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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | January 12, 2023

The DI college wrestlers with the most pins this season, so far

The most exciting college wrestlers to watch this season

The NCAA released a list of pins and tech falls leaders this week which is a perfect time to break down the DI wrestlers leading the nation in the most falls. We'll know the full list of pin leaders later this month, in the meantime here are the top athletes through mid-January.

1) Maximilian Leete, American University, 125 pounds — Nine pins

American's Max Leete currently paces the country with nine falls, the most recent of which came against Gabe Giampietro of Drexel on Jan. 6. His fastest fall came on Dec. 22 when he pinned Jacob Moon of Hofstra in a wild match where Leete took immediate control and never looked back. 

Leete's in his second year as a starter for the Eagles and has made an immediate impact on the program. He finished last season with a 17-9 record, but came up short of earning a wild card spot to the NCAA tournament. The sophomore lightweight is 15-5 this year and on track to be a contender for a ticket to nationals in Tulsa. He's already pinned three more people than he had at this time last year, and he looks to only continue to improve. 

His best career win came last season against former Rutgers national qualifier Nic Aguilar via a first-period fall, but he's kept matches close against other top-ranked guys this season as well, taking No. 17 Anthony Noto of Lock Haven to sudden victory earlier this season at the Navy Classic.

Leete will likely meet Noto again when Lock Haven comes to D.C. to dual the Eagles, and he could also see another ranked opponent in No. 31 Ryan Miller of Penn on Feb. 19 before the EIWA championships. His bout against Miller, one of the top-ranked 125-pounders in the EIWA behind national finalist Patrick Glory, will be a good test for Leete to see where he stacks up. 

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Leete went 1-2 in last year's conference tournament, beating Moon by fall but dropping bouts to Gio Diaz by decision and Brandon Seidman in tie-breakers. The EIWA earned four allocation spots for national tournament that year, and Leete came into the 2022 conference seeded eighth. He'll need to improve on his finish last year to contender for a spot, but he's on trending upwards and will no doubt put on a show along the way. 

2) Tyler Stoltzfus, Lock Haven, 174 pounds — 8 pins

The NCAA reported that Tyler Stoltzfus currently sits in second nationally with eight pins. Much like Leete, Stoltzfus immediately earned a starting spot in his lineup as a true freshman, finished last year just shy of qualifying for the NCAA tournament, and is now back for what has become a stellar sophomore season. 

Stoltzfus is 21-8 on the year, and his pinning ability will continue to be key for a Lock Haven team aiming to notch a few more dual victories after a challenging start to the season against ranked opponents. 

The Bald Eagles are 1-5 with a dominant victory over Davidson and losses to Penn State, NC State, Northern Iowa, Ohio State and Cal Poly. Lock Haven won the MAC last year though, so look for Stoltzfus and his teammates to increase their win stats even more as conference duals get underway. 

Other top pinners: Tony Cassioppi, Thaddeus Huff, Joseph Martin, Sammy Sasso, Ryder Wiese, Travis Mastrogiovanni, Sam Hillegas, Caden Gerlach, Mason Parris, Layne Malczewski, Cole Nance, Josh Hillard 

While Leete and Stoltzfus lead the country on the official NCAA rankings, Wrestlestat lists a number of additional wrestlers who have made noise as pinners this year:

#1 Thaddeus Huff (Bellarmine) 12
#2 Max Leete (American) 9
#2 Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa) 9
#2 Joseph Martin (Northwestern) 9
#5 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) 8
#5 Ryder Wiese (Oklahoma) 8
#5 Travis Mastrogiovanni (Oklahoma State) 8
#5 Sam Hillegas (West Virginia) 8
#5 Caden Gerlach (Cal Baptist) 8
#5 Tyler Stoltzfus (Lock Haven) 8
#5 Mason Parris (Michigan) 8
#5 Layne Malczewski (Michigan State) 8
#5 Cole Nance (Bellarmine) 8
#5 Josh Hillard (Franklin & Marshall) 8

*May include some matches not counted in official NCAA rankings.

Iowa's Tony Cassioppi in particular has dominated his way through the early part of the season, pinning Christopher Island, Kade Carlson, Marc Berisha, Greg Hodulick, Logan Andrew, Brooks Empey, Ben Stemmet, Luke Rasmussen and Ryan Catka.

Of the duals that Cassioppi has not ended early by fall, he's won almost all of them by major decision, by stalling out his opponent or by forfeit. Cassioppi has a 76.92 percent bonus rate with his lone decision win coming against Sam Schuyler in a wild match during the Cy-Hawk dual. The Big Ten will bring an increased caliber of competition for Cassioppi, but his performances so far this year suggest that he's ready to make a run for a national title, no matter who might be in his way. 

One of those Big Ten foes in particular is Mason Parris, a 2021 NCAA finalist who has been a dangerous pinner throughout his career and has over a dozen notable falls this year. Parris is 3-0 against Cassioppi, and he even pinned the Hawkeye star at the Big Ten championships in 2021. Having two dynamic pinners in one weight creates so much excitement, but these two guys aren't the only Big Ten leaders in the pin rankings. 

Former NCAA finalist Sammy Sasso paces the 149-pound weight class in pins, though his fellow middle-weight competitors will keep things interesting as the season progresses, given the depth and intrigue around that weight class.

Sasso opened his season with a pin against Johnny Lovett of Central Michigan and then pinned Michael Gunther and Joey Murphy to win the Michigan State Open. Though his win against Murphy won't count for his NCAA pin total because Murphy does not compete for a Division I school, Sasso's other seven pins do count and put him contention for the top spot in this pin race. 

Joseph Martin of Northwestern adds to the Big Ten talent on the pinners leaderboard, as he's recorded nine falls during his redshirt season, six of which have come against Division I competition. Michigan State's Layne Malczewski is listed with eight falls, and while only five of those have come against Division I competition, Malczewski has pinned four of his last five opponents, a wildly notable stat. 

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Ryder Wiese, Travis Mastrogiovanni, Sam Hillegas, Caden Gerlach lead the Big 12 with eight total pins across all three divisions each, though Gerlach and Hillegas are the only two athletes from this list of four who are expected to start for their teams in the postseason, as of now. 

Bellarmine University, one of the newest Southern Conference programs in college wrestling, also has two athletes on the top pin list, with Thaddeus Huff leading the way and Cole Nance not far behind. Huff is listed has having 12 pins, though those falls came against non-DI opponents and thus do not count towards the NCAA official list. His teammate, Nance, has eight pins but has similarly recorded most of those falls against DII, DIII and NAIA competition. Huff and Nance's dominance, though, remains impressive and worthy of recognition.

Franklin & Marshall's Josh Hillard also cannot be ignored, as he's racked up eight pins of his own and put the Diplomats on the pin leaderboard.