Minnesota may not have as many 5-star recruits in numerous high school sports as larger states like California, Florida and Texas, but no one can question the high-end talent coming from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
In fact, the argument can be made that the best of the best in college sports today are from Minnesota.
- Best wrestler? Gable Steveson
- Best women’s basketball player? Paige Bueckers
- Best men’s basketball player? Chet Holmgren
- Best track & field athlete? Joseph Fahnbulleh
- Best women’s swimmer? Regan Smith
- Best baseball player? Drew Gilbert
- Best gymnast? Sunisa Lee
- Best women’s hockey player: Taylor Heise
Those seven standouts are all from Minnesota and among, if not the, most dominant athletes in their respective sport.
Note: We didn’t even mention hockey because Minnesota obviously dominates that sport every year. But it’s worth mentioning that half of the Hobey Baker finalists this year were from Minnesota, and Taylor Heise, the Gophers star from Lake City, Minnesota, won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the nation’s top women’s player.
Gable Steveson – Apple Valley / Minnesota
Steveson won four state championships at Apple Valley and is the three-time reigning Big Ten champion and two-time national heavyweight champ with the Gophers. Had it not been for COVID wiping out the end of his sophomore season, he might very well be the three-time defending national champ. Throw in his gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and it’s very clear that he’s the best wrestler, not only in college, but in the entire world.
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Paige Bueckers – Hopkins / UConn
Bueckers was the No. 1 recruit in the country after leading Hopkins to a state championship as a senior. She dominated as a freshman at the University of Connecticut and was named the AP Player of the Year. An injury limited her as a sophomore, but she still led UConn to the Final Four before losing to South Carolina in the national championship game in Minneapolis.
Chet Holmgren – Minnehaha Academy / Gonzaga
After winning three straight state championships with Minneapolis-based Minnehaha Academy, Holmgren was the No. 1 recruit in the country and immediately helped guide Gonzaga to the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Zags fell early in the NCAA tourney, but he’s now projected to be a top-three pick in the NBA Draft.
Joseph Fahnbulleh – Hopkins / Florida
At just 19 years old he finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympics in the 200m sprint, and he’s fresh off winning the national championship in both the 100m and 200m sprints as a superstar at the University of Florida. He won the 200m state championship in Minnesota in 2018 and 2019, and he still owns the state record in the 200.
Sunisa Lee – South St. Paul / Auburn
After winning gold in the women’s all-around at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Lee dominated as a freshman at Auburn, where she captured eight All-America honors and the national championship on the beam.
Drew Gilbert – Stillwater / Tennessee
Gilbert was a left-handed starting pitcher who threw 95 mph and led Stillwater to a state championship in 2018, when he struck out 15 batters in the title game. He’s gone on to build an incredible career at Tennessee, though his season ended Sunday one game shy of reaching the College World Series. Gilbert hit .362 with 11 homers, 21 doubles, four triples and 70 RBIs in 58 games this season. He’s projected by most to be a first-round pick in this summer’s MLB Draft. D1Baseball.com ranked Gilbert the 20th-best college prospect in this year’s draft.
Regan Smith – Lakeville North / Stanford
Good luck finding a better college swimmer than Smith, who won the NCAA title as a freshman in the 200 backstroke and the 800 freestyle medley. Not a bad follow-up to her 2021 Tokyo Olympics where she won the silver in the 200m fly, silver in the 4x100m medley relay and the bronze in the 100m backstroke. The 20-year-old owns the world record in the 200m backstroke, setting it in 2019 when she was 18.