BLACKSBURG - Virginia Tech head wrestling coach Kevin Dresser announced Thursday the signing of five student-athletes who make up one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, two of whom prep at nearby Christiansburg High School. Kevin Norstrem, Joey Dance, Zach Epperly, Dennis Gustafson and Jared Haught comprise a strong group of wrestlers who will enroll at Tech in the fall of 2013.
The class is regarded as a top-five class nationally by Amateur Wrestling News as three of the wrestlers signed are ranked in the top 25 nationally by InterMat Magazine.
“ ‘Quality’ is the word of the day,” Dresser said. “These five guys are top quality guys on and off the mat. We can’t wait to get them in Blacksburg next fall. Hats off to Coach Robie and Coach Hoffman for their efforts. Teamwork at all levels is what this business is all about!”
Here’s a breakdown of each wrestler, in alphabetical order:
Joey Dance is ranked as the No. 5 overall recruit in the country by D1CollegeWrestling, No. 12 by InterMat and No. 20 by Amateur Wrestling News. The Christiansburg High product won the FILA Junior Freestyle Nationals in Wisconsin to qualify for the FILA Junior World Team Trials, where he won the wrestle-off for a spot on the National team and represented the U.S.A. at the Junior Worlds in Thailand. He has also won National Freestyle Championships at the Cadet, Junior, FILA Cadet and FILA Junior levels. Additionally, Dance is a three-time Virginia Group AA state champion. As a freshman, he won the title at 112 pounds and took first at the state meet as a sophomore at 119 pounds before winning the crown at 132 pounds as a junior. He ran his career record to 129-17 after going 37-5 as a junior. Dance is currently ranked No. 1 in the country at 126 pounds by both Amateur Wrestling News and InterMat and is projected as a 125-pounder in college.
Zach Epperly, also a Christiansburg product, is rated as the No. 24 overall recruit in the country by InterMat, No. 26 by D1CollegeWrestling and No. 48 by Amateur Wrestling News. Epperly, the younger brother of former Hokie wrestler Matt Epperly, won his third VHSL Group AA title with a 6-4 decision over three-time state champ Jake Crawford of Millbrook in the 160-pound final as a junior. He also won a state title as a freshman at 135 pounds and then a title at 145 pounds as a sophomore before winning the crown at 160 pounds last year. The Timesland Wrestler of the Year as named by The Roanoke Times, he also won the River Ridge and Region IV crowns to go with the Beast of the East and the Big Blue, where he beat four-time Group AAA champ Cody Allala of Hopewell in a last-second rally. He enters his senior season with 128 wins and finished last year ranked sixth in the country at 160 pounds by InterMat and seventh nationally in his weight class by AWN. Epperly is currently ranked No. 3 in the country at 170 pounds by InterMat and No. 6 by Amateur Wrestling News and is projected as a 174-pounder in college.
Kevin Norstrem is a top-flight wrestler from Brandon, Fla., who attends Brandon High and is the No. 7 overall recruit in the country as rated by Amateur Wrestling News, No. 11 by D1CollegeWrestling and No. 12 by InterMat. Norstrem has finished the last two seasons with a record of 124-0, while amassing a record of 59-2 as a freshman, to make his three year “high school” record 183-2. However, when combined with a 45-1 eighth grade year competing against high school competition, he is 228-3 in his career. Additionally, Norstrem is a three-time double All-American (Juniors in 2010 and 2011, Cadet in 2009) in Fargo. This includes a Junior National Greco-Roman championship at 130 pounds in 2011. Norstrem is currently ranked No. 1 in the country at 132 pounds by Amateur Wrestling News and No. 3 at 138 pounds by InterMat and is projected as a 133/141-pounder in college.
Dennis Gustafson, from Dumfries, Va., wrestles at Forest Park High and was a 2012 NHSCA Junior National runner-up. He is rated as the No. 98 overall prospect in the country by Amateur Wrestling News. Gustafson was a 2010 North Carolina Group 4A state champion and followed it up by finishing third in Virginia in both 2011 and 2012. Gustafson’s father - also named Dennis - is a master sergeant in the Army, and was transferred to Northern Virginia after previously being stationed in North Carolina. The younger Gustafson was a 2010 NHSCA Freshman national champ and a 2011 Sophomore National runner-up. He has a career record of 141-14 heading into his senior season. Gustafson is currently ranked No. 8 in the country at 132 pounds by InterMat and No. 9 by Amateur Wrestling News and is projected as a 133-pounder in college.
Jared Haught, who hails from Parkersburg, W.Va., will give the Hokies some help in the upper weights. He is a three-time West Virginia state champion who is currently ranked 12th in the country at 182 pounds by both InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News. Haught placed third at the Super 32 this year and is projected as a 184/197-pounder in college.
For updates on Virginia Tech wrestling, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Wrestling).