125: Rs. Freshman Louie Hayes #11 Virginia
While many had Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera pegged as a redshirt freshman to watch at 125, Louie Hayes was a wrestler many people slept on. Last season he put together a solid but unremarkable redshirt record of 18-11. This year he is out to an 8-1 start with wins over #17 Barlow McGhee, #13 Jake Gromacki, and #12 Taylor LaMont. His only loss is to #2 Nick Suriano. Hayes is looking like a guy who has the potential to contend for All-American status.
133: Rs. Junior John Erneste #9 Missouri
Erneste took over the starting spot for the Tigers when Jaydin Eireman bumped up to 141 last season. Putting together a very solid year with a record of 24-8, Erneste went 2-2 at the NCAA tournament. This year he looks to land All-American honors. He’s already beat #20 Ian Parker, and dominated #12 Dennis Gustafson 11-2. The lone loss on his 9-1 record came to #5 Jack Mueller.
141: Rs. Freshman Chad Red #6 Nebraska
Hopes are high for redshirt freshman Chad Red. One of the top recruits in his class, Red had a 19-3 record as a redshirt. This season he’s off to a great 6-1 start. His win over returning All-American #7 Tommy Thorn propelled him up in the rankings. While Red is right in the thick of things for All-American contention, he has a little ways to go to contend for a national title. His only loss this year was a decisive 11-5 defeat at the hands of #3 Bryce Meredith.
149 Rs. Senior Troy Heilman #6 University of North Carolina
Last year Heilman sported a .500 record and went 1-2 at the NCAA tournament. The redshirt senior seems to be making the most of his last year of eligibility, opening the season on an 8-0 tear with wins over former All-American #7 Geo Martinez and #20 Matthew Zovistoski.
157 Rs. Soph Josh Shields #5 Arizona State
After an outstanding redshirt freshman season culminating in a 31-9 record, Shields fell short of All American honors at the NCAA Tournament. Shields seems to be on a mission this year, and has beaten more top competition than any other wrestler on this list. Shields is 8-0 with wins over returning All-American #6 Micah Jordan, #11 Luke Silverberg, former All-American #12 Alec Pantaleo #14 Colin Heffernan, and #19 Taleb Rahmani. He has faced a ranked wrestler in over half of his matches, and has yet to take a loss.
* Rs. Sr. #7 Richie Lewis of Rutgers deserves a special mention despite only having one official match this season. He recently went overseas and claimed a U23 World Championship in Poland. After this huge accomplishment, he’s sure to come back to college wrestling with something to prove.
165 Junior Te’Shan Campbell #7 Ohio State
Following a 22-4 sophomore season and a 3-2 record at the NCAA tournament, Campbell transferred from the University of Pittsburgh to Ohio State University. The move seems to have paid dividends as Campbell is out to a 7-0 start with all of his wins coming by major decision or better. His signature win this season was a 14-0 drubbing of #8 Anthony Valencia, one of the few wrestlers to beat him last season.
174 Jordan Kutler #4 Deferred Eligibility Sophomore Lehigh
Kutler had an impressive, but limited first year wrestling attached for Lehigh at 157 pounds. Plagued by injuries, and a supposedly massive weight cut, Kutler went 13-1 and did not compete in his conference tournament or the NCAAs. This year, Kutler looks beastly bumped up two weight classes at 174. He’s off to a 6-0 start with wins over #5 Myles Amine and #14 Jacobe Smith.
184 Grey Shirt Freshman #13 Max Dean Cornell
Max Dean has been tasked with filling in the enormous shoes left behind by his brother 2 time NCAA Champ and 4 time All-American Gabe. During his grey shirt season he wrestled for the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club and composed a solid 22-6 record. This year he is off to an impressive 10-0 start with a signature win over returning All-American #7 Drew Foster.
197 Rs. Sophomore # 11 Anthony Cassar Penn State
Cassar missed the entirety of last season with an injury. During his redshirt year he went 15-8. To even make the lineup this year Cassar had to beat out his teammate and 3 time NCAA qualifier Matt McCutcheon, who was ranked #3 to start the season. He solidified his role as the starter when he knocked McCutcheon out of the Keystone Classic semis in a 6-5 decision. He followed that up with a win in the finals over #12 Frank Mattiace. Cassar currently holds a 6-1 record. His only loss was a bit of a headscratcher against unraked Garrett Hoffman 11-8.
285 Rs. Junior #9 Derek White Oklahoma State
For the second year in a row Oklahoma State has bumped up a backup 197 pounder and turned them into an All-American contending heavyweight. Last year White went 18-7 at 197 and 0-2 at heavyweight. He was stuck behind All-American and currently ranked #4 at 197, Preston Weigel. This season he is 6-1 with wins over #10 Jordan Wood, and #11 Thomas Haines. His only loss came to #6 Mike Hughes.