We have long talked about how the UNI Panthers have landed one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, and today InterMat released their rankings and it comes as little surpirse that Doug Schwab’s team sits #4 in their rankings. In order to view the in-depth breakdown you will need an InterMat Platinum subscription, and that will get you Josh Lowe’s comments on both UNI and Iowa, who made the top 25.
The easiest class to nail down was Arizona State as they finished with the #1 overall class (and I doubt InterMat is the last one to put them there). It certainly seems like new head coach Zeke Jones is really building something out in Tempe, Arizona and the proof is in the pudding with recruits are buying in as well. The Sun Devils’ class is led by three top five ranked recruits #1 Anthony Valencia (St. John Bosco, CA), #3 Zahid Valencia (St. John Bosco, CA), #5 Lance Benick (Totino Grace, MN) and they have an additional two top 100 recruits (29 and 77) to round out just the class of 2015. Tanner Hall, who was one of the nation’s top recruits several years ago, has returned from his mission and is ready to begin his college career. Zeke Jones and his Arizona State recruiting class are the talk of the wrestling community right now, with some saying this is easily the best recruiting class in the internet era.
And while Zeke Jones did a fantastic job landing the runaway favorite recruiting class, Doug Schwab has more than held his own in producing one of the nation’s top classes, only three spots back from Zeke. It would be of little shock to tell someone an Iowa Division I school finished with a top five recruiting class, but hearing Northern Iowa’s name as opposed to traditional powers like Iowa or Iowa State as the school leading the recruiting charge in Iowa may surprise some. That is not a knock to UNI. They have just done something this year that we haven’t seen them do in a while, and I for one find it refreshing to see new faces landing premiere talent.
Schwab built his class on the foundation many other top flight school do, land a solid collection of instate talent, and add some big name out-of-state recruits. Schwab did that by landing the state’s top recruit in four-time state champion Max Thomsen (Union) and paired him with the state’s #3 ranked recruit Bryce Steiert (Waverly-Shell Rock). Both started the season in the 40s range, but after putting together strong senior campaigns, both ended up in the top 30, with Thomsen even making the top 15. His addition of Georgia standout Taylor Lujan, another top 20 recruit, built a really strong anchor for his class.
What I might even like best about this 2015 recruiting class UNI has landed, is not just did they bring in three highly recruited wrestlers, but what may be more impressive is the depth acquired this year. This year’s team was hit (in my opinion) hard by the injury bug. Two of UNI’s top returning starters, Levi Wolfensperger and Cody Caldwell both dealt with injury in 2014-15. Their replacements were not even natural backups, they were guys who bumped to help fill a need. To help correct this UNI landed nationally ranked recruits: Jacob Holschlag (Union), Paden Moore (Jackson County), Isaiah Patton (Dowling Catholic), and Jacob Schwarm (Bettendorf), and then also added an unranked two-time Iowa state champion Hunter Washburn (Alburnett).
I think UNI fans need to be really impressed and encouraged by the amount of talent Schwab has landed. It should be plain to see for fans of any team that even though Zeke Jones stole the show and now has Arizona State considered as the “up-and-coming program”, Northern Iowa should also receive consideration for what they have done. It will be highly interesting to see how the chips fall in 2016 and on, as five of the seven nationally ranked recruits Schwab brought in were in-state additions. That could be the start of some very interesting recruiting battles where there could be three top 20 Division I programs all vying for the state’s top talent.