The Top Ten NCAA HWTs Of The Decade


In just this past decade of college wrestling we have seen the HWTs weight class shift from just your average big men roughing it out to some crazy athletic freaks that consistently put up 10+ points in their matches. Let’s count down the top 10 College HWTs of the decade. Freestyle success is counted somewhat into the rankings when used to break ties which happened once or twice.

#10 Anthony Cassar (Penn State)

Probably one of the biggest Cinderella stories we have seen in this sport going back to his high school career where he only qualified for the state tournament once.. That was the year he ended up winning it. This is exactly what happened in college for Anthony Cassar; he was not the starter until 2019 when he decided to move up to HWT and knocked off 2x All American Nick Nevills for the starting spot and got the nod at HWT. Things only got crazier for Anthony Cassar from here.

During his first season as a starter for the Nittany Lions he dropped a match to Derek White 4-3 in the Southern Scuffle finals. Aside from this he was perfect, however due to this loss people tended to look past him when time came the Big Ten tournament. Freshman phenom and now Olympic Champion Gable Steveson was undefeated coming into the tournament and many people just took it for granted that he was going to be the next Cael Sanderson and just dominate through college without a loss. Cassar had other plans and stunned Steveson with a late third period takedown and a rideout. Then he did it again at the NCAA Tournament in the semifinals. He wrestled Derek White in the National Finals and he majored him this time around 10-1 to become a National Champion.

Since then Cassar has not really done much, he took an extra year of eligibility but once he got injured he called it a career and started his transition to the MMA scene. He has not been too productive on the senior level being that he got injured when he wrestled Dom Bradley in a match that went somewhat viral. Cassar pulls into number 10 on this list due to the fact that he was a National Champion and because he also has 2 wins over Gable Steveson and a win over Kollin Moore. Also owns wins against Olympic Trials qualifiers Jordan Wood and Tanner Hall.

#9 Dom Bradley (Mizzou)

Dom Bradley may not have had the career he hoped for in college but he has surely made up for it on the senior level since then. At 32 years old he is still going strong and collecting senior level wins consistently. He has some big wins in his senior level career such as Nick Gwiazdowski, Gable Steveson, Tony Nelson, and Anthony Cassar who are all NCAA Champions.

Now let us get into the college wrestling career of Dom Bradley. He is a 2x All American and placed 3rd/4th in his two placings. What we can say is the caliber of competition at this point in time is nothing close to easy. With guys like Zach Rey, Tony Nelson, Nick Gwiazdowski, Mike McMullan, Alan Gelogaev in the field when Bradley was in college it was always a bloodbath for the NCAA Title and it could go either way any year. His junior year for the Tigers he was able to secure a 3rd place finish at the NCAA Tournament where Zach Rey of Lehigh ended up winning his first NCAA Title. In his senior season after taking an Olympic redshirt he took 4th in an even more stacked weight class when Tony Nelson ended up winning his second NCAA Title.

Since college Bradley has been a staple in the freestyle scene where he has produced longevity like crazy which is something that is not seen often at the heavyweight weight class. He has competed at three Olympic Trials in his time as a senior level wrestler in 2012, 2016, and 2021. It looks like his career will be coming to an end soon just due to age but it will be fun to see what he decides to do next.

#8 Mike McMullan (Northwestern)

Possibly one of the best wrestlers to never win a national title Mike McMullan has done it all. He has just not been quite able to put it together at the NCAA Tournament where it mattered the most. Nonetheless he is still one of the greatest collegiate heavyweights of all time placing 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, and 3rd again as a senior.

Throughout his time at Northwestern he picked some insane wins like Nick Gwiazdowki, Tony Nelson, Adam Coon, Dom Bradley, Connor Medbery, Bobby telford and more. He was never really able to do anything on the freestyle scene.

Since college he has been an assistant coach for Northwestern and also an assistant coach for Penn where he works pretty much exclusively with the upper weight wrestlers.

#7 Adam Coon (Michigan)

The first and only greco man on this list, that is what made Adam Coon stand out in his time as a Wolverine. He made 2 NCAA Finals in his time in college and also a world final to go along with that. In my opinion he is the best heavyweight to never win a NCAA Title. This really just came to rough matchups where he had to face two of the best collegiate heavyweights ever in Kyle Snyder and Nick Gwiazdowksi.

Coon since college has been the guy on the greco roman team at 130kg mostly every year. He ended up grabbing a world silver medal where he ended up falling to only Sergey Semenov in the finals. 

His wrestling career has been somewhat on hold since then due to him exploring more career choices. This being the NFL, he signed with the Titans for a while until he was sadly cut due to an injury he sustained. He signed up for the 2021 world team trials but didn’t show up. Cohlton Schultz, a young stud, ended up taking the spot. Who knows where Coon’s career is heading at this point in time. We will find out soon enough.

#6 Alan Gelogaev (Oklahoma State)

The greatest that never was. That is all I can really say to describe Alan Gelogaev. Injuries ended his career and he never achieved his full potential. In his career with Oklahoma State he was able to major decision Tony Nelson 16-5 and tech fall Nick Gwiazdowksi 20-3. Nick Gwiazdowksi is a 4x World Team Member for us and a 2x World Medalist.

This will always be the biggest question of what could have been. Would he have made the 2016 Olympic Team, would Gable Steveson or Nick Gwiazdowski ever made a world team? Who knows, Alan Gelogaev seemed to have limitless potential but with 2 seasons being cut short to injury I guess we will never know.

#5 Zach Rey (Lehigh)

Probably one of the most underrated guys on this list. Zach Rey won his NCAA Title in 2011 where he defeated Ryan Flores of American. He ended up falling due to a late third period takedown from Tony Nelson and did not win his 2nd NCAA Title.

Rey was extremely close to breaking through for a world team on 2 occasions as a runner up. He also finished second at the 2016 Rio Olympic trials to none other than Tervel Dlagnev. He did end up being a 3x Pan-Am Champion but that was pretty much where his senior level career stands.

He is currently the assistant coach of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks and is probably one of the biggest mentors for Jordan Wood, an All American heavyweight who also qualified for the Olympic Trials. He has seemed to be doing very good for himself at the moment.

#4 Tony Nelson (Minnesota)

Tony Nelson was just another one of the insane wrestlers to come out of the HWT U. Minnesota has earned the nickname Heavyweight University due to all of the talent that they have produced at the heavyweight weight class. This includes Brock Lesnar, Cole Konrad, Tony Nelson, and currently Gable Steveson. 

Tony Nelson himself has won 2 NCAA Titles and is a 4x All American. His hit list is absolutely incredible as he beat guys like Mike McMullan and even pinned Alan Gelogaev. He ended up dropping his match in the NCAA Finals in 2014 to Nick Gwiazdowksi and was not able to pick up his 3rd NCAA Title which would have broken records and made history.

Since his time wrestling for Minnesota he is still competing and in the final years of his career. He is one of Gable Steveson’s most consistent training partners. He has been one of the biggest mentors in helping Gable Steveson get to the level that he is at today and will most likely assume a coaching role when his wrestling career is over.

#3 Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State/Binghamton)

Nick Gwiazdowksi is one of the most accomplished NCAA Wrestlers of all time yet alone as a heavyweight. He is a 4x All American, 3x NCAA Finalist, 2x NCAA Finalist. This is only a small bit of what he has done in the entirety of his career making 4 world teams on the senior level and is still going strong to this day claiming his most recent team this year in 2021 where he fell in the bronze medal match to none other than Olympic Champion and multiple time World Champion Taha Akgul and only 6-4 at that.

In his college career he was an 8th place finisher at the National Tournament for Binghamton before transferring for his sophomore season. In his sophomore season this is where he was able to prove that he was the real deal as he got to the National Finals and upset the defending National Champion Tony Nelson 4-2 to become a National Champion. He did not lose a match for pretty much the rest of his career.

The next season he went undefeated and capped off his junior season with a win over Michigan’s Adam Coon in the NCAA Finals and picked up his second NCAA Title. In his senior season things seemed to be going well until he met up with World Champion and soon to be Olympic Champion Kyle Snyder in the NCAA FInals. Possibly one of the greatest matches in NCAA Wrestling history. Gwiazdowski got out to an early lead but Snyder was able to battle back late and send the match to overtime. Gwiz took a shot in overtime and they got into a position that theoretically should have been stalemated but the ref let it play out. Snyder got in on a counter attack and was able to secure the win to take out Gwiazdowski and end the longest active win streak in NCAA Wrestling.

Since then Gwiazdowski has bounced back from that loss and made four world teams of his own in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021. He recently made a switch from the Wolfpack RTC at NC State and is now back home in New York training at Spartan Combat RTC in Cornell. He has secured two world medals and who knows how this ends for him he still looks like he has some time left. He has accepted a volunteer assistant coach role at Cornell. Who knows what this holds for the future of Cornell recruitment as well.

#2 Gable Steveson (Minnesota)

He is only 21… Gable Steveson has already achieved the pinnacle of this sport and won an Olympic Title, and he also ran the gauntlet to do so defeating two of the greatest heavyweights of all time. He took out defending Olympic Champion and multiple time World Champion Taha Akgul 8-0 in the Olympic quarterfinals and in the finals he pulled off a miracle. He was down by 4 with 13 seconds left against 3x World Champion Geno Petriashvili. It looked like it was over and he had come this far and everything he worked for was over. Steveson had other plans and got a quick takedown off of a Petriashvili shot. The ref let them up very quickly which shocked a lot of people giving Gable the miracle he needed as turning the Georgian was pretty much impossible. Snap and chase is what he did, and relentlessly as he was able to get behind the 3x World Champion for the takedown with under a second left becoming an Olympic Champion.

Why is he not number one on this list you may ask. If you have been following wrestling for a while you know who is number 1. It came down to Gable not having finished his college career yet, and this may very well change soon enough.

Now in his college career which has been very impressive as well he has only taken 2 losses ever and those were to Anthony Cassar in his true freshman season and by a single point both times. He was a Big Ten runner up and a 3rd place finisher at the NCAA Tournament as a freshman. His sophomore season adversity struck for everyone as the NCAA Tournament was cancelled even though Steveson did win the Big Ten title and was the predicted champion. Time came in 2021 he finally had his chance and perfection it was. Never lost a bout that season and never had too competitive of a match in a very talented field. He only let up 3 takedowns in the time from the NCAA season to the Olympic Finals. Let that sink in on how crazy that is. He let up one to Greg Kerkvliet in the NCAA Quarterfinals, he let up one to Nick Gwiazdowksi in the second match of the Olympic Trials finals and one to Geno Petriashvili in the 2021 Olympic Finals.

What does the future hold for Gable Steveson? Right now he is competing in what he says will be his final season with the Minnesota Gophers and he has also signed a deal with the WWE. Who knows, there is still time and he could possibly change his mind. It looks to be unlikely as Steveson has said multiple times that this has been a childhood dream for him and he has looked up a lot to Brock Lesnar as he was also a National Champ for the Gophers and transitioned to the WWE.

No matter if this is the last we see of Gable Steveson or if he decides to keep going he has solidified himself as one of the greatest heavyweights to ever represent this country.

#1 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)

Captain America, Kyle Snyder has done everything there is to do in this sport and more. He is a 3x NCAA Champion and the only one of those on this list. He is a 2x World Champion and on top of that an Olympic Champion in 2016. He when he was in college was the undisputed greatest college wrestler out there. Everyone wanted to watch Ohio State duals, they wanted to see the best in the world. Snyder was a guy who added a fun dynamic to this weight class as we saw the heavyweight weight class morph from big bears brawling it out to some insane athletes going at it producing some crazy low level shots and defense than used to only be seen at the lighter weight classes.

Snyder’s college career started off ok down at 197 pounds where he took out defending NCAA Champion and now 2x World Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist J’den Cox in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. He ended up getting thrown and pinned by Kyven Gadson in the NCAA Finals in a match that had a lot of hype behind it.

After this he ended up defeating defending Olympic Champion Jake Varner at the world team trials and was able to become the USA’s youngest ever wrestling World Champion.

Now let’s get into the next college season, Snyder was a World Champion at this point in time but crazy enough had not even won a National Title yet. This is when he decided to make the move up to the heavyweight weight class to support him being at 97kg on the freestyle scene. This is Kyle Snyder’s biggest ever folkstyle match where he as a sophomore faced off against NC State’s Nick Gwiazdowksi in the NCAA Finals. He was getting dominated early but was able to claw back late and send it to overtime where he got in on a low single and took down Gwiazdowski to pull one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Wrestling history.

This was also the year that Kyle Snyder won the Olympics over Khetag Gazyumov to become the youngest American Olympic Champion in wrestling as well surpassing Henry Cejudo in 2008.

He ended up winning his 2nd NCAA Title the next season over Connor Medbery as well in dominant fashion. 2017 Worlds was one of the most hyped up matches in wrestling history where Abdulrashid Sadulaev set to take on Kyle Snyder in what was known as “Snyderlaev”. Sadulaev was the champion at 86kg where he won the World Championships in 2014 and 2015, along with that he won the Olympics in 2016 at 86kg as well. He bumped up to wrestle 2015 World Champion and 2016 Olympic Champion Kyle Snyder. Snyder ended up winning this match and with that claimed the team title for the USA.

In 2018 he defeated Adam Coon for the 2018 NCAA Title and went down as a 3x National Champion and the greatest collegiate HWT of all time. Since then he has been in the shadow of Abdulrashid Sadulaev on the freestyle scene but he has always been a consistent medalist on the world stage and will most likely continue racking up medals being only 26 years of age as of a week ago. 

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Akil Murugan
Akil Murugan
Senior Editor for Heavyweight Nation

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