No. 4 Clovis one of three Fab 50 teams in Top Gun field

Josh Lowe

1/16/2014
Josh Lowe, InterMat High School Analyst
josh@intermatwrestle.com

The 2014 Top Gun Wrestling Tournament has the potential to be one of the best editions of the event in its history. Complimenting what is year-to-year an excellent field is No. 4 Clovis (Calif.), three-time defending state champions in single-class California. The Cougars are that state's perennial power having finishing in the top five each of the last seven years, and thirteen of the last fifteen.

Nick Nevills (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
However, it is no guarantee that Clovis will travel into Ohio and walk away with the Top Gun title, as two other Fab 50 teams are in the field: No. 8 Massillon Perry, runners-up in the Division I state tournament nine of the last eleven years; and No. 29 Claymont, the tournament's defending champion. Other teams with a shot at a top-five finish in the event are Uniontown Lake, Marysville, Nordonia, Sandusky Perkins, and Akron SVSM.

This tournament field has historically featured some star individuals, for example Nathan Tomasello (CVCA/Ohio State), Bo Jordan (St. Paris Graham/Ohio State), Johnni DiJulius (Walsh Jesuit/Ohio State), David Taylor (St. Paris Graham/Penn State), Ben Jordan (St. Paris Graham/Wisconsin), and Colt Sponseller (West Holmes/Ohio State). That pattern does not change this year with the presence of Nick Nevills (Clovis, Calif.), a Penn State commit, who is ranked No. 1 nationally at 285 pounds and the No. 4 overall prospect in the Class of 2014.

Despite no nationally ranked wrestler present in the 138-pound weight class, that weight class is projected to have the most depth. Eight returning state place-winners and two other state qualifiers could be present in this field. The group is anchored by a pair of three-time state placers, defending Top Gun champion Cody Burcher (Claymont) and returning state runner-up Ryan Skonieczny (Akron SVSM). Two-time state placer, and current favorite for the Division I state title, Michael Kostandaras (Walsh Jesuit) is also here as are the following additional state placers: Nick Boggs (Painesville Riverside), David Sparks (Marysville), Andy Dobben (CVCA), Dashawn Haynes (Buckeye Valley), and Josh Weber (Loudonville). Returning state qualifiers from the joint team favorites are also present, Lane Barnes (Clovis, Calif.) and Nick Steed (Massillon Perry).

Multiple nationally ranked wrestlers are present in both the 106 and 113-pound weight classes. At 106 pounds, it is No. 2 Tyler Warner (Claymont) and No. 11 Justin Mejia (Clovis, Calif.). Additional contenders include NHSCA Junior Nationals runner-up Thomas Genetin (Massillon Perry), along with state qualifiers Anthony Jagel (Middletown) and Dante Ginnetti (Poland).

The 113-pound weight class is led by No. 3 Jose Rodriguez (Massillon Perry), who is returning from missing a month of competition due to an injury sustained at the Ironman. He is joined by defending Top Gun champion Dustin Warner (Claymont), who is ranked No. 12 nationally; along with No. 19 Hayden Lee (Marysville), who is a two-time state placer. Others to note include returning state placer Corey Simpson (Field), along with Tristan Gilliland (Clovis, Calif.) and Garrett Lambert (Strongsville).

Nevills, a two-time state champion in single class California at 285 pounds, is the obvious favorite in that weight class. Others in the field include state placer Drek Brumley (Akron SVSM), as well as state qualifiers in Hayden Bottorff (Miami Trace), Logan Sharp (West Branch), and Josh Rohrbacher (Sandusky Perkins). Other contenders are Nate Conti (Fort LeBoeuf, Pa.) and Chris Crumb (Olentangy).

The other two nationally ranked wrestlers in this tournament field are from Massillon Perry, No. 15 Casey Sparkman at 152 and No. 12 Tony Dailey at 160. Sparkman anchors a weight class that has six others with state tournament experience: two-time state placer Jeff Hojnacki (CVCA), Andrew McNally (Uniontown Lake), Dominic Kincaid (Clovis, Calif.), Heath Phillibert (Nordonia), Dalton Hartshorn (Minerva), and Tristan Stallard (Carrollton). The only other wrestler with state experience in the weight class of defending Top Gun champion Dailey is Josh Hokit (Clovis, Calif.)

A key weight class to watch in the team race dynamic is the one at 126 pounds, which features three-time state placer David Bavery (Massillon Perry) and returning state placer Khristian Olivas (Clovis, Calif.). three others in the field have state experience: Alec Cotton (Uniontown Lake), who took Bavery to overtime in the opening dual meet of the season, along with returning state placers Greg Brusco (Delaware Hayes) and Colton Ullman (Loudonville). A pair of freshmen here could make some noise: Matt Steer (West Branch) and Andrew Sams (LaSalle).

Four returning state placers are present in both the 120 and 132-pound weight classes. The 120-pound weight class features four such wrestlers, led by two-time placers in Julian Gaytan (Clovis, Calif.) and Ryan Bennett (CVCA); Alex Mackall (Walsh Jesuit), a Cadet National freestyle All-American and the tournament favorite, as well as Trent Duffy (Miami Trace) have also appeared on the podium. Additional contenders here are two more Cadet National freestyle All-Americans in freshman sensation Corey Shie (LaSalle) and Medina Invitational champion Jake Newhouse (Massillon Perry). The 132-pound weight class is led by two-time state placer Isaiah Hokit (Clovis, Calif.). Other such state placers are Nolan Whitely (Walsh Jesuit), Justin Shirkey (LaSalle), and Garrett Carter (Akron SVSM).

Returning state finalist Zac Carson (Uniontown Lake), who also placed at the FloNationals, lead the field at 145 pounds. He is joined by two-time state placer Taleb Rahmani (Marysville), along with four other returning and/or previous state qualifiers in Mike DeCesare (Nordonia), Walter Gibson (Akron SVSM), Austin Phillips (Massillon Perry), and Caden Herron (Claymont).

Returning state qualifier Matt Dennis (Claymont) is back to defend his Top Gun title at 170 pounds, where the lead challenger is two-time state placer Isaac Bast (Massillon Perry), who was a runner-up in last year's Top Gun at 138 pounds. The other wrestler with state experience here is Brody Brand (Clovis, Calif.), while three other state alternates are in this weight class.

The 182-pound weight class features defending state champion Aaron Adkins (Akron SVSM), along with defending Top Gun champion Nate Hall (Olentangy), who was a state qualifier last year. Others to watch are A.J. Nevills (Clovis, Calif.), state alternate Colt Crall (Claymont), along with returning state qualifiers in Mike Audi (Poland) and Shawn Johnson (Delaware Hayes).

Three wrestlers with state experience are present at 195 pounds, led by state placers Ryan Weber (Loudonville) and Tyler McClellan (CVCA), along with Tyler Dodd (Carrollton). Lastly, it's the 220-pound weight class, which is led by four state placers. Most notable among them is returning Top Gun runner-up Austin Pfarr (Marysville), who placed second at the Ironman and was champion at SWOWCA and Brecksville this year. Joining Pfarr as state placers are Alex Woicehovich (Nordonia), Harrison Hoppel (Minerva), and Kordell Chaney (Sandusky Perkins). Matt Weiss (Clovis, Calif.), a champion at four tournaments this year including the Doc Buchanan Invitational, joins Austin Bentley (Carrollton) and Stefano Millin (Massillon Perry) as additional state qualifiers in this weight class. Also worth watching is returning state alternate Garrett Harding (Claymont), champion at Medina at the end of last month.

Wrestling starts at 10 a.m. Eastern on both Friday and Saturday, while the top six placement finals are slated for a 5 p.m. start on Saturday at Alliance High School.

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