RECRUITING RANKINGS - CLASS OF 2014
Top 10 Spotlight #6-#10
By Steve Widzinski
High School Analyst
Michigan Grappler's entire line of Recruiting Rankings for this fall have been released. Now, we are diving a little deeper to look at the Top 10 Seniors in the State - what makes them a top 10 recruit, and what to look from them in the future.
Today, we break down #6 - #10, tommorow check back for #1 through #5.
**Interesting note, 4 of the 5 wrestlers listed in this story are registered for the Grappler Fall Classic on October 12th in Battle Creek!
#10 Kyle Simaz
State Placement: (2-2-1)
Career Record: 179-7
Projected College Weight: 157/165
College Choice: Undecided
2011 9-2 AAU Disney Duals
2012 8-4 AAU Disney Duals
Background: Kyle Simaz is up there among my all-time favorite
wrestlers to watch. I have been a huge fan of his ever since
watching Simaz upset state champions Tyler Daniels and
Anthony Gonzales in his first two matches at the state meet as a
freshman back in 2011.
If these rankings were based off the eyeball test alone, he could be as high as #4. Although not as technically polished as the other guys featured on this list, Simaz has through-the-roof potential that he is only beginning to scratch the surface of. In my opinion only Zac Hall has a higher ceiling for success at the next level.
With that being said, Simaz has yet to replicate his in-state success at the national level, and that is what prevents him from having a significantly higher ranking. He has had some success at the Disney Duals in past summers, but has also posted rather pedestrian results at events such as NUWAY America’s Cup, Pinning Down Autism, and the Junior FS/GR West Regional. Until he builds on his national résumé I simply cannot justify ranking him any higher than this.
Scouting Report: The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the name Kyle Simaz is unrelenting offense. Whether it’s the first or last minute of a match, Simaz’s hands and feet simply never stop moving in neutral. Between his athletic gifts and freakish pace, Simaz truly is a nightmare matchup for any adversary.
At times his extreme forward movement can cause him to walk into attacks, but that never deters him from maintaining his offensive barrage. That’s something you can’t coach. Over time there is no reason to think that Simaz can’t tighten up technically and improve his defense. Especially as he continues to fill out his frame and move up in weight.
His mat work could use a bit of polishing as well, but that will come in due time. Just like in his neutral game, Simaz possesses all the intangibles necessary to succeed at the next level. His wiry body type makes him tough to turn and dangerous to ride, and on top he is a proficient rider who aggressively pursues near fall points throughout a match.
Looking Forward: From a developmental standpoint, Simaz is hands down the most intriguing prospect in this class. He possesses all the tools necessary to excel at the next level. My guess is that he still has a bit of growing left to do, and could even wind up being a 174 or 184lbr before it’s all said and done.
His older brother Cam won an NCAA title at Cornell in 2012, and Taylor, another older brother of his, will be a freshman for the Big Red this fall. Given the family history, it will be interesting to see if he follows their football and winds up in Ithaca. However, his oldest brother Eric was an NCAA qualifier at Central Michigan, so there is family ties elsewhere as well.
Regardless of where he lands, Kyle Simaz is one to keep an eye on for the long haul. If I were a betting man, I’d go all-in on Simaz being one of the NCAA’s top wrestlers by the time his senior year rolls around.
#9 Zehlin Storr
State Placement: (3-2-1)
Career Record: 159-12
Projected College Weight: 141
College Choice: Undecided
2011 4-3/5-4 Cadet GR/FS Duals
2011 GFC All-American (3rd)
2012 Cadet Folkstyle National Runner-Up
2012 Cadet TOC National Runner-Up
2012 4-2/6-1 Cadet GR/FS Duals
2012 8-2 AAU Disney Duals
2012 5-2 Super 32 Challenge
2013 Elite TOC National Champion
2013 FILA Cadet GR All-American (4th)
2013 9-4 AAU Disney Duals
2013 4-2 Junior GR Nationals
Background: Some kids are just flat out wrestlers. Zehlin Storr is one of those kids. For 12 months a year he wrestles at premier events across the country, and it shows.
In the past calendar year alone Storr has competed at Super 32, Junior Folkstyle Nationals, Ohio TOC, FILA Cadet FS/GR Nationals, AAU Disney Duals and Junior FS/GR Nationals. According to my records, no other kid in Michigan has competed at all those events in their career let alone a single year.
Thanks in large to the vast experience he has gained on the national level, Storr has developed into one of the most poised and well-rounded wrestlers across the state.
He may not be as explosive or exciting as the other guys on this list, but ultimately he doesn’t need to be. Rather than relying on exceptional strength or athleticism, Storr’s success is a direct product of persistent fundamental wrestling, and as a result he is one of Michigan’s most consistently successful wrestlers.
Scouting Report: The thing I like most about Storr is his versatility. He’s not especially dominant from any position, but thanks to his deep toolbox he can adjust and wrestle comfortably in a wide variety of situations.
From neutral Storr is very active, constantly working to control ties and create angles. He has a great combination of upper/lower body attacks, and does an excellent job of utilizing his long reach. Although his attacks aren’t particularly explosive, Storr can usually compensate with great setups.
Despite wrestling at a high pace for the entire 6 minutes, Storr really impresses me with his control and composure. At times he can get a bit caught up in his offense and inadvertently walk into opposing attacks. However, he doesn’t lose sight of the match, and maintains his persistence.
On the mat Storr wrestles with a similar blend of control and aggression. He actively works for turns on top, but doesn’t do so at the expense of good position. Storr is highly efficient on bottom as well, exploding off the whistle and moving constantly with pressure back to deny his opponent any chance at scoring near fall.
Looking Forward: Athletically Storr may not be as gifted as other top recruits, but I don’t think that will deter him from succeeding collegiately. He’s a true mat rat who should have little trouble adapting to the everyday grind of D1 NCAA wrestling.
For the past few years Storr has floated between the 132-138lbs weight classes, so I think he should be great fit at 141 for the long haul. He’ll need to hit the weights and get stronger physically before he can compete with top college guys, but that’s the case for the vast majority of High School seniors.
Overall, I see Storr as one of the safest prospects in this class. He may never achieve superstar status, but he has the national experience, work ethic and character that coaches across the nation covet.
#8 Nick Bennett
School: Detroit CC
State Placement: (1-1-X)
Career Record: N/A
Projected College Weight: 149/157
College Choice: Undecided
2013 2-2 FILA Cadet FS 2-2
2013 Junior FS Central Regional Champion
2013 Junior GR Central Regional Champion
2012 6-2 Super 32 Challenge
2012 3-1 Cadet GR Duals
2011 5-2 Super 32 Challenge
2010 2-2 Super 32 Challenge
Background: Prior to the MUSAW state tournament this spring, not too many members of Michigan’s wrestling community were familiar with the name Nick Bennett. Case in point: the onslaught of texts I received in a 30 minutes span on Mother’s Day, all echoing the same question: “Who the heck is this Nick Bennett kid!?!?”
Those texts came in the aftermath of Bennett’s shocking win in the 145lbs FS finals over top-ranked Zac Hall.
For those still unaware, Bennett is a former Michigander who has moved back to the Great Lake State. His older brother wrestled for DCC prior to the family’s move, and this winter Bennett will spend his final High School season as a Shamrock after winning a pair of state titles in Texas earlier in his prep career.
Bennett followed that monumental win over Hall up with another big one at the Junior Central regional, defeating nationally ranked IA state champ Freddy Stroker in FS and GR. An injury kept him from competing at Fargo or the Junior Duals, but the statement he made this spring still rings loud and clear.
Scouting Report: Because Bennett is new to the Michigan High School scene I don’t have the same familiarity level with him that I do with the other members of this list. I’ve watched all the other guys develop over the past four years, but by my assessment of Bennett relied heavily on video. Nearly all the footage I managed to find was FS, so this scouting report is not as complete as the others.
With that being said, I really like what I see from Bennett. He’s still a bit rough around the edges, but the kid is an absolute bruiser. In neutral he is extremely forward paced and has very heavy hands. Bennett doesn’t give opponents any breaks, and is constantly working the head.
On his feet Bennett seems pretty much fearless, at times even to a fault. He is good at wrestling in space, but also has a strong underhook and isn’t afraid to go up top. However, as much as I like his aggression Bennett can get a bit too focused on his offense, and as a result leaves big openings for his foes to attack.
Defensively Bennett is not the most polished, but he makes up for it with grit. He’s an adept scrambler, and his combination of strength/athleticism allows him to fight off a lot of attacks and bail himself out of bad positions.
I have only seen a few minutes of Bennett wrestling on the mat, so I can’t offer too much insight in that regard. From what I did pick up, it seems to run very parallel to his neutral game. On the mat Bennett is powerful and persistent, but at times can lose focus and put himself in bad position.
Looking Forward: Developmentally there’s a lot to like about Bennett. He may not be as college-ready or technically refined as some of the state’s other top recruits, but he’s been put into a great situation at DCC, and has all the physical tools necessary to be extremely successful at a major D1 program.
#7 Alec Pantaleo
State Placement: (X-1-X)
Career Record: 122-8
Projected College Weight: 157
College Choice: Undecided
2011 Cadet TOC All-American (4th)
2011 GFC All-American (4th)
2012 Undefeated NHSCA Duals
2013 Flonationals All-American (6th)
2013 Undefeated NHSCA Duals
Background: Probably the most unique prospect in this class,
Alec Pantaleo’s athletic ability is simply off the charts. When he steps out into the circle the kid is a flat out Pit Bull.
It’s been a bit an up and down career for Pantaleo that has been hampered by untimely injuries. Resulting, he’s has stayed off the radar nationally, but in my opinion he is Michigan’s best-kept secret.
When Pantaleo wrestles at his best it’s a thing of beauty. His build is short but extremely powerful, and his balance/agility is nothing short of acrobatic. His body control is so impressive that at times Pantaleo literally looks weightless.
With his unique skill set Pantaleo is a nightmarish matchup, and the results back it up. He’s a pure folkstyler, and the past two years he has been spotless at the NHSCA VA Beach Duals. Both times around Pantaleo has beaten nationally ranked PA stud Pat Duggan. Additionally. He achieved All-American status at Flonationals this spring, defaulting to a sixth place 6th after an injury suffered late in the tournament.
Scouting Report: All of great wrestlers are unique in their own way, but Pantaleo is truly an atypical study. He’s one of those guys with an unconventional style not suited for 99% of the wrestling population, but with his skill set it is deadly and efficient.
In neutral Pantaleo is absolutely electric. He puts the pedal to the floor and just flat out attacks guys. His low stance and stature gives him great leverage, and his attacks are absurdly explosive.
Both his upper and lower are body strength are phenomenal, so on his shots Pantaleo drives through with a strong finish at a near 100% rate. He also has same great upper body stuff including a wicked slide-by.
However, what I like most about Pantaleo’s neutral game is the offensive difficulties it creates for opponents. He is constantly low to the ground and on the move, so opponents struggle to find an effective means attack of attacking. When they do commit to something Pantaleo is so nimble that he can counter and get behind for takedowns at extremely high rate.
Everything about his neutral work frustrates opponents, and in the past the only way to beat him Pantaleo been on the mat.
His top game isn’t too much of an issue because he can usually just cut guys. When he does wrestle from top it’s usually after a takedown when he is working hard for a turn. Very rarely will you see Pantaleo break a guy down off the whistle and ride for a while.
The down position is his biggest area of concern. Pantaleo has good explosion from his base, but if broken down to his belly Pantaleo often gets stuck and struggles to get his hips up. His height also puts him at a natural disadvantage, and as result he’s pretty susceptible to cradles, leg rides and other technique that lends itself to more lengthy riders.
Looking Forward: Pantaleo is certainly not the typical college prospect. I have a few concerns about how he will transition at the next level, but those are vastly outweighed by his ability. The kid is a flat out specimen, and with continued development I firmly believe he has All-American potential down the road.
He’s a bit vulnerable to front headlock stuff, but overall I think he will be dynamite on his feet in college. There isn’t much question that he can score points in neutral, so a lot of his collegiate success will hinge on his ability to get out underneath.
Obviously there will be some growing pains, but if he can keep the vast majority of a match in neutral I like Pantaleo’s odds against just about anyone.
#6 Justin Oliver
State Placement: (1-1-3)
Career Record: 113-4
Projected College Weight: 141
College Choice: Undecided
2011 Cadet TOC All-American (3rd)
2011 2-1/8-0 Cadet GR/FS Duals
2012 4-3/5-2 Cadet GR/FS Duals
2012 GFC National Runner-Up
2012 NUWAY SW Kick Off All-American (6th)
2012 Flonationals All-American (3rd)
2012 4-1/5-3 Junior GR/FS Duals
2012 Junior GR All-American (5th)
2012 4-2 Junior FS Nationals
Background: A great thing about our sport is that you don’t need to
be the fastest, strongest or most athletic kid to be an incredible High
School wrestler. Having great athletic gifts certainly doesn’t hurt, but more so than just about any other sport, in wrestling equal success can be achieved with tireless work ethic and a fierce competitive drive.
Need proof? Look no further than Justin Oliver.
The kid is a classic overachiever. Inside the circle he’s got one of the best attitudes on the planet. He literally doesn’t know to do something at half-speed. I’ve watched him go up against a lot of the best guys in the country, and never have I seen one them be able to break his will.
Oliver thrives off competition, and it shows. He’s been all over the country for years, competing in premier Folkstyle events as well as hitting the USAW Freestyle & Greco circuit every summer. 2013 was his best offseason yet, highlighted by a 3rd place finish at Flonationals in April and 5th place Greco honors at Junior Nationals in Fargo.
Scouting Report: Every time he steps on the mat Oliver throws caution to the wind and leaves nothing on the table. No matter what position he’s in, Oliver is always looking to score and score big.
With his wide-open style Oliver gives certainly gives up his far share of points. This is especially true in the early goings of a match, but more often than not he dominates the 3rd period. Even in wins it’s commonplace for Oliver to give up 6-8 points.
Opponents tend to get his legs at a pretty high rate, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Thanks to his flexibility and improvisation Oliver is a nightmare in scrambles, and manages to turn a lot of solid shots into big moves for him.
He doesn’t have a great shot, but makes up for it with a wide compliment of upper body attacks. He’s an all-around great hand fighter, and is especially good from and underhook.
When he does shoot Oliver still manages to generate a lot of points. He doesn’t drive through for many traditional finishes, but even on his worst shots he almost always gives himself a chance to score by creating a scramble.
As much as I love his neutral game, mat wrestling is probably Oliver’s greatest strength. He’s especially tough on top where he is constantly and fearlessly looking to score.
He runs a tight crab ride and tries to work a leg in whenever he can. He does give up a lot of reversals including a number to his back, but his adept scoring ability from bottom allows him to negate most of them.
From the down position Oliver is an interesting study. He’s got great hips and has a good feel for pressure that tends to result in a lot of reversals to the back.
He is a lot more patient on bottom than from top or in neutral, usually looking to score big points rather than trying to get to his feet for an escape. At times he gets overpowered and struggles to get off his belly, but his flexibility makes him a danger to score from just about any position.
Looking Forward: I’m excited to see where Oliver lands. He’s got a big transition ahead of him, but he’s the type of kid that just seems destined to succeed. He’s never going physically dominate anybody at the college level, but his funk will keep him in matches early, and his motor will make the difference in the 3rd period.
Ultimately, I think the key to Oliver succeeding collegiately will be control. If he can find a way to minimize his mistakes without abandoning his style of relentless attack the future will be extremely bright for Oliver. Easier said than done, but that’s never stopped him in the past.
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