2012 InterMat JJ Classic Preview

Andrew Hipps

10/26/2012
Andrew Hipps, InterMat Senior Editor
andrew@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @InterMat

The third annual InterMat JJ Classic takes place this Sunday, Oct. 28 at the UCR Regional Sports Center in Rochester, Minn. This year's field includes several nationally ranked wrestlers, national champions, state champions, and state placewinners. Eighteen past Cadet or Junior National finalists are entered.

Online registration remains open, and walk-up registrations are accepted. For more information and to register for Sunday's event, visit the JJ Classic website.

Below is a weight-by-weight preview of this year's JJ Classic.

Please note: This preview includes wrestlers registered through 10 p.m. on Thursday night. Information in this preview is subject to change due to additions, scratches, and weight class changes.

100:

The 100-pound weight class is a non-NFHS weight class, but was added to the JJ Classic this year. The wrestlers in this weight class may lack high school experience, but certainly do not lack national accomplishments. Drew West (Highland, Iowa) was a Preseason Nationals champion last year in the middle school division, where he earned a victory in the finals over Minnesota state runner-up Mitchell McKee. West was a USA wrestling national top-three finisher in all three styles this year, as well as a Northern Plains double champion.

Austin Gomez
Austin Gomez (Carol Stream, Ill.) and Peyton Robb (Owatonna, Minn.) were USA Wrestling national champions in multiple styles this year. Gomez won national titles in freestyle and Greco-Roman, while finishing runner-up in folkstyle. He is also a multiple-time Preseason Nationals champion. Robb was a USA Wrestling National Triple Crown winner this year, winning national titles in folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman. He has been a MN/USA Triple Crown winner each of the past two years. Robb was a USA Wrestling Preseason Nationals champion in 2011.

Victor Gliva (Farmington, Minn.) and Jaxon Sommers (Totino-Grace, Minn.) are Cadet National folkstyle All-Americans. Gliva finished third at 88 pounds, while Sommers finished fourth at 94 pounds.

Austin Anderly (LeSueur-Henderson), Alex Lloyd (Shakopee, Minn.), and Ryan Killeen (Spectrum, Minn.) have been successful in MN/USA Wrestling events, and should figure into the mix in this weight class. Anderly was a MN/USA state champion in freestyle and Greco-Roman, and finished this past high school season with a 20-8 mark. Lloyd was a MN/USA state champion in folkstyle, finished runner-up in Greco-Roman, and fourth in freestyle. In addition, Lloyd placed third in USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals at 84 pounds. Killeen was a MN/USA state runner-up in both freestyle and Greco-Roman this year. He also sent 4-1 in freestyle at the Schoolboy Duals at 91 pounds.

Devyn Johnson (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
Iowa's top entry in this weight class is Jack Wagner (Bettendorf, Iowa). Wagner is an Iowa/USA state champion in folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman, and finished sixth at Preseason Nationals last year. The top wrestler coming out of Wisconsin in this weight class is Trent McManus (Adams Friendship, Wis.), a state placewinner in all three styles, including a runner-up finish in freestyle.

Also in this weight class is Devyn Johnson (Osakis, Minn.), the first female wrestler ever to enter the JJ Classic. Her wrestling resume speaks for itself. She was a Junior National folkstyle runner-up this year in the girls division, and has been a national champion in USGWA and USA Wrestling events. Johnson represented the United States at the Pan American Cadet Championships in 2011. This past spring she was a MN/USA state runner-up in folkstyle competing in the boys division. Johnson was an ASICS Girls High School All-American Team Honorable Mention selection this year.

There are several other wrestlers with age group success in this weight class who are capable of reaching the podium as well.

Predictions at 100:

Andrew Hipps: When it comes to lighter weight classes like this one, having a weight advantage can make a big difference. With that said, I expect Drew West to be standing on top of the podium because his national success this year has come at 100 pounds or heavier, while many other age group stars in this weight class have been winning in weight classes below 100 pounds.

Steve Elwood: This class of youngsters is the most difficult weight class to predict. I haven't seen any of them live, but I'm going with the USA Wrestling National Triple Crown winner Peyton Robb from Owatonna, Minnesota. This kid is going to be a star in Minnesota.

106:

Cameron Sykora (Photo/The Guillotine)
Two-time state champion Cameron Sykora (Border West, Minn.) comes in as the favorite at 106 pounds. Sykora is coming off a season in which he compiled a 45-1 record en route to winning a Minnesota Class A state championship at 106 pounds as a freshman. He has gone 89-5 over the past seasons. This past spring he won both the Northern Plains Regional and Southeast Regional in freestyle at 113 pounds. He was a JJ Classic runner-up last year.

Gannon Volk (Apple Valley, Minn.), Mitchell McKee (Kimball, Minn.), and Tanner Rohweder (Dowling Catholic, Iowa) have all been Cadet or Junior National champions in Fargo. Volk was a Cadet National Triple Crown winner in 2011, and is coming of a season in which he compiled a 26-4 record. McKee was a Cadet National Greco-Roman champion this past summer, and finished runner-up in the Minnesota state tournament at 106 pounds to Sykora. Rohweder earned a Junior National freestyle title this past summer at 100 pounds.

Kaz Onoo (Mason City, Iowa) and Mason Smith (Clio, Mich.) are also top contenders in this weight class. Onoo is a Junior National freestyle All-American and state placewinner who has been impressive this fall. He notched a win over Illinois standout Tommy Pawleski, a multiple-time Fargo finalist and state champion at the Hammer Classic. Last weekend Onoo won the Blue Chip Fall Brawl at 113 pounds in dominating fashion. Smith is state fourth-place finisher who went 53-6 last season. He was a runner-up at the Grappler Fall Classic two weeks ago.

Jacob Schwarm (Bettendorf, Iowa) and Paul Fitterer were Cadet National folkstyle All-Americans this year. (Fitterer was also a Cadet Greco-Roman All-American.) Jake Allar (Benilde-St. Margaret's, Minn.) was a freestyle and Greco-Roman national champion in 2011, and went 36-8 as a seventh-grader this past season.

Brad Osatiuk (Maple Grove, Minn.), Taylor Venz (Farmington, Minn.), Malik Stewart (Blaine, Minn.), and Drew Eldeen (Tri-Valley, S.D.) all won 30 or more matches last season. Two eighth-graders who could figure into the mix are Bryce West (Highland, Iowa) and Tanner Cole (Owatonna).

Predictions at 106:

Andrew Hipps: I'm going with the chalk here ... Cameron Sykora gets his JJ Classic title after finishing runner-up last year. If Sykora and Kaz Onoo meet in the semifinals again, it's going to be much closer than last year's 8-2 match. Onoo is wrestling very well right now.

Steve Elwood: Outside of 100 pounds, there might not be a tougher pick. How can you not pick Cameron Sykora here? I am going to take a pass on him and pick Kaz Onoo from Iowa to beat Sykora in the semis and take out Mitch McKee in the finals. This is a great list of lightweights.

113:

This weight class has four wrestlers with a tremendous amount of national success: Kyle Akins (Sycamore, Ill.), Alijah Jeffery (Linn-Mar, Iowa), Jarred Oftedahl (Benilde-St. Margaret's, Minn.), and Skyler Petry (WEM, Minn.). All four are multiple-time state placewinners, but all four are still in search of their first state championship.

Akins is a two-time Illinois state placewinner, finishing third in 2011 at 112 pounds and fourth this past season at 113 pounds. He also won Border Wars Nationals and Dominate in the Dells. Akins reached the semifinals of Preseason Nationals last year at 113 pounds before losing and injury defaulting out of the competition. During that run he earned victories over Jeffery and Oftedahl.

Jarred Oftedahl (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
Jeffery is an Iowa Class 3A state third-place finisher in each of the past two seasons, compiling a record of 86-11 over those two seasons. He was a Cadet National All-American this year in folkstyle and freestyle, finishing third in folkstyle and seventh in freestyle.

Oftedahl has the most complete wrestling resume of any wrestler in this weight class. He has been a Junior National champion in folkstyle and Greco-Roman, Cadet National folkstyle champion, and six-time All-American in Fargo. He is a two-time state placewinner, finishing runner-up in 2011 and fifth this past season. He was runner-up in the 2010 JJ Classic and fourth in last year's JJ Classic. He is also coming off a dominating performance at the Blue Chip Fall Brawl, where he went 6-0 with five pins.

Petry was a state finalist this past season at 106 pounds, finishing the season with a 43-3 record. He was a state fifth-place finisher the previous season with a 41-2 record. Petry was a Junior National folkstyle runner-up this past spring, and a Cadet National folkstyle third-place finisher in 2011. He was also a FILA Cadet Greco-Roman runner-up this year.

Cody Hanson (St. James, Minn.) was a state placewinner in 2011 and should be in the hunt for a spot on the podium this weekend. Sam Bennyhoff (Mound-Westonka) went 38-4 as a freshman at 106 pounds. Ty Pelot is a two-time FILA Cadet All-American in Greco-Roman, as well as a Junior National Greco-Roman All-American. He is coming off a season in which he went 43-5. Jonah Eide (Dowling Catholic, Iowa), Collin LaBrosse (Park, Minn.), Seth Elwood (Medford, Minn.), and Zach Chytka (Apple Valley, Minn.) could make some noise in this weight class.

Predictions at 113:

Andrew Hipps: I have been high on Alijah Jeffery ever since I watched him give two-time state champion Tommy Thorn a very competitive match in the Junior National folkstyle competition. He wrestles for Lin Marr in Iowa, the same program that produced NCAA champions Matt McDonough and Jay Borschel. Jeffery is very big for this weight class and he's my pick.

Steve Elwood: The two top juniors in this weight class, Kyle Akins and Alijah Jeffery, are the safe picks to meet in the finals. But I like senior Jarred Oftedahl to continue his winning streak and walk away with this weight. I look for him to be in top form.

120:

Josh Alber (Photo/Rob Preston)
This weight class features two returning JJ Classic champions and five state champions.

Josh Alber (Dakota, Ill.) is a two-time state champion who is undefeated in his high school wrestling career. He is coming off a runner-up finish at the Super 32 Challenge, with his most notable victories coming over Dylan Lucas (Brandon, Fla.) and Darian Cruz (Bethlehem Catholic, Pa.). Alber won the JJ Classic last year at 120 pounds.

Jordan Shearer (West Fargo, N.D.) is a three-time state champion, winning state titles as a seventh-grader and eighth-grader at 103 pounds, and last season as a freshman at 113 pounds. Shearer is a Rumble on the Red champion, two-time Minnesota Christmas Tournament runner-up, and InterMat JJ Classic runner-up.

Dante' Rodriguez (Grand Island, Neb.) was a JJ Classic champion last year at 106 pounds. He is a two-time Nebraska state finalist, winning a state title this past season at 106 pounds and finishing the season with a 49-2 record. Rodriguez has been a Greco-Roman All-American in Fargo in each of the past two summers, finishing runner-up in 2011 and third this past summer. He was a Northern Plains double champion this year at 120 pounds.

Maolu Woiwor (Apple Valley, Minn.) claimed the state championship in Minnesota's big school division (Class AAA) at 106 pounds this past season. He was a MN/USA Wrestling state champion in both freestyle and Greco-Roman this spring. Woiwor was also a Cheesehead Invitational champion at 106 pounds.

Another state champion entered in this weight class is Kevin Perez (Junction City, Ks.).

Tanner Johnshoy (Prior Lake, Minn), Trevor Westerlund (Albert Lea, Minn.), and James Goman are state runner-ups.

Johnshoy has been in the state finals the past two years, losing to Tommy Thorn both times. He finished third at last year's JJ Classic and earned the award for most pins in least time. Westerlund (Albert Lea, Minn.) was a state runner-up to Woiwor at 106 pounds and compiled a record of 37-4. He was a Rumble on the Red champion and finished third at the Minnesota Christmas Tournament. Goman was a state runner-up at 113 pounds in Minnesota's small school division (Class A).

Anthony Luft (Worthington, Minn.) is a two-time state placewinner, finishing fifth this past season and sixth in 2011. Other state placewinners entered in this weight class include Louie Sanders (LCWM, Minn.) and Hank Friederichs (Chatfield, Minn.). Sanders finished fifth at 113 pounds, while Friederichs was fifth at 106 pounds.

Predictions at 120:

Andrew Hipps: I would be crazy to pick against Josh Alber after his run to the Super 32 Challenge finals. He caught the attention of many college wrestling coaches across the country with his performance. He has past wins over some top contenders in this weight class, including Jordan Shearer. Look for Alber to repeat as JJ Classic champion, and for Shearer to finish runner-up for the second straight year.

Steve Elwood: Can I take back what I wrote about 113 pounds being the second hardest pick? This thing is very deep with two former JJ champs and five state champions. Last weekend Josh Alber stunned the East Coast experts making the finals at the Super 32 Challenge. I like him to win this weight class. The semis could be extraordinary at this weight.

126:

Zac Hall (Photo/Dave Jedlicka)
Two-time state champion Zac Hall (St. Johns, Mich.) headlines a deep and talent-filled 126-pound bracket at this year's JJ Classic. Hall has compiled a record of 98-2 over the past two seasons of high school wrestling, with his state titles coming at 103 pounds and 112 pounds. He is coming off a strong summer in national tournaments. Hall finished runner-up in the FILA Cadet National freestyle competition in June and runner-up in the Junior National freestyle competition in July.

Two returning JJ Classic champions have also entered this weight class: Seth Gross (Apple Valley, Minn.) and Fredy Stroker (Bettendorf).

Gross is a two-time Cadet National freestyle champion in Fargo. He won a FILA Cadet National freestyle title this year, which earned him a spot on the Cadet World Team, and he represented the United States at the FILA Cadet World Championships held in Baku, Azerbaijan. He is also a state champion.

Fredy Stroker
Stroker, last year's JJ Classic champion at 113 pounds, is one of the nation's top sophomore wrestlers. He claimed a Cadet National folkstyle title this past spring, and has been a Cadet All-American in all three styles. In July Stroker claimed a gold medal at the Pan American Championships in freestyle while representing the United States at 54 kilos. This past season he finished runner-up in the Iowa state tournament compiled a 44-2 record, with both losses coming to nationally ranked Phillip Laux of Iowa City West. Stroker also helped lead Bettendorf High School to both the individual and dual state team titles and a No. 10 national ranking in the final InterMat Fab 50 team rankings.

Also registered in this weight class is Nate Thomas (Kasson-Mantorville, Minn.), a state champion and two-time state finalist. Thomas earned his state title as a freshman in 2010 at 103 pounds. He was a state runner-up the following season as a sophomore at 112 pounds. An injury kept Thomas off the mat last season. He won a gold medal at the AAU Junior Olympic Games this summer after going 18-0. Thomas has also been a Minnesota Christmas Tournament champion and Cadet National All-American in Greco-Roman.

Two returning JJ Classic runner-ups, Andres Gonzalez (Clear Lake, Iowa), and Ben Brancale (Eden Prairie, Minn.) are entered in this weight class and will be looking to take a step up on the podium this year, which will be a tall order. Gonzalez is a two-time state placewinner, finishing third this past season and compiling a record of 41-2. Brancale was a state third-place finisher this past season, and a Cadet National freestyle All-American this past summer in Fargo.

Austin Eicher (Hartland, Mich.), Quinten Berres (Kimball, Minn.), Nick O'Brien (Wayzata, and Leighton Gaul (New Hampton, Iowa) are all multiple-time state placewinners. Eicher was a state runner-up this past season and fourth the previous season. He won a gold medal at the Disney Duals. Berres posted a 45-2 record en route to a state third-place finish this past season. He was sixth the season before. Berres has also been a champion at Preseason Nationals, Blue Chip Fall Brawl, and Liberty Nationals. O'Brien has placed sixth twice, and also placed in the Minnesota Christmas Tournament and Rumble on the Red. Gaul has state finishes of third and fifth, and was 38-3 this past season. He is also a Northern Plains freestyle champion.

Charlie Jones (Waterloo Columbus, Iowa) won a state championship in Iowa's 1A and finished the season with a 45-5 record. Other state placewinners entered in this weight class include Josh Wenger (Cedar Rapids Prairie, Iowa) and Quinn Miracle (Chippewa Falls, Wis.). Wenger placed fourth in the state tournament, and recorded a win during the regular season over Phillip Laux of Iowa City West. Miracle was a state third-place finisher with a 34-3 record.

Predictions at 126:

Andrew Hipps: Zac Hall was pushed hard in the Grappler Fall Classic finals by fellow two-time state champion Ken Bade, and I expect him to be pushed hard again this weekend at the JJ Classic. I like Fredy Stroker to make the finals opposite Hall. Stroker has been training with NCAA runner-up Daniel Dennis and two-time state champion Phillip Laux, among others, and should be in prime form. But I'm taking Hall in a tight one over Stroker in the finals.

Steve Elwood: There is an argument this is the overall deepest weight class at this year's JJ Classic and I have to agree. Fredy Stroker should meet Seth Gross in a great semi with the winner getting Zac Hall from Michigan. I like Stroker to make the finals and finish with the upset special of the JJ. Fredy Stroker champion at 126.

132:

This is one of the more balanced weight classes at this year's JJ Classic, as it includes nine state placewinners and only one state champion.

Freddie Rodriguez (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
That lone state champion in the weight class is Freddie Rodriguez (Iowa City High, Iowa), a three-time state champion who has won virtually everything a high school wrestler can win. In 2010 he became the second wrestler ever to capture a Junior National Triple Crown, winning Junior National titles in folkstyle, Greco-Roman, and freestyle. He was also FILA Cadet Nationals double champion and FloNationals champion in 2010. Rodriguez climbed to as high as No. 6 overall among all high school junior wrestlers in the United States. But Rodriguez did not compete in high school last year, and the last time he competed was at the NUWAY Southwest Kickoff Classic a year ago, where he went 0-2 at 138 pounds. He is the most accomplished high school wrestler not only in this weight class, but in the entire tournament. But the fact that he has not been competing also makes him one of the biggest question marks. The question becomes, which Freddie Rodriguez will show up in Rochester this weekend? The one that every college wrestling coach in America coveted because of his incredible wrestling talent and will to win? Or the one that showed up in Las Vegas last year and bowed out of the competition after just two matches?

Mark Voss (St. Michael-Albertville, Minn.) is the highest returning JJ Classic placewinner in this weight class, finishing fifth at last year's event. Voss has been a top-three finisher in the Cadet National folkstyle competition the past two years, finishing runner-up this year and third in 2011. He is also a state finalist and two-time state placewinner.

Logan Ryan (Bettendorf, Iowa) is a Junior National folkstyle champion and two-time state placewinner. He won his Junior National folkstyle title by defeating three-time state champion Austin Hood in the finals.

Dustin Weinmann (Irondale, Minn.), Shamar Williams (Lakeville South, Minn.), Keith Thell (Foley, Minn.), Evan Caldon (Elk River, Minn.), and Eliot Jurries (Jackson County Central, Minn.) are all past state placewinners. Weinmann was a state fourth-place finisher in 2011, and is coming off a season in which he went 39-4. He finished fourth in the Junior National folkstyle competition earlier this year. Williams, who transferred to Lakeville South from Apple Valley, finished fourth in the state tournament and compiled a record of 23-3. He was a Cadet National folkstyle All-American in 2011. Thell was a state placewinner in 2010, and eight months later won the JJ Classic at 119 pounds. He has battled injuries the past two seasons, but has recently been cleared to wrestle in the JJ Classic and will be a threat in this weight class. Caldon placed sixth in the state tournament and finished with a 37-9 record. Jurries was fifth in the state tournament and posted a 41-9 mark.

In addition to the state placewinners, there are several very accomplished state qualifiers capable of contending for spots on the podium.

Predictions at 132:

Andrew Hipps: I remember telling InterMat high school analyst Josh Lowe on the trip back from Fargo in 2010 that Freddie Rodriguez was the most impressive wrestler I saw in the Junior National freestyle competition ... more impressive than Destin McCauley, Morgan McIntosh, and everyone else competing. Rodriguez competed in a preseason event last fall in Las Vegas and looked like a shell of the wrestler I saw 15 months prior, and he hasn't competed since. I really have no idea what to expect from F-Rod this weekend, but my Fargo memories are still etched in my mind, and for that reason he's my pick.

Steve Elwood: Mark Voss is much better than the rest of the country knows and it appeared like he was destined for a great final with Bettendorf's Logan Ryan. That was the case until the ghost of Freddie Rodriguez joined in. F-Rod will either be lights out here or a complete bust. I'm going with lights out and picking another Freddie (different spelling) to be the champion.

138:

Taner Trembley (Photo/The Guillotine)
State champion Taner Trembley (LCWM, Minn.) enters this year's event as the favorite at 138 pounds after placing third at the JJ Classic last year at 132 pounds. Trembley finished with a 43-2 record this past season en route to winning his state title. He is a three-time state placewinner and Junior National folkstyle All-American.

Another state champion entered in this weight class is Brett Stolarzyk (Stewartville, Minn.). Stolarzyk has won 73 matches over the past two seasons. His state title came in 2011 as a sophomore at 112 pounds. This past season Stolarzyk finished third in the state tournament at 120 pounds. He was a Northern Plains third-place finisher in both Greco-Roman and freestyle this year. Stolarzyk was also a Cadet Greco-Roman All-American in 2011.

Marcus Hamer (Kimball, Minn.), Mason Brownlee (Tri-City United, Minn.), and Kollin Kragnes (West Fargo, N.D.) are multiple-time state placewinners. Hamer was sixth in the state tournament this past season at 132 pounds and fourth at 103 pounds in 2010. Brownlee is a two-time state fifth-place finisher and Cadet National folkstyle All-American. Kragnes was a state runner-up this past season and fifth in 2011.

Other state placewinners entered in this weight class include Dylan Herman (United South Central, Minn.), Carver James (Dakota, Ill.), Jacob Woodard (Bettendorf, Iowa), and Kyle Opsahl (Hinckley-Finlayson, Minn.). Herman was a state third-place finisher this past season, compiling a 34-3 record. James also finished third in the tournament and is a Cadet National folkstyle All-American. Woodard was a state fifth-place finisher and Cadet National freestyle All-American. Opsahl placed sixth in the state tournament this past season and put together a record of 35-5.

A talented freshman to keep an eye on in this weight class is Owen Webster (Shakopee, Minn.), a USA Wrestling national champion in folkstyle and Greco-Roman, and runner-up in Greco-Roman. He went 9-0 at Schoolboys Duals. Webster compiled a 13-1 record in high school competition last season at 113 pounds before an injury ended his season.

Predictions at 138:

Andrew Hipps: Tanner Trembley impressed me at last year's JJ Classic with his third-place finish in a deep 132-pound weight class won by Sam Brancale. I see Trembley winning this weight class over either Brett Stolarzyk or Marcus Hamer in the finals.

Steve Elwood: At the risk of sounding like a CD with a smudge, I'm going to say the same thing about Taner Trembley as I did of Mark Voss. Trembley is way underrated nationally and much better than advertised. He should meet Stewartville state champion Brett Stolarzyk in the finals. I like Trembley in a well fought battle.

145:

University of Indiana commit Brant Schafer (St. Johns, Mich.) is the wrestler to beat in this weight class. Schafer compiled a 49-1 record this past season en route to winning a Michigan Division 2 state championship at 135 pounds. He was a state runner-up the previous season as a sophomore, and a state fifth-place finisher as a freshman at 112 pounds. He has been a Junior National freestyle All-American in Fargo.

Weston Droegemueller (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
Returning InterMat JJ Classic runner-up Weston Droegemueller (Wayzata, Minn.) has an impressive wrestling resume. The senior has competed in every state tournament since his seventh grade year, and has won 157 matches with one season to go. He was a state fourth-place finisher this past season and went 42-5. Droegemueller also placed in the top four in both the Minnesota Christmas Tournament and Rumble on the Red.

Kasey Caelwaerts (Pulaski, Wis.) finished third in the Cadet National folkstyle competition, and went 38-3 this past season. Logan Peterson (ACGC, Minn.) is a state third-place finisher and three-time state qualifier. He is coming off a 42-win season. Jake Hanson (Rochester Mayo, Minn.) is a three-time section champion and state sixth-place finisher in 2011. Ben Donnelly (Woodbury) is a Cadet National folkstyle All-American, state placewinner in 2011, and three-time state qualifier. Austin Jordan (Stillwater, Minn.) is a section champion who won 37 matches last season. Andrew Dayland (St. Charles, Minn.) is a two-time state qualifier who was injured last season after going 15-1. He was a JJ Classic runner-up in 2010 at 112 pounds.

Others with high national finishes include Cadet National folkstyle All-American Chase Straw (Independence, Iowa), NHSCA All-American Mason Moreno (Hayfield, Minn.), NHSCA All-American Weston Dobler (West Fargo, N.D.), and Cadet National Greco-Roman runner-up Joey Gunther (Libertyville, Ill.).

Predictions at 145:

Andrew Hipps: Brent Schafer is a physical, hard-nosed wrestler who will soon be wrestling in the Big Ten for Indiana. Schafer my pick here, but I expect Weston Droegemueller to meet Schafer in the finals and give him a very competitive match. Droegemueller didn't back down from Mark Hall last year, and he won't back down from Schaefer or anyone else in the country.

Steve Elwood: I finally made it to a weight where I feel comfortable saying this is a sure thing. I can't imagine anyone beating Brant Schafer here. This senior is a hammer and it's too bad he opted up and away from Trembley after originally registering at 138. I'm not suggesting he is avoiding Trembley, only that it would have been a sweet match. Schafer is your champ here.

152:

Cadet National folkstyle champion Dayton Racer (Apple Valley, Minn.) is the favorite in this weight class. This past season Racer compiled a 40-5 record as a freshman en route to a state runner-up finish at 138 pounds. He won the Minnesota Christmas Tournament last December.

Andrew Millsap (Junction City, Ks.) won a state championship this past season at 138 pounds, and was a state sixth-place finisher in 2011. He was also a Cadet National All-American in Greco-Roman, which included a win over Racer.

Patrick Casey (Shakopee, Minn.) was a state placewinner in 2010 and has won 30 or more matches in each of the last three seasons. Chas Monger (Eden Prairie, Minn.), Skyler St. John (Cedar Rapids Prairie), Iowa) and Colton Carlson (Willmar, Minn.) all won over 30 matches last season. Jake Deutschlander (Benilde St. Margaret's, Minn.) has been a Cadet National Greco-Roman All-American, and was a state qualifier in 2011. Sean O'Neil (Prior Lake, Minn.) was a MN/USA state freestyle runner-up this year. Other state placewinners in this weight class include John Frisco (Aberdeen Central, S.D.) and Kyle Kragnes (West Fargo, N.D.).

Predictions at 152:

Andrew Hipps: Dayton Racer is the class of this field and should cruise to the title.

Steve Elwood: Here is another weight that on paper looks like a lock. Dayton Racer is the most accomplished of the bunch and should win going away. Patrick Casey has over 90 wins the last three seasons and as a senior may have something to say about the hyped sophomore from Apple Valley. But I'm staying with Racer.

160:

Mark Hall (Photo/Rob Preston)
Mark Hall (Apple Valley, Minn.) is the nation's No. 1 freshman and will be looking for his second straight JJ Classic title. He is already a two-time state champion with four years of high school competition remaining. He has been winning national events since he was young ... and hasn't stopped winning. His most recent title came last weekend at the Super 32 Challenge, where Hall not only won the title, but also became the first freshman in ten years to win a title at above the opening weight. That title came a week after Hall won the Grappler Fall Classic in Michigan. This summer Hall earned a gold medal at the Cadet Pan American Championships, and then followed it up with a title in the Cadet National freestyle competition in Fargo.

Hall is the overwhelming favorite to win the title, but there several solid competitors entered in this weight class. Tim Moore (Rochester John Marshall, Minn.) compiled a 36-5 record this past season. He was a Northern Plains double champion in 2011. Tyler DeMoss (Hononegah, Ill.) won 32 matches this past season, and two weeks ago finished fourth at the Grappler Fall Classic. Lucas Westrich is a Cadet National folkstyle All-American, and won 30 matches last season as a freshman at 145 pounds. Matt Gribben (Eden Prairie, Minn.) was a state qualifier with 34 wins last season. Mitchell Johnson (Aberdeen Central, S.D.) was a state placewinner this past season at 145 pounds. Kyle Fank (Independence, Iowa) is coming off a 33-win season. Joe Hoeve (Farmington, Minn.) is a past Minnesota Ninth Grade League state champion. He went 27-12 this past season.

Predictions at 160:

Andrew Hipps: My prediction is that Mark Hall wows the crowd on more than one occasion.

Steve Elwood: This is the fourth straight weekend Mark Hall has entered a tournament and has one more next weekend. He is wrestling better than ever and he will have to get injured to finish anywhere lower than first. He is one of America's top three most exciting wrestlers in high school.

170:

Bobby Steveson
Bobby Steveson (Merrillville, Ind.) and T.J. Ohara (Tartan, Minn.) are expected to be the top two seeds and be on a collision course to meet in the finals. The two met in the Cadet National folkstyle competition this past spring, with Steveson coming out on top 7-5.

Steveson, the nation's No. 20 sophomore, started his high school wrestling career strong this past season, compiling a 39-2 record as a freshman on his way to placing in the state tournament at 160 pounds. He finished second in the Cadet National folkstyle competition at 160 pounds. In late July, Steveson moved up to 170 pounds and finished third in the Cadet National freestyle competition in Fargo, with his only blemish coming against Cadet National double finalist Chandler Rogers of Washington. He has placed three times at the Grappler Fall Classic, including a runner-up finish two weeks ago.

Ohara was a surprise state champion this past season at 152 pounds, knocking off national age group star Mason Manville in the state semifinals before downing returning state finalist Adam Jackson in the finals. Ohara made his mark at the national level this past spring and summer. He finished fourth in the Cadet National folkstyle competition at 160 pounds in Cedar Falls, Iowa in early April. In late July, Ohara finished third in the Cadet National freestyle competition at 160 pounds, losing only to Cadet National double finalist Kimball Bastian of Utah in three periods.

Jackson Graham (Apple Valley, Minn.), Josh Selly (Tri-City United, Minn.), and Nick Hoff (LARP, Minn.) earned All-American honors this year at the Cadet level. Graham finished seventh in the Cadet National freestyle competition at 160 pounds. Selly was eighth in the Cadet National folkstyle competition at 145 pounds. Hoff finished eighth in the Cadet National folkstyle competition at 182 pounds. Matt Collins (Dowling Catholic, Iowa), Zach Melcher, and Cory Berry have all been state qualifiers. A wrestler to watch in this weight class is seventh-grader Gable Steveson (Merrillville, Ind.), the younger brother of Bobby Steveson. Gable Steveson has won five straight USA Wrestling national titles. He has also won Tulsa Nationals and Liberty Nationals.

Predictions at 170:

Andrew Hipps: I'm taking T.J. Ohara to avenge his Cadet National folkstyle loss to Bobby Steveson and take the title at 170 pounds.

Steve Elwood: After choosing three easy picks, it gets harder the rest of the way. I'm pumped to watch Bobby Steveson from Indiana. He should get the top seed, but you can't discount Minnesota state champion T.J. Ohara. I like these two in a hard fought championship battle with Steveson taking the crown

182:

State runner-up Miles Hammerlund (Delano, Minn.) is the most accomplished wrestler in the weight class. He finished 2-2 in last weekend's Super 32 Challenge. Hammerlund placed third in last year's JJ Classic. He has also placed in the top six at the Rumble on the Red, Preseason Nationals, and the Blue Chip Fall Brawl.

There are a handful of state qualifiers who should contend for high finishes in this weight class: Lequan Wallace (Champlin Park, Minn.), Sam Moeller (Rosemount, Minn.), Greg Johnson (LARP, Minn.), and Daniel Chavez (St. Charles, Minn.). Johnson was sixth at last year's JJ Classic. Zach Wills (Park, Minn.) and Sam Hinsch (Rochester Mayo, Minn.) could find spots on the podium.

Predictions at 182:

Andrew Hipps: I'm going with the safe pick: Miles Hammerlund.

Steve Elwood: There should be four or five tough Minnesota seniors that all made the state tournament in this balanced weight class, all seeded high. I like Miles Hammerlund over any one of them. He had some nice wins at the Super 32 Challenge and is likely the most talented one in this group.

195:

Lance Benick (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
Lance Benick (Totino-Grace, Minn.), the nation's No. 8 sophomore, will be looking for his second straight JJ Classic title after a tremendous spring and summer in national events. Benick posted a combined record of 18-0 in three Cadet National competitions this year, winning national titles in folkstyle, Greco-Roman, and freestyle. In the folkstyle and freestyle competitions he won all of his matches by fall or technical fall. The 15-year-old Benick captured a high school state championship at 182 pounds this past season as a freshman at Totino-Grace, finishing the season with record of 34-3.

Benick is not the only state champion and national champion entered in this weight class. Nathan Rose (Sibley East, Minn.) is a two-time NHSCA Nationals champion and state champion heading into his junior season. His NHSCA Nationals titles have come at 189 pounds (2011) and 195 pounds (2012). This past season Rose went 45-0 as a sophomore en route to winning a Minnesota Class A state championship at 195 pounds.

Another top talent in this weight class is Payne Hayden (St. Johns, Mich.), a University of Michigan commit. Hayden won the Grappler Fall Classic two weeks ago, and was a fourth-place finisher at the Super 32 Challenge last year. He has been an All-American at the Cadet and FILA Cadet levels. Hayden is a three-time Michigan state placewinner, finishing third as a freshman and sophomore, and runner-up last season as a junior. He was a Michigan state champion in both freestyle and Greco-Roman this year.

Trae Story (Roseville Area, Minn.) and David Johnson (Apple Valley, Minn.) are returning state placewinners. Story was a Minnesota Class AAA state runner-up this past season at 195 pounds, finishing the season with a 41-2 record. He is also a FILA Cadet National double All-American (runner-up in freestyle, third in Greco-Roman). Johnson finished sixth in the state tournament and compiled a 30-3 season record.

Clay Broze (Cannon Falls, Minn.) and Max Bullock (Waconia, Minn.) were both 30-match winners last year.


Predictions at 195:

Andrew Hipps: A lot of talent in this weight class. I'm going to take Lance Benick to defeat Payne Hayden in the finals by three or four points.

Steve Elwood: Oh boy! How often does a tournament have so many tough upperweight studs. This group goes five deep, but most Minnesota fans are hoping for a final featuring the Triple Crown winner Lance Benick vs. two-time NHSCA champion Nathan Rose. I expect Benick to get the top seed here. Rose should get a crazy semifinal against St. Johns' Payne Hayden. His reward for winning will be Benick. I think Lance will be too much for him.

220:

Paul Cheney (Apple Valley), Cody Linssen (Park, Minn.) and Aaron Almedina (Lakeville North, Minn.) headline this year's group of 220-pounders. All three won over 30 matches and competed in the state tournament.

Cheney was a Minnesota Christmas Tournament runner-up, Cheesehead Invitational fifth-place finisher, NUWAY Nationals fourth-place finisher. Linssen placed sixth in last year's state tournament at 195 pounds. He was also a JJ Classic runner-up last year. Almedina went 31-12 and placed at the Rumble on the Red.

Zach Lorang (Rochester Mayo), Zach Kennedy (Pine Island, Minn.), and Logan Hortop (Faribault, Minn.) should also figure into the mix.

Predictions at 220:

Andrew Hipps: I'm picking Cody Linssen to win this weight class. He's the lone returning state placewinner and was in the JJ Classic finals a year ago.

Steve Elwood: Paul Cheney and Cody Linssen met in an epic battle in section 3AAA and it went to 3OT. Cheney came out ahead, but Linssen finished higher at the state tournament. I like Cheney in a very close match.

285:

Sam Stoll (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
This heavyweight class is anchored by Sam Stoll (Kasson-Mantorville, Minn.), one of the nation's top heavyweights. Stoll has earned All-American honors four times in Fargo, with Cadet National double titles in 2011. This past summer he finished third in the Junior National Greco-Roman competition. Stoll was a state finalist in 2011. This past season he compiled a 48-2 record and finished third at the state tournament. Stoll is ranked as the nation's No. 12 junior wrestler.

Jason Callanan (Rochester Mayo) and Luis Pinto (Prior Lake, Minn.) were both 20-match winners and top-four finishers in their respective sections.

Predictions at 285:

Andrew Hipps: The only way I would consider picking against Sam Stoll this weekend is if Adam Coon shows up at the JJ Classic this weekend.

Steve Elwood: Here is my last lock of the day. Sam Stoll should finish at the top and I doubt he goes six minutes in any match. Sam Stoll is one of the nation's finest upperweights and it's highly unlikely he loses here.

Comments

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jime (1) about 2 years ago
Steve Elwood.... Just curious, who are the other 2 most exciting high school wrestlers? I'm assuming Bo Nickal is included since he wrestled and beat Mark Hall 2x's over the summer.
Widowmaker (1) about 2 years ago
Why didn't the Berge Boys from Kasson sign up for The JJ Classic?