Last season, Mark Hall and Vincenzo Joseph brought home titles as true and redshirt freshmen. The year prior, Myles Martin won a title at 174 as a true freshman. All told 61 freshmen qualified for NCAAs and 14 freshmen stood on the podium in 2017.
So heading into this season, the question isn't "if" but instead "who" will emerge as a freshman to make an impact.
Best Redshirt YearsA full schedule with lots of tournaments is not for every redshirt, but the ones that go out there and compete give us a nice glimpse of who is going to be doing big things the following season. These are the guys who competed and notched legit wins during their redshirt season last year.
125 - Sebastian Rivera, NorthwesternWhile we'll see a large influx of freshman talent in a number of weights, Rivera stands alone at 125. His wins over NCAA qualifiers Barlow McGhee, Shakur Laney, and Travis Piotrowski speak volumes about his ability to compete right away. The heavy-handed Wildcat uses pressure from collar ties to transition to leg attacks well. On top, he is solid with tilts and leg riding as well. He can take unnecessary risks at times, but his overall aggression is part of what will make him successful this year for Northwestern.
Rivera's volume shooting can yield re-attack opportunities for his opponents. These mistakes are common with many freshmen and are often corrected by the time guys take the mat as varsity wrestlers. I think that's what we'll see with Rivera.
125 - Taylor LaMont, Utah ValleyTaylor is not an unfamiliar face to anyone who follows high school wrestling. The Utah native will represent the Wolverines this year, presumably at 125. He works well with upper-body ties, especially his underhook. His leg attacks are solid, but he'll make his money on re-attacks and upper-body exchanges.
141 - Kanen Storr, Iowa StateIn high school, most knew Kanen Storr was a very solid prospect out of Michigan. As a redshirt for Iowa State, Storr notched some outstanding wins. That list includes Luke Pletcher, Colton McCrystal, Zach Synon, and Russell Rohlfing. Storr's speed and ability to penetrate to the legs is what separates him from many in this freshman class.
Though we're seeing freshmen come in and compete at an elite level right away more frequently, you often see young guys struggle to get to legs. That won't be a problem for Storr, who can consistently get to both sides. Additionally, his short offense and go-behinds could be one of the most underrated aspects of his wrestling. He can score from front head from errant attacks from opponent but can also use it as an offensive maneuver as well, initiating the head lock and running behind.
On top, he can turn well with tilts, though at this point I'm unsure if he'll flip over any of 141's elite. His work from a 2-on-1 is excellent as well. Taking Storr down is no picnic either. I've seen him attacked, completely picked up off the mat, and still find a way to get to the far ankle and scramble out of danger. He enters a very crowded 141 weight class that has comparable talent to Storr.
141 - Chad Red, NebraskaOne of the most devastating cradles in the game is going to be unleashed this year. Red is one of my absolute favorites to watch because you never know when he'll connect your head to your knee and take you over. We've seen him hit this at all levels. He put Matthew Kolodzik over for two swipes last year in his thrilling Midlands loss to the Princeton All-American. Red's Houdini-esque escapability sets him apart as well. Nobody in this freshman class turns your attack into his points faster than Red.
149 - Ryan Deakin, NorthwesternThe rangy Colorado native went from an under-the-radar ranked prospect to one of the biggest steals of the class of 2016. Deakin had a fantastic freshman campaign, downing Davion Jeffries, Joey Delgado, Andrew Crone, Jordan Laster, and Steve Bleise! There's not a freshman with a more impressive win total than Deakin. His lefty single is as safe and efficient an attack as we'll see from a freshman this year. His positioning and overall skill set are tailor-made for the Big Ten style.
157 - Hayden Hidlay, NC StateI somehow spaced on Hidlay initially here in the redshirt report. The PA champ had a busy and productive year for NC State losing to only Michael Kemerer, Josh Shields and Dylan Cottrell. All quality, ranked opponents. He also notched a win over ACC rival Mitch Finesilver of Duke. Hidlay's underhooks are quality and his variety of attacks after those is strong. He's decent in scrambles as well (as is just about everyone in the NC State room). He had some solid freestyle wins as well. He'll be a staple of the rankings this year with a great shot at placing right away.
157 - Evan Wick, WisconsinThe scrambly point scorer from California had a nice showing last year for Wisconsin. Wick was able to knock off Alex Griffin, Clay Ream, Kyle Langenderfer, and Colin Heffernan. Wick is a really strong scrambler and his cradle is almost comically effective. He takes guys over from positions where most look safe.
165 - Alex Marinelli, IowaHawkeyes faithful are excited to see "The Bull" unleashed after a year of speculation of whether his redshirt would be pulled. The St. Paris (Ohio) Graham High School product wrestled a solid schedule last year, earning wins over Lorenzo De La Riva and Clark Glass and losing to only Isaiah Martinez and Anthony Valencia.
Marinelli looked impressive in freestyle this spring and took out David McFadden twice. His post to leg attacks are very clean and he can re-attack as well as anyone at this weight. I do worry about his bottom wrestling at the next level. Marinelli had some struggles from this position previously. If he can get away, his pace and leg attacks will put him in a lot of matches, even in a weight as tough as 165.
285 - Jordan Wood, LehighComing out of high school, I loved Wood's game. His misdirection single was among the more impressive techniques I'd seen from a big guy in some time. During his redshirt year, he put on some great size as well to complement his great footwork. Wood has AA potential right away given the current 285 landscape. He took out a few tough guys last year, including Brooks Black and Collin Jensen.
Unproven Redshirt, But Beast PotentialThis group of guys are wrestlers that, despite an abbreviated (or non-existant) schedule last year, I expect to have a very strong season. That is largely based on how I viewed them as a prospect coming out of high school. Some of these guys had some downright rough losses. Some hardly even competed.
Take Dean Heil for an example of how misleading a redshirt campaign can be for a college wrestler. As a true freshman in 2013-14, Heil lost to Brenden Murphy of McKendree by fall, Andrew Atkinson of UVA by a 10-2 margin, and Nick Anderson of Virginia Tech. None of Heil's wins during that year were over anyone who qualified for NCAAs at the DI level. So on paper it was an underwhelming year. The next year Heil was fourth and then won the title the next two seasons.
While his example may be extreme, redshirt years like can frequently turn into successful redshirt freshman campaigns.