Who’s No. 1?
A strong case could made that it’s Levi Haines. And in fact, he is.
Haines, a Biglerville High School senior, added another notch to his belt by winning his 160-pound bout in FloWrestling’s Who’s No. 1 event on Saturday evening in Dallas, Texas. Haines defeated Josh Barr of Michigan, 4-1.
Who’s No. 1 pits the top scholastic wrestlers in the country at each weight to determine who will begin the season with the top ranking. Haines received an invitation to the prestigious event in early August and did not delay jumping at the chance to face more high-caliber competition.
“I was pretty excited because I’ve been watching elite guys in that for a while now,” he said. “To be able to participate in it was pretty sweet. There have been a lot of really good guys and it was a unique opportunity.”
Haines was coming off the Cadet World Championships in Hungary, where he went 1-1 at 71 kilograms, helping the United States team earn silver. His opponent, Barr, placed third at the Cadet Trials at 71 kilos, but the two were on opposite sides of that bracket and never met.
Barr, a junior, is a two-time Michigan state champion and 2021 Fargo champ in freestyle. Ranked No. 10 nationally in this year’s junior class by Flo, Barr recently trimmed his list of potential colleges to Penn State, Ohio State, Iowa, Virginia Tech and Michigan.
Haines committed to Penn State prior to the Cadet world tournament.
Who’s No. 1 includes a hefty dose of fanfare and promotion, something Haines wasn’t accustomed to but is learning to enjoy.
“It was a positive experience,” he said. “We did interviews like UFC-style and the stuff leading up to it was pretty neat. It’s all part of the experience and the opportunity to do so is unique at this age.”
Haines was all business in his preparation leading up to the bout, with much of his training taking place at Olympic champion David Taylor’s M2 Training Center near State College. He altered his regimen a bit, both in the practice room and the weight room.
“I definitely switched things up with my training,” said Haines. “I did a lot of work tailoring to (Barr’s) style, which was something my coaches helped me with. I had a game plan and stuck to it, and it worked.
“I still go out and do what I do but being mindful of those things (opponent’s style) is always good. I’m not changing the way I wrestle so much as being aware of things.”
Dedicated to his craft and tirelessly seeking refinement, Haines focused on a couple of things in his recent training.
“I’m really looking at fakes and snaps, getting guys to react more to me,” he said. “That’s something I took away from Worlds. I’ve seen some improvement in it but I need to keep working at it. It’s getting there.”
After a scoreless first period, Haines was brimming with confidence against Barr. He allowed an escape to begin the second stanza, then his belief came to fruition in the form of a takedown for a 2-1 lead.
“I knew I was going to get that takedown in the second period and ride him out,” he said.
Haines escaped in the third and was awarded a point for riding time – an NCAA-like scoring adaption used at Who’s No. 1 – to set the final score.
“That is the best I’ve ever stuck to a game plan,” he said. “I pushed the pace and kept him reacting to me.”
Haines will enter his senior season at Biglerville with a 100-5 career record and PIAA title in hand after winning last year’s Class 2A 145-pound crown. Before then, however, he is slated to compete in the True Power Duals on Oct. 2nd in Tyrone and the Super 32 Challenge on Oct. 23 & 24 in Greensboro, N.C. Haines placed second at 138 pounds in last year’s Super 32.
“This is a great way to keep moving forward and be the best wrestler I can possibly be,” he said. “It’s stepping stones and getting to be a better version of myself.”