Ranking Every Freshman NCAA Title Run Since 2010

Ranking Every Freshman NCAA Title Run Since 2010

There have been 13 freshmen national champions since 2010, so how do they stack up against each other?

Jun 12, 2020 by JD Rader
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For a number of reasons, there has been a huge uptick in the past 10 years in the number of freshmen having success at the Division I level. From 2000-2009, there were four freshmen NCAA champions. From 2010-2019, there 13. That's over a 300% increase! We're now averaging more than one freshman champion per year. Anyway, I love ranking things, and I think many people enjoy critiquing my rankings, so I decided to rank every D1 NCAA title run made by a freshman, true or redshirted, from the past 11 years.

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For a number of reasons, there has been a huge uptick in the past 10 years in the number of freshmen having success at the Division I level. From 2000-2009, there were four freshmen NCAA champions. From 2010-2019, there 13. That's over a 300% increase! We're now averaging more than one freshman champion per year. Anyway, I love ranking things, and I think many people enjoy critiquing my rankings, so I decided to rank every D1 NCAA title run made by a freshman, true or redshirted, from the past 11 years.

1) Spencer Lee - 2018

Seed: 3

NCAA Points: 27

Path to Victory: Alonzo Allen, Luke Welch, Nicholas Piccininni, Nathan Tomasello, Nick Suriano

This is one of the greatest NCAA runs regardless of class. The fact that Spencer Lee was a true freshman when he did this puts him up there with the best to ever do it. 18-0 tech fall, 18-0 tech fall, pin over what should have been a three-time AA Nick Piccininni, pin over NCAA champ and four-time AA Nathan Tomasello, and then finally a normal decision over future NCAA champ Nick Suriano. Come on. That’s just unreal. It doesn’t make sense to me. I struggle to fathom it.

Watch Spencer Lee pin Nathan Tomasello in the 2018 NCAA semifinals below.

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2) Logan Stieber - 2012

Seed: 2

NCAA Points: 24

Path to Victory: Mason Beckman, Jordan Thome, Chris Dardanes, Tony Ramos, Jordan Oliver

Don’t let the controversy at the end of the Jordan Oliver match distract you from the greatness of this tournament for Stieber. His path to victory was littered with landmines, and he still managed to pick up two pins. Despite the controversy, Stieber's Oliver win is arguably the best win on this entire list. Jordan Oliver was so incredibly good. He didn't give up a takedown the entire season before or after this. Also in this bracket - Joe Colon, BJ Futrell, and Devin Carter.


3) Vincenzo Joseph - 2017

Seed: 3

NCAA Points: 23

Path to Victory: Keaton Subjeck, Branson Ashworth, Daniel Lewis, Logan Massa, Isaiah Martinez

While Jason Nolf had shown IMar was human the year before, it was still hard to imagine him losing at the NCAA Championships, let alone getting pinned. IMar already had two wins over Vincenzo that season, so it was surprising to see Vincenzo winning and then shocking to see him get a pin with an inside trip. That was after he already majored three-time NQ Ashworth, beat four-time AA Lewis and a best-form Massa, who majored Isaac Jordan and Anthony Valencia en route to taking third that year.

Watch Vincenzo Joseph pin Isaiah Martinez in the 2017 NCAA finals below.

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4) Mekhi Lewis - 2019

Seed: 8

NCAA Points: 22

Path to Victory: Cam Coy, Cael McCormick, Alex Marinelli, Evan Wick, Vincenzo Joseph

Possibly the most unlikely champion on this list. I don’t think anyone outside of Blacksburg was picking Mekhi to win this weight. This was no fluke, however. Mekhi’s ability to not get taken down and also take down Marinelli, Wick, and Joseph was incredible. He even cradled the two-time reigning champion and beat him 7-1. If that wasn’t enough for you, Chance Marstellar, Josh Shields, Bryce Steiert, Logan Massa, Joe Smith, and Isaiah White were also in that bracket.

Watch Vincenzo Joseph beat Isaiah Martinez in the 2019 NCAA finals below.

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5) Isaiah Martinez - 2015

Seed: 1

NCAA Points: 24.5

Path to Victory: Russell Parsons, Spartak Chino, Nick Brascetta, James Green, Brian Realbuto

It’s been said time and time again, but it can’t be said enough, 157 IMar was a SAVAGE. Behind Spencer Lee’s 7, 4.5 is the second-most bonus points scored. Martinez’s two nonbonus point matches were a 10-4 decision to three-time AA and Nick Brascetta and 3-2 decision to four-time AA James Green, who won a World medal less than six months later. This capped off an undefeated freshman season for Martinez, putting him with elite company. Fans were wondering if they were watching the next Cael.

Watch Isaiah Martinez beat Brian Realbuto in the 2015 NCAA finals below.

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6) Mark Hall - 2017

Seed: 5

NCAA Points: 22.5

Path to Victory: David Kocer, Jadaen Bernstein, Zach Epperly, Zahid Valencia, Bo Jordan

Talk about living up to the hype. Obviously every wrestler on this list was in the top 0.1% of recruits, but only a couple were MEGA recruits, and Mark Hall was one of them. His college decision has its own event page on FloWrestling. Cael and co. clearly knew what they were doing when they pulled his redshirt. Mark bonus pointed three-time R12 guy Bernstein and two-time AA Epperly and beat AA Kocer, four-time AA Jordan, and one of the best wrestlers of the  2010s, two-time NCAA champion Valencia. All of this without redshirting. With Hall only being a one-time champion, I hope he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and people don’t forget how good he was.

Watch Mark Hall beat Zahid Valencia in the 2017 NCAA semifinals below.

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7) Yianni Diakomihalis - 2018

Seed: 3

NCAA Points: 22

Path to Victory: Nick Zanetta, Nicholas Gil, Dean Heil, Jaydin Eierman, Bryce Meredith

Sports fans love to talk about the “it factor.” An indefinable quality that many of the top athletes possess where they’re just good at winning. Yianni, and especially his performance in Cleveland, had a whole bunch of that “it factor.” He was trailing in the last 30 seconds against both Dean Heil and Bryce Meredith and won in overtime over Jaydin Eierman. All after tearing his ACL in the first period against Heil. Is Yianni human?

Watch Yianni Diakomihalis beat Bryce Meredith in the 2018 NCAA finals below.

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8) Myles Martin - 2016

Seed: 10

NCAA Points: 21 

Path to Victory: Nicholas Wanzek, Bryce Hammond, Matt Reed, Lelund Weatherspoon, Bo Nickal

Bo Nickal only lost three-times in his college career; Myles Martin is responsible for two of them. That finals win over Nickal alone was almost enough to catapult Martin’s run all the way up to #5 and is the reason it’s above the next two title runs despite having fewer bonus points.

Watch Myles Martin beat Bo Nickal in the 2016 NCAA finals below.

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9) Nathan Tomasello - 2015

Seed: 4

NCAA Points: 24.5

Path to Victory: Joe DeAngelo, Ben Willeford, Kory Mines, Alan Waters, Zeke Moisey

The lure of this title run has not aged well and, even from me, might not be getting the respect it deserves. Zeke Moisey came back down to Earth after putting on the performance of a lifetime in St. Louis, and on paper Alan Waters is only a two-time AA. Waters was ON ONE this season, however. He had wins over NATO, Nahshon Garrett, Jesse Delgado, Thomas Gilman twice, Dylan Peters twice, Conor Youtsey three times, David Terao twice, and many more. 

Watch Nathan Tomasello beat Alan Waters in the 2015 NCAA semifinals below.

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10) Kyle Dake - 2010

Seed: 1

NCAA Points: 23

Path to Victory: Todd Schavrien, Elijah Nacita, Levi Jones, Reece Humphrey, Montell Marion

Ah yes, a young 141-pound Kyle Dake. Little did we know what he would become. Despite the stigma that Dake always kept it close at the NCAA tournament, which he did do occasionally, in 2010 his only close match was a 3-2 win over Reece Humphrey. This match avenged one of only four career losses and two from his freshman year. A win over Montell Marion is nothing to scoff at either.


11) Jason Tsirtsis - 2014

Seed: 5

NCAA Points: 20

Path to Victory: Bryce Busler, James English, Kendric Maple, Drake Houdashelt, Joshua Kindig

Yes, Jason Tsirtsis is the only person on this list to not score a single bonus point. However, he did defeat one returning national champion in Maple and a future national champion in Houdashelt. Also, similar to Yianni, this run just showed some “it factor.” Winning your last four matches by a combined five points including two tiebreaker matches and one sudden victory might not be as impressive a bonus pointing your way through, but it’s still darn impressive.


12) Matt McDonough - 2010

Seed: 3

NCAA Points: 23.5

Path to Victory: Jason Lara, Anthony Zanetta, Jarrod Garnett, Cashe Quiroga, Andrew Long

Nothing against McDonough or his 2010 national championship, but some things fell into place that didn’t make it as difficult as it could have been. Troy Nickerson, Zach Sanders, and James Nicholson were all upset on McD’s side, leaving him with the path he had. Meanwhile, Andrew Long went through Ryan Mango, Ben Kjar, Anthony Robles, and Angel Escobedo. McDonough proved himself as the best in a tough overall bracket, but with “only” one tech fall and two majors from his path, his title run slides in at #12.


13) J’den Cox - 2014

Seed: 2

NCAA Points: 21

Path to Victory: Mario Gonzalez, Braden Atwood, Conner Hartmann, Chris Penny, Nick Heflin

Similar to McDonough’s run, J’den proved he was the best, but some things fell into place for him that didn’t make it as difficult as it could have been. That was mostly Chris Penny coming out of a bracket quarter with Morgan McIntosh, Richard Perry, and Nathan Burak. Don’t get me wrong, what J’den did is insanely impressive. He won a national title as a true freshman at 197 without giving up a single takedown. However, because he only scored one bonus point victory, a 19-6 major over Bradon Atwood, and what everyone did on this list is insanely impressive as well, he sits at #13.