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The 2020 Wrestling Recruiting Class May Be John Smith’s Best Ever

On paper this group may be better than the early 2000 classes.



On Wednesday night, the No. 1 overall wrestling recruit in the 2020 class, AJ Ferrari announced he would be coming to Stillwater and wrestling for John Smith. His commitment added to an already loaded class. According to FloWrestling’s 2020 recruit rankings here’s where this group sits individually.

1. AJ Ferrari
2. Dustin Plott
11. Trevor Mastrogiovanni
20. Jakason Burks
28. Luke Surber
78. Konner Doucet
Alexander Yokubaitis (unranked)

With the top two guys in the nation and three others in the top 30, this class will be No. 1 nationally after all the recruiting is over with, and you could reasonably say it’s probably one of the better ones OSU has ever had. Since it’s tough to go all the way back to the Ed Gallagher days and research what talent he was pulling in, I thought I’d take a look and see where it sits compared to John Smith’s other classes.

In 2017 OSU had the overall No. 1 recruit with Daton Fix and No. 15 with Kaden Gfeller, but with no other ranked recruits as a team they were No. 5 overall that year. The year before they had the No. 12 class. OSU had the No. 2 class in 2015, and this was probably their best in the last 10 years with Joe Smith as their highest ranked at No. 7 and Kaid Brock at No. 10. Nick Piccininni was No. 24, Boo Lewallen No. 28 and Andrew Marsden No. 71.

The six years prior they had classes ranked 4th, 8th, 4th, 5th and 13th.

You have to go back to 2009 for the last No. 1 class for OSU. It had No. 3 Chris Perry, No. 11 Jon Morrison, No. 21 Dallas Bailey, No. 52 Ladd Rupp and No. 71 Zach White, along with Albert White, a JUCO transfer. Alan Gelogaev wrestled his first season for the Pokes that year, but was not a part of the recruiting class. This No. 1 team ranking was not a consensus though as some other recruiting outlets had the Cowboys at No. 2 or No. 3.

Simply compare those ranking numbers and it seems clear this 2020 group is on a higher notch than anything the Pokes have recently brought in.

The obvious question from there is what were the early 2000 classes that won four straight NCAA titles like?

It’s difficult to find actual numbered class recruiting rankings from that era, but 2002 seemed to clearly be the best class of the early 2000s for the Cowboys. It was ranked No. 1 by Intermat and had Johnny Hendricks, Zack Esposito, Derrick Fleenor, and Ethan Kyle along with Muhammed Lawal as a transfer from UCO.

They don’t have numbered individual rankings for that class that I can find anywhere, but Hendricks was a known commodity and one that probably would’ve been a top-five type, similar to Esposito. Fleenor and Kyle were also pretty highly touted and that pair was probably at least top-50-type recruits. So theoretically you could put Hendricks and Esposito in the top five with Fleenor and Kyle floating somewhere in the top 40 or so. I would say that one was Smith’s best class if you ignore 2020, but when you look at the theoretical numbers they don’t match what OSU is about to sign next month.

The other late 1990s and early 2000s classes had NCAA champs like Jake Rosholt, Chris Pendleton, and Johnny Thompson. Rosholt — who was widely viewed as the No. 1 overall recruit in his 2001 class — had few other big names that signed with him, and Thompson was a very under the radar recruit. The other complement to most of those NCAA championship teams was Steve Mocco, who transferred from Iowa.

As you dig further back in the the 1990s it’s tough to find more detailed info on recruiting, but during a portion of the decade OSU was under NCAA sanctions. The 1994 team that won Coach Smith’s first NCAA title consisted of stars that came from various classes in Mark Branch, Pat Smith, and Alan Fried, and most weren’t recruited by John Smith.

Ultimately, based on more accurate data and an anecdotal history, I think it’s safe to say this is the top recruiting class of the John Smith era.

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