Flowrestling did a computation of how college teams fared at the Ironman tournament this weekend in Ohio. OSU nearly “won” by virtue of the number of points scored by their commits. They finished second behind Ohio State, who had two more guys wrestling there.
One wrestler in particular, future Cowboy Reece Witcraft, completely lit the scoreboard and everyone in his path up to win the tournament. I did a breakdown on OSU commitments ahead of signing day last month, Reece was ranked 19th by Flo and 17th by Intermat at the time. When both outlets updated their recruiting rankings this week he jumped all the way to second in the Flo rankings and third in the Intermat rankings.
Reece Witcraft lets it fly in the Ironman finals.
— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) December 13, 2018
Here’s where all the OSU guys landed after the Flo update. Balmeceda, Manibog, and Witcraft all part of the 2019 class.
— Seth Duckworth (@Seth_Duckworth) December 12, 2018
Wrestling scholarship money is complex, there is really no way of knowing exactly how it is allocated, but you can infer some things.
Daniel Kerkvliet was one of the top overall recruits in the 2019 class and a longtime OSU commit for 285. He flipped to Ohio State a few months ago. That was a big blow for the Cowboys. Kerkvliet is a Cadet World Champion and a sure-fire superstar at the college level. Scholarship-wise he probably took up a lot of money though. And likely in part because of all that money being allocated to him, he was OSU’s only ranked commit for this class before he de-committed.
After Kerkvliet flipped to Ohio State, OSU picked up commitments from Reece Witcraft, Brevin Balmeceda, Daniel Manibog, Colt Newton, Cade Lindsey, Chance Mclane, and Triston Wills. Witcraft. Of that group Witcraft, Balmeceda, and Manibog all nationally ranked by at least one outlet, with Balmeceda the only one on the higher end of that scale. Manibog and Witcraft weren’t ranked by all outlets and the ones that had them ranked had them on the lower end.
My takeaway is that after the de-commitment of Kerkvliet — who undoubtedly commanded a ton of scholarship money — OSU likely played “Moneyball” in their late push for recruits, in a similar concept to the film/book, where they spread the scholarship money that was originally allocated for Kerkvliet amongst this group of now signed wrestlers. Instead of going after just one big name with a lot of money to replace Kerkvliet.
We can’t definitively know, but it looks like they took the money that came available from Kerkvliet and they went after and landed a bunch of wrestlers that weren’t as high on most national radars, and we can assume weren’t getting as large scholarship offers from other schools. Guys who they saw upside in and they felt had certain intangibles that would allow them to blossom at the college level.
That strategy may have really worked. It looks like it has definitely paid off with Witcraft. He is taking off before even making his way to campus and jumping into a pretty high category recruit at this point. National writers are even noting that his stock has gone through the roof after this weekend. Thankfully this happened a few weeks after signing day and after OSU locked him down.
Balmeceda was already fairly highly touted, not on Kerkvliet’s level, but a known commodity. And they landed Daniel Manibog who I believe is a guy that has a chance to make a similar jump to Witcraft. Watch him closely. He flies under radars being a south Texas kid in a sport that region is not known for, but I think if he was hitting the big-name tournaments more often than he is, he might be a bit higher than his current rank.
If Manibog or any other guys in the 2019 class make a jump like Witcraft, OSU ultimately moves from one elite recruit in this class to three top 5’s that are spread across a few different weights, along with a host of other kids.
Did the Kerkvliet de-commitment hurt? Without a doubt. Barring injury, the guy is going to be a major star at the college level, but it resulted in landing some guys they possibly wouldn’t have had the money for otherwise. And it’s definitely looking like one of them (and maybe some others) are better than expected.