The inestimable proprietor of D1collegewrestling.net and FloWrestling contributor, Earl Smith, puts together an annual list of top recruits, located here. Now that nearly everyone from the high school class of 2012 has completed his college career, we're going to take a look back at Earl's 2012 Top 200 Seniors and re-rank the top 25 careers.
You can also take a stroll down memory lane with our own 2012 Team Recruiting Rankings and list of the Top 22 Careers of the College Class of 2017 (regardless of their high school class).
Our top 25 from the high school class of 2012 is below, with the 2012 recruiting ranking in parentheses.
1. Gabe Dean, Cornell (73)Dean announced his presence to the wrestling world when he stunned Penn State's No. 1-ranked and soon-to-be three-time NCAA champion Ed Ruth in the finals of the 2014 Southern Scuffle. Dean went on to have the most impressive career of anyone in his class, despite losing the last match of his college career in dramatic fashion to Bo Nickal, also of Penn State, in the 2017 NCAA finals. Dean still finished as a four-time All-American and two-time champ. Not bad for a guy ranked 73rd coming out of high school.
2. Cory Clark, Iowa (23)Clark muscled his way into second place on our list with a heroic performance in the 2017 NCAA tournament's 133-pound bracket. Not content to finish as a "mere" four-time All-American, Clark beat the No. 1- and 2-seeded wrestlers to finally clinch his first coveted national championship for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
3. Jason Tsirtsis, Northwestern/Arizona State (1)Tsirtsis is still hoping to get a hardship waiver from the NCAA and wrestle one more year at Arizona State, having transferred to Zeke Jones' program from Northwestern. Tsirtsis is the only other member of the high school class of 2012 besides Dean and Clark to win a national championship. If Tsirtsis manages to win a second title next year, he'll leapfrog Clark, but Dean's perch at No. 1 is unassailable.
4. Thomas Gilman, Iowa (16)Gilman edges out Issac Jordan by a hair, but it's highly debatable. Jordan has the extra All-American honor from his freshman year, during which Gilman was blocked from a spot in the lineup by his Hawkeye teammates, Clark and Tony Ramos. Both Gilman and Jordan finished with fourth- and second-place finishes on their resumes, but I gave more weight to Gilman's third-place finish than I did to Jordan's two seventh-place finishes. Your milage may vary.
5. Isaac Jordan, Wisconsin (27)Jordan, like Gilman above him, managed to finish higher than quite a few wrestlers ranked ahead of him on the recruiting list. The scion of the legendary Jordan family from St. Paris, Ohio, finished seventh, seventh, second, and fourth over four years in Madison, Wisconsin.
6. Lavion Mayes, Missouri (Unranked)Mayes earns the distinction of being the highest-ranked wrestler on our list not to have originally made it onto Earl's top 200. That proves how hard it is to predict the future and how well Brian Smith and company helped develop Mayes. The Illinois native was a three-time All-American for the Tigers and a 2017 finalist.
7. TJ Dudley, Nebraska (24)South Carolina's most famous native son finished as a three-time All-American, including two top three podium placements. Dudley was a highly rated recruit but still managed to place ahead of many of his high school classmates.
8. Brian Realbuto, Cornell (11)Realbuto is a three-time All-American and the second of three Cornell grads to make our top 25. Astonishingly, there were two other Cornell recruits ranked ahead of him, Alex Cisneros at No. 6 and Mark Grey at No. 7. However, only Realbuto lived up to his blue-chip expectations.
9. Brett Pfarr, Minnesota (171)Pfarr makes the top 10 from all the down at 171 in the recruiting ranking, a testament to Pfarr's determination and the Golden Gophers' coaching staff. Pfarr's second- and third-place NCAA finishes slot him ahead of other three-time All-Americans who never placed quite as high.
10. Ty Walz, Virginia Tech (111)Walz also exceeded his high school expectations by jumping up over 100 spots. He was a three-time All-American for the Hokies.
11. Michael Kroells, Minnesota (22)Kroells kept the dominant heavyweight tradition alive at Minnesota, earning three All-American honors during his illustrious career in Minneapolis.
12. Dylan Palacio, Cornell (66)Our third Cornellian makes an appearance at No. 12. Palacio was a two-time All-American for the Big Red and also perhaps the most electric wrestler of his high school cohort.
13. Nolan Boyd, Oklahoma State (Unranked)Our second unranked recruit clocks in at No. 13. Boyd started his time in Stillwater, OK, as a walk-on but through hard work and grit became a four-year starter and two-time All-American for the Cowboys.
14. Zane Richards, Illinois (13)Richards checks in about where he was expected to back in 2012. The two time All-American for the Fighting Illini comes in at No. 14, just one spot away from his recruiting ranking.
15. Sam Brooks, Iowa (20)Iowa's third recruit from its outstanding class of 2012 shows up at No. 15. Brooks was a bloodround finisher his sophomore year before cracking the top eight in his next two NCAA trips.
16. Eric Montoya, Nebraska (197)Montoya spent a year at Campbell University before transferring to Nebraska. The move paid off, as the New Mexico native became a two-time All-American for the Huskers.
17. Kyle Crutchmer, Oklahoma State (14)Injuries kept this blue chipper from finishing higher. Crutchmer's two top eight finishes still makes him the second-highest ranked Cowboy from his recruiting class.
18. Nate Jackson, Indiana (Unranked)Indiana plucked Jackson from relative obscurity and helped mold him into a two-time All-American. Jackson is our third unranked recruit from the class of 2012 to make our top 25.
19. George DiCamillo, Virginia (17)DiCamillo may have "only" earned one All-American honor, but making the finals is worth a lot. His three other bloodround finishes are impressive enough to earn him the No. 19 spot on our list..
20. Dylan Peters, Northern Iowa (76)Perseverance is the name of Peters' game, as the 76th-ranked recruit managed to grit out two All-American honors in four trips to the NCAAs during an injury-plagued college career.
21. Willie Miklus, Missouri (33)Miklus spent a year at the Olympic training center before starting his college eligibility clock, so he has another year to add to his two All-American honors and potentially move up this list.
Dechow was never able to make it back on the podium after his fourth-place finish as a redshirt freshman. But that placement and three other years of advancing at least to the round of 16 is good for making it to No. 22 on our list, quite a jump from his No. 90 recruiting ranking.
22. Jack Dechow, Old Dominion (90)
23. Mitch Minotti, Lehigh (21)Minotti was an All-American for the Mountainhawks in his redshirt freshman and sophomore years. But injuries took their toll and kept the Pennsylvanian from making it back on the podium his junior and senior seasons.
24. Aaron Studebaker, Nebraska (Unranked)Coach Mark Manning and the Cornhuskers were able to find another diamond in the rough, as Studebaker went from an unranked recruit to a three-time qualifier and fifth-place finisher in his senior year.
25. Jimmy Gulibon, Penn State (3)Many Penn Staters had higher expectations for the No. 3 recruit in the land, but Gulibon was still able to qualify for four NCAA tournaments and finished as high as fifth in his sophomore year, an impressive feat for any competitor.
Honorable MentionThe following wrestlers from the high school class of 2012 all managed to place in the top eight at least once in their careers. They are listed below, alphabetically by first name.
Alex Meyer, Iowa (41)
Casey Kent, Penn (Unranked)
Eddie Klimara, Oklahoma State (34)
James Wilson, Stanford (104)
Joey Ward, North Carolina (54)
Kevin Beazley, Old Dominion (153)
Lelund Weatherspoon, Iowa State (UR)
Nathan Kraisser, North Carolina/Campbell (63)
Randy Cruz, Lehigh (25)
Rossi Bruno, Michigan (18)
Ryan Taylor, Wisconsin (35)
Sal Mastriani, Virginia Tech (169)
Zac Brunson, Illinois (19)
Did we forget anyone? Please let us know!
What About Everyone Else?
Many wrestlers from the high school class of 2012 suffered setbacks in their wrestling careers. Whether due to injuries, HEW, or some other misfortune, only two of the top 10-ranked recruits ever earned All-American honors. A further 14 of the top 50 recruits from the class of 2012 never qualified for a single NCAA tournament.
However, that was by design for some wrestlers. For instance, the No. 12-ranked recruit, Joey Davis, was a four-time NCAA Division II national champion at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio.
Ranking recruits is a dicey business -- for any college sport. Any number of things can change from high school to college, much of it beyond the control of the coaches and certainly that of the rankers. So we will conclude by mentioning that our contribution here, with the benefit of hindsight, is by far the easiest part of the equation.