• Steve Fittery

The Freshman Four

Every year, fans look forward to watching how big recruits from high school adjust to college wrestling. We generally expect the best to adjust with ease, but that doesn’t always happen. Life can be tough for a college freshman; moving away from home, losing their support network, having to make new friends, adjusting to a new coach’s system, going from being the superstar to having to climb the ladder once more, not mention academic challenges. It’s a hard transition! Today I’d like to look at four of these young talents (three redshirt freshman, one true freshman) that despite the unique pressure freshman face, I predict will have good shots at becoming 4x All-Americans and National Champions. 


Ohio State’s 149lber Sammy Sasso -This kid is the real deal. Out of Nazareth, PA, Sammy grew up competing all over the country. Sasso has an unbelievable offensive pace and is fun to watch; very David Taylor like. What makes Sammy tough to beat is when someone gets to his leg; that guy is in danger of getting pinned in a counter cradle. Sasso’s scrambling skills remind me of guys like Eiermann or Yianni, guys you probably don’t want to shoot on! Sasso did get pinned in his last match this season, losing his balance during a duck under attempt, but I’m not worried about that. 

Prediction: Seeing his skills, toughness, and relentless pace, I’m picking Sammy Sasso as the 149lb National Champion this year! 


Northern Colorado’s 149lber Andrew Alirez – Alirez is a TRUE FRESHMAN; first year in a college room, and he is in the starting line-up. Alirez is a stud freestyler and a blast to watch. At the Dave Schultz tournament, Alirez lost two super close (freestyle) matches to Wyoming’s 2x National Finalist Bryce Meredith. 149lbs is an open weight full of unproven guys at the National level. I think Alirez has star power, similar to Meredith at Wyoming, and is going to put Northern Colorado on the wrestling map. 

Prediction: I’ll be honest, other than the Schultz, I haven’t seen this guy wrestle much, but I’m buying into the hype. Alirez finishes as a rare True Freshman All-American; I’ll say 7th.


Iowa State’s 157lber David Carr – Coming off a Junior World Gold this summer, Carr’s surely confident he can do well on the college scene. Those familiar with his ability would not be surprised to see David in the National finals this year. His Dad, Nate Carr Sr, was (something like) a 3x NCAA & World Champ, so expectations run high in the family.

Prediction: David Carr wrestles #2 Kaleb Young from Iowa this Sunday! Tune in on Flowrestling at 3pm, but I predict a win by Carr which will earn him a #2 ranking. I think he finishes as the 157lb National Runner-up to NC State’s Hayden Hidlay in a close match.


NC State’s 184lber Trent Hidlay – Trent looked awesome this summer at the Junior Worlds, finishing with a bronze medal. In the past year Trent developed physically and has picked up his offensive output. 184lbs is a deep weight nationally, and will find himself in a lot of tough matches, but Trent is one hard-nosed dude.

Prediction: Wanting to stay on pace with his brother (mentioned above), Trent will have an outstanding NCAA Tournament. I’ll predict he finishes 3rd behind Zahid and Darmstadt.


Here are the current rankings, according to Flowrestling.

Sasso- 8th

Alirez- Not ranked in top 25

Carr- 19th

Hidlay- 13th


How much do rankings even mean this year early in the season? When I transferred to American University, I came into my Junior year ranked #22 and finished 5th at Nationals. It’s early in the season, and for these freshmen, their rankings just mean they haven’t wrestled some of the top guys to find out where they stand. Even with that uncertainty, I think these four freshman will be standing on the podium in March. Bottom line: they all have fun styles, and wrestling fans will enjoy watching them take the mat this season!