Editor’s Note: these prediction features are too time consuming to knock out one after another, so Divisions 2, 3 & 4 will be gradually released over the course of the season rather than all at once.
1st – Ben Freeman, Walled Central (9): After watching him perform this offseason it’s hard to envision Ben not standing atop the D1 podium this March. The kid’s got a lot weapons at his disposal, and I don’t think there’s anyone present at this weight that can overcome his offense.
2nd – Alex Hrisopoulos, Oxford (10): If there’s anyone who can beat Freeman here it’s Hris. Despite giving up a lot of size he managed a 5th place finish last year thanks in large to his tireless heart and motor. I haven’t seen him wrestle in over 6 months so it’s tough to know where he stands, but based on last year he will need to make some big positional improvements to upset the more polished Freeman.
3rd – Deven Perez, Davison (10): A real wild card. Perez sat behind Max Johnson at 103 as a frosh last season and didn’t get to wrestle at individual districts. However, he turned in one of the most impressive “B-Team” seasons in recent memory that included dominant wins over #5 Morrison, #6 Marion, and SQ Nolan Smith. I’m very interested to see how he adjusts to being a full-time member of the starting lineup.
Unranked Sleeper – John Siemasz, Westland John Glenn (9): I contemplated ranking Siemasz preseason, but D1 103 is heavy with upperclassmen, so I decided to hold off until I had a better idea how he stacked up against the veterans. A MYWA and NUWAY champ this spring, I see Siemasz as a guy likely to make big strides during the season. WJG generally wrestles a tough schedule, and I think he is a near-lock to be an SQ with the upside to finish in the top-6.
1st – Benny Gomez, Holt (11): This weight should be far deeper and more competitive than the 103lbs chart Benny ran away with last March. I see at least 4 guys capable of pushing the defending champ to his limits, but ultimately after watching most of these dudes tangle at the GFC I think Benny is currently a half-step ahead of the field.
2nd – Donte Rivera-Garcia, Southgate Anderson (9): This is largely a gut pick on my part. The freshman looked fantastic at the GFC, and should only get better as the season progresses. There isn’t much separation between the #2-5 ranked guys here, and based on his youth and upside I like Rivera-Garcia as the guy to step up and make the finals come March.
3rd – Max Johnson, Davison (10): Expect to see Max wrestling with a big chip on his shoulder this winter. A botched regional weigh-in caused him to miss out on an opportunity at a state title as a freshman, and he will be hungry to right that wrong this time around. On his feet Max is probably the most dynamic kid at this weight, but control/consistency has been a struggle for him in the past and must improve if he’s going to stand atop the podium.
Unranked Sleeper – Kevin Fuller, Saline (12): This guy really won me over at the GFC. He looked awesome, especially in a 9-4 win over D2 state placer Rick Azelton (an opponent whom majored Fuller twice last season). The chips are stacked against him with 4 top-10 kids in his region, but so long as he doesn’t regress from his performance at the GFC I think Fuller is an SQ with a good shot to wrestle for 7th/8th. There’s also a chance he could wind up at 103 come February, in which case he may be able to crack the top 3 as long as the cut agrees with him.
1st – Martin Rodriguez, Holt (12): For dual purposes M-Rod will be at 125lbs this season, but my guess is that he drops to 119 for the big show. He made 117lbs for the Borderwars Fall Duals in October, so it’s certainly not too wild of a stretch. Either way he’ll have a tough path, but keep in mind that this will be Martin’s first full season since he was a freshman. Last year he came within a point of winning a title despite only logging a couple quality matches prior to the state meet. He’s been active throughout the offseason, and I think a full year of wrestling will make the difference this time around.
2nd – Cam Bertucci, Grand Haven (11): This was one of the toughest picks for me. Cam was a Junior FS AA this summer, but failed to place at Preseason Nationals. Some of that probably has to do with the fact that he jumped from 113 to 120lbs, but I also think that he is just simply better suited for Free than Folk. Ultimately I went with my gut and picked M-Rod, but at this point neither of the two can be considered a clear favorite over the other.
3rd – Kyle Noonan, RH Stoney Creek (12): Another kids that I think makes the cut down from 119 to chase a title. Noonan is underrated, and the gap between him and Rodriguez/Bertucci is a lot smaller than many would think. Assuming he can get down and health is not an issue, I’d be pretty shocked to see Noonan any lower than this.
Unranked Sleeper – Zack Prater, Macomb Dakota (10): Not a particularly deep weight, and a lot of relative unknowns will have a shot to qualify and compete for placement. Prater showed some flashes of greatness as a spot-starter for DCC last year, and I think settling in to a full-time lineup spot at Dakota should help him to establish better consistency.
1st – Lincoln Olson, Davison (11): Based on my guess that M-Rod and Noonan will be at 119lbs come February, this weight has all the makings of a classic two-horse race. I’ve watched Olson and Zdebski wrestle 5 times over the past 2 seasons. In matches 2, 3 & 4 Olson won handily, but in 1 & 5 Zdebski pushed him to the limit. I’d say Zdebski had a slightly better offseason, but it will take more than that for me to go against the 2X-defending champ.
2nd – Trevor Zdebski, Detroit CC (11): As mentioned previously, Trevor represents 1 of 2 clear favorites to meet in the finals. He has been up and down against Olson in the past, and has been the more inconsistent of the 2 throughout their HS careers. They will likely meet several times this season, and I actually think that this is the year Trevor breaks through and posts a W over Olson. However, I think it comes earlier in the season, and Olson bounces back to claim his 3rd title.
3rd – Garret Strube, Warren Mott (12): For a 3X state qualifier and former state-placer this guy really manages to fly under the radar. This is the first time in Strube’s HS career that he doesn’t move up in weight, and I like his chances to settle in and finish 3rd in 125lbs group that is not particularly strong in depth.
Unranked Sleeper – Kyle Bohnschack, Brighton (10): As mentioned previously this isn’t the deepest group, so I had a hard time coming up with an unranked guy I was confident in. Bohnschack is still a long way from being able to match up with guys like Olson or Zdebski, but he’s a tough kid that I think could take advantage of the field and make the jump from RQ to all-state in his junior season.
1st – Ben Calandrino, Howell (12): This was a tough one. Anytime your preseason #1 lost to the preseason #5 (Bahro) at last year’s state tourney there clearly is not a lot of separation present. That being said, I actually feel pretty darn good about this pick. He flew under the radar as a frosh/soph, but Ben really seems to have hit his stride. He enters the season fresh off his best performance to date: a 6-2 outing at Super 32 highlighted by a pair of wins over nationally ranked opponents.
2nd – Kyle Abdellatif, Ypsilanti (12): Of all the guys here, Abdellatif is probably the safest pick. From what I’ve seen he is the most consistent of this group, and has taken a big step forward each year of his career. He’s a bit unorthodox and will create some matchup problems, but I ultimately went with Ben to win it because I am more confident in his offense.
3rd – Ben Griffin, Canton (12): I freaking love this dude. Ben is as gritty as they come. To be honest I’d love to pick him to win it, but the main thing holding me back is that he can never seem to stay healthy for an entire season. Should Ben be near 100% come March I like his chances as much as anyone.
Unranked Sleeper – Nick Robertson, Livonia Franklin (11): This weight is a bit top-heavy. There is some serious firepower in the top-10, but not much in the way of established veterans once you get past the heavy hitters. Livonia Franklin is one of the state’s most consistent programs, and without fail they always seem to have at least one kid make the jump from slightly above average to all-state caliber. Looking at their roster, I think Robertson will be that guy in 2014. Given the competition placing may be a bit of a stretch, but I like his chances to qualify and win a match.
*Austin Thompson is currently ranked in D1, but I have it on good authority he will be at a D2 school in the very near future. I’m going to wait until it’s official to switch his ranking, but for prediction purposes I will go ahead and consider him a D2 guy.
1st – Austin Eicher, Hartland (12): If not for an injury suffered at Flonationals in April this summer very well could have been Eicher’s coming out party. He was back for the GFC, but looked a tad rusty in his finals loss to Zehlin Storr. I expect he still has some cobwebs to shake off early in the season, but come state tournament time he should be back to his dominant self and well poised for a repeat.
2nd – Collin Tomkins, Grandville (12): I’m really high on Tomkins. Once again he will likely fly under the radar all season, and once again Eicher will walk into the state tournament with a giant target on his back. That being said, Eicher is a stingy dude, and he was pretty convincing in a 9-3 win when the pair met at the GFC. Tomkins has a chance, but that’s a lot of ground to cover. It will take a big step forward for him to reverse their most recent outcome.
3rd – Jordan Markey, Ypsilanti Lincoln (12): This kid is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. Jordan was all over the country this offseason and seemed to get better every time I watched him compete. He even notched 3 FS wins over Lincoln Olson in the spring. I love his physicality, but he’s still a bit raw. I gave the nod to Eicher/Tomkins based on their past consistency, but if Jordan is clicking this March he may just go on a run and shock people.
Unranked Sleeper – Kolin Leyrer, Holt (9): Absolute hammer freshman. He’s a multi-sport athlete, so he hasn’t competed on the mats much this fall, but in the spring Kolin came within a match of placing at Cadet Folk Nationals as an 8th grader. I think he’s still a year away from being able to compete with top guys like Eicher, but he’s a safe bet to qualify with enough upside to place, possibly even sneaking into the top 4.
1st – Justin Oliver, Davison (12): This weight seemed pretty cut and dry before Tevin Machart decided to go stick a wrench in things at the GFC. That being said, I still gotta go with Oliver. I think he probably sold Machart a bit short last time, and his 4th place finish at Super 32 makes me feel pretty confident that he is still on track for a big season. He may take a few losses this season, but in the end I think Oliver is flat out too competitive to fall short twice after winning it all as a freshman and sophomore.
2nd – Myles Amine, Detroit CC (11): This was one of the toughest picks for me. Myles has seemingly been on the verge of beating Oliver for a while now. I didn’t get to see their round of 12 match at Super 32 where Oliver won 8-5, but in the 2 meetings prior it took an OT takedown for Oliver to squeak our a W. They will meet several times this year, and I am confident that Myles will win at least once. I’m just not sure he wins the last one.
3rd – Tevin Machart, Utica Ford (12): I was a lot higher on Machart than most heading into the GFC, but even I was taken back by his performance. It wasn’t just that he beat Oliver. It was how he did it. Machart absolutely took it to him, and then preceded to drum 3X Nebraska state champ Colton Adams in his next match. He is a killer athlete that may just be the gem of this year’s recruiting class. However, my biggest worry with him this season is scheduling. Oliver and Amine are slated to see the best the midwest has to offer. Perhaps I’m being too hard on Machart, but I’m a big believer in strength of a schedule, and I’m a bit nervous how he’ll adjust to the grind of the state tournament after steamrolling 95% opponents during the season.
Unranked Sleeper – Kam Bush, Grandville (9): There were some weights where I really struggled to fill this category, but 140 is currently running rampant with unranked guys I believe in. Ultimately I went with Bush because he’s a frosh that I think will make big strides between now and the state meet. Given the depth here he’s a long shot to make the podium, but a trip to the Palace is certainly within reach. Watch out for this guy next season. Big things coming.
1st – Malik Amine, Detroit CC (12): Ah Malik. Picking this kid can be terrifying because of his one-of-a-kind tendencies. He seems to put himself in danger more than just about any wrestler of his caliber, but time and time again he’s proven himself capable of scoring from those unorthodox and seemingly unfavorable spots. To be honest after 3+ years watching him closely I still don’t understand how a lot of the stuff Malik does works consistently, but I’ve come to accept that it does work. It’s just who he is on the mat. He has been a bit up-and-down through his career, but Malik has made big strides in that area every year. So although DCC fans will probably hold their breath and gasp in fear at least 3 times during his state tournament, I feel pretty good picking him to repeat.
2nd – Dom Russ, Davison (12): I’m high on Russ not only because he is consistently very solid, but also for the explosive pinning ability he has flashed in the past year. Especially notable examples that come to mind include a pair of first period sticks; one in the D1 team finals 3X state champ Ken Bade, and another over NJ state champ Anthony Giraldo at FILA Cadet FS Nationals this spring. Russ lost to Amine pretty soundly when they wrestled last December, but he is a state champion caliber wrestler who will push for a title regardless of how this weight shapes up.
3rd – Milik Dawkins, Flint CA (11): I think the gap between Milik and Amine/Russ is a lot more narrow than most would suspect. He’s come along away. After not qualifying for state as a freshmen 112lbr, Milik made the jump to 140 and took 6th as a sophomore. That says A LOT about his ability. If he takes a step even half as big this year, I think he will be in the mix to win it. Plus, Milik is coming off of a huge offseason highlighted by an 8-1 record at the VA Beach Duals, a combined 8-6 record at the USAW Cadet Duals, and 4 wins at Cadet GR Nationals in Fargo. Keep in mind that returning RU Jacob Gorial and 2X placer Quentin Santiago also project at 145, and should be considered contenders as well.
Unranked Sleeper – Matt Mills, Grand Rapids FHC (10): One of the toughest sophomores that no one really about. Mills came within a match of state at 135 last year, and should take a big step forward for the rapidly ascending GR FHC program. This is among the deeper weights in D1 so it would take a lot for him to place, but I expect some significant shifting to go on in the 140-160ish range, so with the right draw it’s definitely not out of the question.
1st – Nick Bennett, Detroit CC (12): For those who have yet to watch the former Texas standout wrestle, I highly recommend clicking here. And here. The kid is a flat out machine and seems to be trending upward big time. As impressive as he’s been I’m not thrilled with this pick. Pantaleo is a nightmare matchup for anyone. Canton has often attended the CC Invite in the past, and they are usually in the same district. However, neither is the case this year, so these two hammers likely won’t meet until state. I think that is a slight advantage to Bennett. The DCC coaches are already pretty familiar with Pantaleo, but Bennett is still a bit of an unknown. I’m sure a lot of his mystique will have worn off by March, but I still think it’s a factor worth noting.
2nd – Alec Pantaleo, Canton (12): This pick pains me. Alec is a gamer, and posted an 18-9 major over Kyle Simaz the last time he competed. Even if Kyle wasn’t in shape that is NUTS. Had an illness not kept him out of the GFC I may be going with him here. Bennett has just looked so well rounded. Specifically, I think his mat skills could spell some trouble for Pantaleo. Especially in a one-time matchup. Just don’t put to much stock in the prediction, because I fully expect to flip back and forth between these guys a minimum of 3 times this season
3rd – Dom Latora, Portage Central (12): For better or for worse, you’re not going to find another HS wrestler quite like Dom anywhere in the country. Often times it works out in his favor, occasionally it burns him, but there’s no denying that Dom does his own thing on the mat. For the sake of time I’ll just call it “funky” and wait until another time to try and break it down. What matters it that this makes him a matchup nightmare. Especially considering that he will probably be the biggest 152lbr in the state should he choose to stay there. I feel pretty good saying that Bennett and Pantaleo will be more dominant and have altogether better seasons, but that won’t matter much when it all comes down to one match in March, and that is where I like Dom’s chances to shock some people in a weight class that also includes the likes of Davon Jackson (3rd), Tomas Garty (5th) and Alex Bozinovski (7th).
Unranked Sleeper – Blake Montrie, Temperance Bedford (10): If I had to put all my chips in on one unranked kid in D1, it would be Montrie. I think this is a slam dunk. He looked absolutely awesome for the first 2/3 of his freshman season, but was a shell of himself due to injury down stretch. This offseason he showed just how good he can be by posting a 12-2 combined record at the Cadet National Duals and placing 8th at the GFC, all after making the jump from 135 to 152. This weight is stacked, but I still think Montrie breaks the top 8. Quite a jump after not making it out of districts.
1st – Jordan Atienza, Livonia Franklin (12): So much to like about this kid. Jordan has been a poster boy for progress throughout his career. I think that in each of HS seasons he has he fallen a painfully shy of his goals: getting knocked out of districts, losing in the bloodround at the state tourney, and then last year getting pinned in the state finals. That kind of disappointment would have broken a lot of kid’s will, so the fact that he has come back significantly better each season is pretty indicative as to the type of competitor he is. Athletic ability has never been an issue either, so, like I said, there’s a whole lot to like about Jordan. That being said Juarez/Johnson/Maskill are all relatively comparable contenders, and of all the weights in D1 this is the only one where the top-4 are so evenly matched.
2nd – Wes Maskill, Oxford (12): This is a gut pick. Maskill lost to Jake Johnson pretty decisively in the regional final and placed lower than him at state, so anyone who thinks I’m crazy here has a very valid argument. Especially considering that I also have him finishing him above the preseason #1 Juarez. It’s tough to justify, but I just get the sense Maskill turned the corner at the end of last season. It was his first as a full-time starter, and he transformed into a totally different wrestler from the beginning of last year to the end. Maskill followed up with a solid spring, and Oxford has a history of relatively unheralded guys coming into their own and making the jump from good to elite as upperclassmen (Z. Line, D. Smith, Frisch, and Ralston all come to mind).
3rd – Dakota Juarez, Grand Haven (12): Wow this was tough. I hate to pick Juarez this low, and it’s crazy to think that Jake Johnson could finish 4th for a 3rd consecutive year. Both are certainly state champ level talents, but that is the flip side of the coin when you have 4 relatively equal wrestlers contending for 1 title. Of the group Juarez is the only 3X placer and the only returning 160lbr. I used to doubt him a bit due to a lack of national accomplishments, but he laid any further questions to rest this spring with a 4th place finish at Flonationals, an Ohio TOC title, and a 7-1 record at the VA Beach Duals. Another interesting note: Juarez has lost a competitive decision against the eventual champ in the quarterfinals or semifinals of the state tournament in each year of his career. Talk about relevant experience.
Unranked Sleeper – Logan Vish, Hartland (10): Not too many people are familiar with Vish, but I promise they will be by the end of this season. What I love about Vish is how physical he was last year despite wrestling much older opponents. As he continues to move up in weight and grow stronger I think he develops into an absolute bruiser. Last year he won 40+ matches against a tough schedule and came within a match of qualifying for state. As a soph I like his odds to place at state, and would not be shocked to see him beat anyone outside of the top 4.
1st – Drew Garcia, Detroit CC (12): I’ll start by noting how rare it is to have 2 guys as good as Garcia and Cooks on the same chart in March. Especially when both are seniors. In the preseason class rankings Garcia was ranked #2 and Cooks #4, respectively. Never in the 8-year history of Michigan Grappler have 2 of the final top-4 seniors wrestled against each other in the state tournament, so this potential “super-match” is a big deal. Both guys are pretty selective with their attacks, but Drew is a bit more advancing position. Throughout his career he has been the more consistent of the pair, and has made a living grinding out matches decided by a takedown or less against elite opponents. A pair of wins of Angus Arthur in matches where no takedowns were scored come to mind in particular. As awesome as Cooks is, which I’ll get to in a second, I have to say that I think this a perfect matchup for Drew. His biggest struggles have come against guys like Bo Nickal; kids that come out and throw the kitchen sink at him. Cooks is more of a methodical counter wrestler, and that is what makes me feel confident about this pick.
2nd – Jordan Cooks, Davison (12): I already talked about the matchup a lot, but to reiterate: having 2 seniors of this caliber at the same weight/division virtually NEVER happens. The odds of either moving to a different weight seem very slim, and with DCC and Davison scheduled to meet in week 2 we won’t have to wait long to watch them go at it. As a nationally ranked 2X-champ who has AA’d at a major national tourney each year of his career, I shouldn’t have to tell how you good Jordan is. His results speak for themselves. The reason I’m not crazy about his odds to win this weight have everything to do with the matchup, and nothing to do with ability. Jordan doesn’t initiate a lot of action on his feet, and prefers patiently waits to capitalize on opponent’s mistakes. This has proven to be a highly effective approach for him, but in this particular case it just so happens that Drew Garcia may be the most mistake free HS wrestler in all of MI. The other reason I don’t like this matchup for Cooks is because he doesn’t seem to wrestle with a ton of urgency on bottom. He’s pretty explosive off the whistle, but if his first move gets stopped he struggles to get out. And Although I wouldn’t go as far as to call Garcia a force on top, he always gives an honest, solid ride. I just have a hard time envisioning how Cooks is going to get on the board in this matchup. Hopefully this analysis doesn’t come off as “Cooks has no chance” because that’s not at all what I’m going for. I just like Garcia to win as much as you can possibly like 1 of 2 nationally ranked 2X champs with relatively similar career résumés.
3rd – Shane Shadia, Rochester (12): No doubt Garcia and Cooks are on a different level, but there is a ton of talent behind them in D1 at 171. I give Shane, the lighter of the Shadia twins, a slight edge in a group that also includes 2X placer Shon Powell, last year’s 5th place finisher Devan Richter, and 2X SQ Nick Brish. Even though Richter beat Shane in last year’s regional final, I am going with him because of his crazy upside. Last year he was still pretty raw, and has made absolutely astronomical progress in just two years on the mats (Year 1: 27-17 @ 152 Year 2: 7th @ 171). Physically he will be an absolute monster at 171, and Shane also has the benefit of training with his twin brother every day, which just so happens to be the defending 189lbs champ.
Unranked Sleeper – Josh Burnham, Macomb Dakota (12): The top-end talent at this weight is awesome, but established veterans outside of the top 10 are few and far between. A returning RQ who eclipsed 40 wins last season, Burnham is best of the bunch. Given the lack of depth I think he is almost a sure thing to qualify, and a 7th/8th finish is certainly well within the realm of possibility for this senior.
1st – Logan Marcicki, Detroit CC (12): One of my favorite things about wrestling is watching guys adjust to big jumps in weight. Especially in situations like this one. Logan did the best wrestling of his HS career this summer, but that success came largely at 160lbs. Now after being unable to compete due to injury all fall he returns at 189, and will have to go through the defending champ in order to win his 2nd title. Many people seem to think that Logan is a big underdog due to his jump in weight, but I would point out that it’s not exactly a new trend for him. In fact Logan has moved up 2-3 weight classes in each year of his HS career (130 > 145 > 160 > 189). Also, most of his struggles have come against opponents that are extremely agile and light on their feet, so I think he will be even better at 189. That being said, I wouldn’t consider either of the 2 a true favorite at this point. Especially considering how awesome #3 Derek Hillman has looked as of late. Luckily, we may not have to wait long to see them clash as both will be at the Oakland County Championships for the 2nd weekend of the season.
2nd – Shwan Shadia, Rochester (12): Hard to pick against this stud. Like I said about his twin brother previously, the progress these guys have made in 2 years of HS wrestling is nothing short of astronomical. Shwan has uncanny instincts given his experience, and has quickly become a master of the 1-point win. He’s already a defensive juggernaut with solid mat skills, so the next step will be developing his offense. Much easier said than done, but if he can take his attacks to the next level Shwan could be virtually unstoppable this year.
3rd – Derek Hillman, Woodhaven (12): The preseason spotlight shines most brightly on Marcicki and Shadia because they have state titles to their names. However, after the fall Derek has had he deserves to be in the conversation every bit as much as the other 2. Last year he broke out in a big way, posting a 47-4 record culminated by a 4th place finish at state. He now appears to have made the jump to an entirely new level; dominating the Hoosier Preseason Classic, beating a pair of nationally ranked kids to finish 3rd at the GFC, and then placing at Super 32 for his grand finale. Assuming the preseason weights hold I think 3rd is the absolute lowest he finishes, and 1st is not even remotely a stretch.
Unranked Sleeper – Peter Price, RH Stoney Creek (12): There is a huge drop off at this weight following Garcia/Shadia/Hillman, with only one other returning SQ. There really isn’t a single non-top-10 guy that I have a ton of confidence. Price is a solid vet who logged some quality matches this offseason and won 30+ matches as a junior. To be honest I don’t have a ton of familiarity with any of D1’s unranked 189lbrs, but given the lack of returning talent Price should be well poised to make a trip to the Palace and be competitive.
1st – Jordon Brandon, Westland John Glenn (12): What a competitor. Jordon’s development over the past couple years been remarkable to watch; transforming from a talented but inconsistent sophomore to a surefire top-20 senior at this weight in what felt like the blink of an eye. He broke new ground this summer, competing at what seemed like every major non-USAW event. Among Jordon’s top accomplishments were a 5th place finish at Flo, an Ohio TOC title, and a combined mark of 18-0 at the VA Beach/Disney Duals. I also like that he diversified his experience with some FS competition, finishing 2nd at the Central Regional and then following up with a 12-1 performance at the Junior Olympics. He’ll have to through an extremely deep field to get his title, but I think Jordon will be absolutely locked in after ending last season with a controversial finals loss.
2nd – Nick Giese, Detroit CC (11): Possibly my favorite kid to watch compete in the entire state. I literally don’t think Nick understands how to do something at less than 100% effort. My only worry with him here is size. He was undersized at 189lbs last year, and I imagine that is the weight he would be wrestling again if not for the presence of teammate Logan Marcicki. Even so, I think he is a legit contender. Placing 3rd in D1 189 as first-year varsity sophomore makes Nick nothing short an anomaly. He’s a three-sport athlete so his offseason mat time is limited and he doesn’t have the national experience of DCC teammates, but come midseason I think he will be a 1-man wrecking crew.
3rd – Matt Okaiye, Waterford Kettering (12): From a strength and athleticism standpoint there are few (if any) wrestlers in the Michigan that compare to Okaiye. When I first watched him back in 2011 I had a hard time believing he was in HS…then someone told me he was a sophomore. He may not be as well-rounded, technical or savvy as the other top guys, but Okaiye’s sheer power and explosion makes him a threat to knock off virtually anyone he steps on the mat with. He pushed Brandon to the limit on more than one occasion last year, and will be the guy everyone hopes is on the opposite side when state brackets are released. Although he is an undisputed title contender in my eyes, the immense depth at 215 this year means it’s far from a sure thing that he can match last year’s 3rd-place finish.
Unranked Sleeper – Brandon Houle, Rockford (12): The exact opposite of 189. This weight is absolutely loaded, and the established talent extends well beyond the top-10. There are several returners who came within a match of qualifying for state, and in my opinion he is the best of the bunch. What I especially like about Houle’s chances is that despite all the depth at 215, he could very well win a regional title. Only one ranked wrestler, #10 Whyte, is in his district/region, so Houle may just be able to go into state with a 1-seed.
1st – Parker Tillman, Grand Rapids FHC (12): Lots of potential here. Tillman is an absolute behemoth, maintains sound position, and by heavyweight standards has some pretty decent mat skills. He really emerged with an excellent state tourney last year, and verified it by posting a 9-2 record at the Disney Duals. He enters the season as the favorite in D1, but needs to develop attacks and expand offensively if he’s going to separate himself from the pack and be a truly ‘elite’ big man.
2nd – Brian Darios, East Lansing (11): I really like both Darios and Ortman, so this was a tough one for. Brian placed below Ortman at state, but topped him 1-0 when they met this summer. I don’t have a great feel for either of these guys, but I just have a tad more confidence in Darios after watching him win the GFC. Took a huge leap last year as a soph, so he’s well ahead of schedule as far as heavies go. Has a chance to be absolutely dominant as a senior if his development stays on pace.
3rd – Adam Ortman, Temperance Bedford (12): An absolute bruiser. What’s scary about Ortman is that last year was his first year in the varsity lineup, and it didn’t really “click” for him until midseason. This year he comes in with a lot more confidence, and will be gunning for gold from the onset. D1 HWT will come down to who peaks at the right time, and Ortman’s odds are very comparable to Tillman/Darios.
Unranked Sleeper – Dylan Roney, Detroit CC (12): An elite athlete that has already committed to play football at the Naval Academy; Dylan will be a first-year senior to watch for the Shamrocks. Given DCC’s depth there is a good chance he doesn’t end up getting entered into individuals. However, considering the recent history of the Shamrock’s coaching staff (see: Mike Martin & Bob Coe), it’s not unreasonable to think he could be a top-8 caliber heavy by the time March rolls around.