It’s almost August so that means Fargo has wrapped-up and many of the State’s top wrestlers are getting ready to start their final year of high school. It also means College coaches are on the hunt for top recruits.
The Class of 2020 Recruiting Rankings are based on several factors and are weighted mainly on a wrestler’s performance in the scholastic season but also considers things such as Freestyle/Greco-Roman results and off-season competition. They are not necessarily an attempt to predict success on the college level but rather an overall ranking of their appeal to coaches on the recruiting trail. Fans will notice a column titled “TIF” which represents a wrestler’s ranking on the “Top Incoming Freshmen” Report of 2017 nearly four years ago.
The same wrestler who entered his high school career as the top ranked freshman in Pennsylvania is the same wrestler who comes in #1 in the Class of 2020. His name is Beau Bartlett and he is a 3-time National Prep Champion from Wyoming Seminary. Although born in Arizona, Bartlett and his family moved to the Keystone State several years prior to beginning his career at Seminary. Bartlett isn’t planning on leaving Pennsylvania anytime soon, either. He has committed to continue his career in Happy Valley for Penn State and head coach Cael Sanderson.
In his three years of high school competition Bartlett has achieved a lot but – he has room for more. In December 2017 Bartlett made his mark when he took out two undefeated wrestlers at POWERade. In the semifinals at 126 pounds Beau, then a sophomore, beat undefeated PIAA State Champion Sam Hillegas (North Hills) before taking out 3-time PIAA State Champion Gavin Teasdale (Jefferson Morgan). Bartlett gave Teasdale his first career defeat as he entered the finals with a 134-0 record. Ironically, Teasdale graduated and went to Penn State but left after the first semester and is now in Iowa.
Bartlett, in addition to his three National Prep titles and POWERade Championship, most recently finished 8th at the U.S. Open in the Senior Men’s Freestyle division. Competing at 61 kilograms, Bartlett went 3-3 and defeated former Penn State All-American Jordan Conaway by fall in the process. At the prestigious Super 32 he has twice been a runner-up and also owns a title from the Ironman. Last season he was fifth at both the Beast and Ironman. Moving up to 138 pounds in his senior season Bartlett is ranked #1 in the Nation by Flo Wrestling and could end up being a 141 pounder for Coach Sanderson.
Sitting behind Bartlett is 2-time PIAA State Champion Sam Hillegas. The North Hills product has been dominating his opponents for a decade. He is 118-2 in his career with defeats only coming to Bartlett in the 2017 POWERade and to Julian Chlebove in the 2019 PIAA State semifinals. Most recently Sammy placed fourth in Fargo at his first Junior National Freestyle Championships. He has won two POWERade titles and has placed sixth and fourth in his last two Super 32 Tournaments. Hillegas has committed to Virginia Tech.
Coming in at #3 is Gerrit Nijenhuis of Canon-McMillan who claimed his first PIAA State title in March when he downed 2-time PIAA State Champ Edmond Ruth (Susquehanna Twp.). Nijenhuis has experienced an up and down post-season after being named thee 2019 PIAA State Tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler. He lost twice at the Virginia Beach duals including a defeat to fellow Pennsylvania wrestler Clayton Ulrey. Gerrit bounced back in Fargo where he was a runner-up in Freestyle at 170 pounds. He comes in ranked #3 in the Nation by Flo, one behind #2 Clayton Ulrey, and has never finished lower than third at the PIAA State Tournament taking 3rd, 3rd, and 1st.
Speaking of Ulrey – the Mullet comes in ranked #6 in the Class of 2020 but could legitimacy make a strong case for the #3 spot. If Ulrey had won his State finals match with sophomore Trey Kibe – he probably would. Ulrey has had one of the best off-seasons of any wrestler in the Nation. In April he won the Cadet Freestyle FloNationals title at 80 kilograms. In May he went undefeated at 10-0 in the NHSCA Virginia Beach Duals where he downed Nijenhuis 8-2. The next weekend he earned a spot on the USA Cadet World Team along with 2018 PIAA State Champion and #7 Hunter Catka (Sun Valley). Ulrey has only improved every year of high school going from a State qualifier his rookie year, to a 5th place finish as a sophomore, before making the finals in 2019 as a junior. He also placed 3rd at the 2018 Super 32.
#4 on the list is 2-time PIAA State Champion Thayne Lawerence (Frazier). The highest uncommitted wrestler thus far is currently ranked #7 in the Nation by Flo at 170 pounds. He doesn’t do much Freestyle wrestling so we haven’t seen Thayne since the VA Beach Duals where he went 10-1 competing at 160 pounds. At the 2018 Super 32 Thayne placed 7th at 152 pounds. Like Nijenhuis, Thayne has never placed lower than 3rd at the PIAA State Tournament finishing 3rd, 1st, 1st.
The best overall athlete of the group could very well be #5 Gaige Garcia (Southern Columbia Area) who is going to Michigan as both a wrestler and football player. He is one of the top recruits in the Nation in both sports and is currently ranked #6 in the Nation by Flo at 195 pounds. In 2019 he captured his first PIAA State title after finishing 5th and 3rd in his two previous trips. While football will be Garcia’s main focus in Ann Arbor, he could very well make an impact on the Wolverine’s wrestling squad.
Rounding out the top ten include #8 Andrew Cerniglia (Notre Dame-Green Pond) who won a PIAA State title in 2019; #9 Luke Stout (Mount Lebanon) who was a State runner-up in 2019 and a 2018 Fargo Cadet National Champion; #10 Ed Scott of Dubois who captured his first PIAA State title in 2019 at 138 pounds.