be making the necessary tweaks to his style that will allow him to excel as he makes the transition to heavyweight this season.
9. Brant Schafer (St. Johns)
Projected 2012-13 High School Weight Class: 140
Projected College Weight Class: 141
Analysis: Physically, few wrestlers in the state of Michigan are as gifted as Brant Schafer. He possesses an ideal blend of strength, athleticism, explosiveness, and overall wrestling ability that is special to watch when firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and he has struggled with consistency at some points of his career. His national outings have been a bit of a mixed bag, but none were as impressive as his trip to Fargo last summer where he rattled off wins in his first seven matches to place sixth on an absolutely stacked Junior freestyle chart. On his feet Schafer is an absolute force, and when his offense is clicking his attacks can be almost impossible to stop. He is a solid rider as well, but will need to continue to improve his overall mat game at the next level. Developmentally he is an interesting recruit, and if he finds the right fit in a college program his potential will be sky high.
10. Anthony Gonzales (Holly)
Projected 2012-13 High School Weight Class: 135/140
Projected College Weight Class: 141
Analysis: Certainly not a traditional folkstyle wrestler, Gonzales has used a unique and unorthodox style to enjoy a great deal of success in his high school career. A two-time Division 2 state champion, Gonzales is an interesting prospect who has a lot of upside. He is an excellent athlete, and has elite upper body strength and crazy hips that have led to a lot of Greco-Roman success and makes him a very dangerous opponent. In 2011 he put together a phenomenal offseason, winning a Cadet National folkstyle title and following it up with a fifth-place finish at in the Cadet National Greco-Roman competition. However he has been very quiet this offseason, hurting his stock a bit in these rankings. The biggest challenge he will face heading into college is his mat wrestling, where significant progress will need to be made in order to thrive at the Division I level. Gonzales is a little bit of a project and needs to continue to develop technically, but he has a very high ceiling and his combination of athleticism, strength and attitude should make him a highly sought-after recruit.