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Breakdown of Iowa’s 10 best prep wrestlers for 2012

[ 3 ] July 8, 2011 |

Note: Twelve wrestling coaches and journalists throughout the state were surveyed and asked to rank the top wrestlers in the 2012 class based on college projection. Their votes were tabulated and used to form these rankings.

1. Cory Clark

» High School: Southeast Polk.

» Career record: 133-0.

» Projected college weight: 125/133.

» Early favorites: Iowa is the early front-runner for Clark.

» The book on Clark: The perfect record is one thing. The way Clark has done it is another. He won his first 10 matches at the state tournament without allowing a point. He had only allowed three takedowns and hadn’t given up a reversal in his prep career until February, when he narrowly escaped with a 7-6 victory against Eric DeVos in an epic state semifinal match.

Clark has won on the national level as well. He claimed a Cadet folkstyle national title in 2009 and earned All-America status in freestyle and Greco-Roman at the 2010 Junior Nationals.

» What they’re saying: “He’s good in every position, whether he’s been in it before or not. He wrestles his way into and out of every position and just has one of the most thorough understandings of technical wrestling of any high school kid I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing because what you see in front of the crowd is 10 percent of what he’s got unless he’s in a challenging match, and then you see something new you haven’t seen before.”

— Southeast Polk assistant Jessman Smith


2. John Meeks

» High School: Des Moines Roosevelt.

» Career record: 123-0.

» Projected college weight: 133/141.

Early favorites: Meeks committed to Iowa State after previously committing to Nebraska.

» The book on Meeks: It’s hard to tell how Meeks stacks up against the best wrestlers in the country. He’s still a neophyte on the summer freestyle circuit, but he went 9-0 last month at the Junior national duals and he’ll compete later this month at the Junior Nationals.

In Iowa, he’s been unbeatable during the past three seasons, winning titles at 119, 125 and 130 pounds. He’s outscored 11 state tournament opponents 130-53 and pinned another. Meeks has been difficult to corral with his blend of quickness, balance, strength and mat presence. Roosevelt coach Jay Groth said Meeks has only been taken down five times in the past two seasons.

» What they’re saying: “We play a lot of games, have a lot of little competitions in the room, and he hates to lose those as much as he hates to lose a match anywhere. He’s exceptionally competitive and always wants to perform at the top level. He puts in a tremendous amount of time in the offseason and during the season as well, staying after practice, working on technique, drilling extra when he’s going to wrestle some of the best kids in the state. I don’t think I’ve ever had a kid who has put in more time than John does lifting, drilling, wrestling.”

— Roosevelt coach Jay Groth


3. Dylan Peters

» High School: Denver-Tripoli.

» Career record: 148-1.

» Projected college weight: 125.

» Early favorites: Peters said Iowa and Northern Iowa are the two schools he’s considering.

» The book on Peters: If not for a loss to Forest City’s Alex Spooner in the state finals as a freshman, Peters would be with Clark and Meeks on a path toward perfection. Instead, he’s a two-time state champion riding a 108-match winning streak. Since losing in the finals as a freshman, Peters has demolished his bracket at state, pinning his way through the tournament in a shade more than four minutes as a sophomore and scoring bonus points in all four bouts last season.

Peters placed third last summer at the freestyle Junior Nationals, finishing ahead of Clark. His resume also includes a pair of All-America certificates from Folkstyle Nationals.

» What they’re saying: “He has an extreme work ethic, and he has a fantastic gas tank on him. Nobody gets to see that because he usually doesn’t go six minutes, but we get to see it in the room. We keep throwing guys on him, and we can’t wear him out. He can go all day.”

— Denver-Tripoli coach Chris Krueger


4. Jack Hathaway

» High School: West High.

» Career record: 146-12.

» Projected college weight: 133/141.

» Early favorites: UNI, Iowa State, Oregon State, Illinois, Pittsburgh and Boise State.

» The book on Hathaway: Hathaway has competed all over the globe in the past year. He turned heads of college coaches this spring when he posted victories against established Division I wrestlers on his way to a runner-up finish at the freestyle FILA Junior Nationals, which gave him an opportunity to wrestle in Germany on the U.S. FILA Junior World Cup team.

Hathaway has been overshadowed by others in the 2012 class, but he’s starting to stockpile accolades. He’s a four-time All-American at the Cadet level. He reached the national finals in freestyle last summer and claimed the Greco-Roman title. He captured his first state championship for West as a junior after placing third as a freshman and sophomore.

» What they’re saying: “He’s found a way to adapt. He understands where he’s good and where he’s weak and tries to make sure he’s wrestling in his strong positions. He’s a pretty good scrambler and, obviously, he’s good on top. He finds a way to get himself in those positions.”

— West coach Mark Reiland


5. Eric DeVos

» High School: Waverly-Shell Rock.

» Career record: 227-18.

» Projected college weight: 125/133.

» Early favorites: Penn, Harvard, Lehigh, Iowa, UNI and Minnesota.

» The book on DeVos: DeVos needs 37 victories as a senior to move into the top 10 in national high school history for career wins. He piled up 88 at the varsity level in seventh and eighth grade when he won two Minnesota state titles at Apple Valley. DeVos added an Iowa title as a sophomore to go with second- and third-place finishes.

DeVos is a two-time All-American in freestyle at the Cadet level, and he placed fifth at the prestigious Super 32 tournament last year in a 120-man bracket.

» What they’re saying: “For his size, he’s extremely strong and he’s working out all the time. … He goes everywhere (to train) and that’s all he does, he doesn’t play any other sports.”

— Waverly-Shell Rock assistant Mike Schwab


6. Willie Miklus

» High School: Southeast Polk.

» Career record: 105-12.

» Projected college weight: 184/197.

» Early favorites: Miklus said Iowa was the team he grew up rooting for but declined to name any leaders for his services.

» The book on Miklus: Miklus is a rare commodity in the 2012 class — a big guy with little guy skills. He was a runner-up at 119 and 145 at Ballard during his freshman and sophomore seasons before winning the 171-pound title for Southeast Polk as a junior. He has a frame to add weight and could wind up as a 197-pounder in college.

Injuries have limited Miklus’ national exposure in recent seasons, but he placed second this spring at Folkstyle Nationals.

» What they’re saying: “If you hit something on him once — not even moves, just positions and holds — he soaks everything up and turns your stuff on you. I like to hold and squeeze and pull, and now I don’t like to wrestle him because he holds and squeezes and pulls the way I do now, and it’s a real pain in the ass. … He’s one of the most coachable kids you’ll ever come across. He wants (coaching) at all times.”

— Southeast Polk assistant Jessman Smith

7. Justin Koethe

» High School: West High.

» Career record: 127-15.

» Projected college weight: 157.

» Early favorites: Iowa, Iowa State, UNI and Minnesota.

» The book on Koethe: Koethe has a lot of upside that has yet to translate into high school titles. He placed fourth as a freshman in a rugged 135-pound bracket and entered the state meet the last two years ranked No. 1. His title aspirations were derailed both years by illegal slam disqualifications.

Koethe has used that explosive strength to earn All-America honors at eight national tournaments at the Cadet and Junior divisions. He was a Cadet runner-up in Greco-Roman and a national champion in freestyle two years ago in Fargo.

» What they’re saying: “His strengths are his explosiveness and strength. Once you get to the college level most of the guys are strong, so it’s going to be a little bit of adapting for him, but not everybody can be that explosive. That’s the thing that’s in his favor.”

—West coach Mark Reiland


8. Gabe Moreno

» High School: Urbandale.

» Career record: 117-8.

» Projected college weight: 149/157.

» Early favorites: Moreno’s brother, Michael, is a freshman at Iowa State. He said the Cyclones and UNI are his two early leaders.

» The book on Moreno: Moreno has gotten one step closer to a state title each season, finishing fourth as a freshman, posting four pins at the state tournament on his way to third as a sophomore and coming up one point short in February in the finals against Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Zach Witte. Moreno still is looking for a breakthrough tournament, but he’s been close. He placed second at Folkstyle Nationals this spring and took third in 2009 in freestyle at Cadet Nationals.

» What they’re saying: “A couple attributes that make him pretty good: He’s a good scrambler who can wrestle in a lot of different scramble positions, and he flat out hates to lose. He loves to win, but he hates to lose more than he likes to win.”

— Urbandale coach Mike Moreno


9. Phillip Laux

» High School: West High.

» Career record: 106-9.

» Projected college weight: 125.

» Early favorites: UNI, Iowa and Minnesota.

» The book on Laux: The big question with Laux seems to be whether he gets big enough for the college level after winning the 103-pound state title in February. But he has the type of frame to add weight, and West coach Mark Reiland points to Nebraska’s Ridge Kiley and B.J. Futrell — a pair of college 133-pounders who wrestled at 112 as high school seniors — as examples of athletes at the next level who hit a late growth spurt.

Laux has an arsenal of scoring attacks from his feet that helped him win a Cadet national title last summer after losing in the finals the previous year.

» What they’re saying: “Phillip’s just a hard worker. He’s a smart kid and knows where he needs to work, and he’ll concentrate on those areas. He’s a perfectionist, and until he gets things right, he’ll continue to do it.”

—West coach Mark Reiland


10. Alex Meyer

High School: Southeast Polk

Career record: 104-31

Projected college weight: 174

Early favorites: Iowa, Missouri, Stanford and UNI

The book on Meyer: Perhaps the fastest-improving wrestler in the class, Meyer has developed into a college prospect after missing the state tournament as a freshman. He placed sixth as a sophomore and fifth as a junior but has represented himself well on the spring and summer circuits. He placed third in freestyle at last summer’s Cadet Nationals, claimed a Folkstyle National title this spring and won the Northern Plains regional freestyle tournament in May.

What they’re saying: “He’s a workhorse and a mat rat. He’s built a style that complements his unique engine. … He makes up for his weaknesses with his determination to fight in every position and make you pay for mistakes and make you pay for getting in on his legs. He’s a real pain to wrestle.”

— Southeast Polk assistant Jessman Smith


The next 10

Zach Witte (Cedar Rapids Prairie) — Went 38-0 last season and claimed the 3A title at 145 after missing the state meet as a sophomore.

Topher Carton (Davenport Assumption) — Compiled up a 121-0 record during his first three seasons, winning two Illinois state titles before claiming the 119-pound championship in Class 2A last season.

Tyler Shulista (Alburnett) — Claimed a pair of titles in Class 1A after placing third as a freshman.

Connor Ryan (Bettendorf) — Three-time finalist might be a multi-time champ if not for Clark and Hathaway.

Robert Walker (Martensdale St. Mary’s) — Compiled a 46-0 record last season on his way to his second 1A title at 140.

Dakota Bauer (Iowa City West) — Iowa State commit won a title as a freshman at Ballard and lost to Meeks in the 130-pound final last year.

Kane Seeley (Perry) — 215-pound champ in Class 2A has a football scholarship offer to Iowa State.

Brian Warren (Des Moines North-Hoover) — Defending 3A champion at 140 takes a 79-11 record into his senior year.

Zeb Wahle (Council Bluffs Lewis Central)Placed third in 3A at 152 as a junior.

Jared Bartel (Mason City) 3A runner-up last season at 189 after placing fifth as a sophomore.


Category: Wrestling

About Andy Hamilton: University of Iowa graduate Andy Hamilton is originally from Williams, Iowa, and started at the Des Moines Register in August after 12 years at the Press-Citizen. He covers wrestling for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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