It is the question we seem to ask almost every year now.
Can anybody beat Penn State?
Cael Sanderson’s program definitely has reached dynasty status with the Nittany Lions winning six of the last seven NCAA team titles.
Penn State is loaded once again with all five of its individual national champions back this season.
Even with all that firepower back, the Nittany Lions won’t have a cakewalk to another gold trophy this season.
Ohio State is also very strong and has a loaded roster with proven veterans. Michigan, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Iowa are among other teams that look strong this season.
It’s going to be fun to see how it all plays out.
Here is my look at what to expect this season:
125 pounds: Surprise 2017 NCAA champion Darian Cruz of Lehigh is back, but he already suffered a setback to All-American Nick Piccininni of Oklahoma State in the all-star dual this season. 2015 NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello, who will miss the early part of the season with an injury, also is expected to drop back down to this weight class for his senior season at Ohio State. Returning runner-up Ethan Lizak of Minnesota also is back. Past runner-up Zeke Moisey of West Virginia could be another guy to watch. Talented transfer Nick Suriano of Rutgers also will make an impact here.
My pick: Tomasello
133: South Dakota State’s Seth Gross is the top returning finisher after losing a heartbreaker to Iowa’s Cory Clark in the 2017 national finals. Michigan’s Stevan Micic is also very tough in this class. Oklahoma State’s Kaid Brock is another promising young wrestler in this division.
My pick: Brock
141: Two-time national champion Dean Heil of Oklahoma State isn’t overly flashy, but he gets the job done when it counts most. Heil is the class of a weight class that is one of the deeper ones in the country. North Carolina State’s Kevin Jack edged Wyoming’s Bryce Meredith in the all-star bout. All-American Anthony Ashnault of Ruters and Ohio State transfer Joey McKenna also are in this strong class.
My pick: McKenna
149: Hodge Trophy winner Zain Retherford is the overwhelming favorite to repeat. The Penn State standout just made his first Senior World Team and he is going to keep improving. Iowa’s Brandon Sorensen is a past runner-up, but knocking off Retherford will be a tall task for anyone. Sorensen has wrestled him close in the past. Ohio State’s Micah Jordan and Northern Iowa’s Max Thomsen also can’t be overlooked. Past NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis also is back after transferring to Arizona State.
My pick: Retherford
157: Penn State’s Jason Nolf was the class of this class last season, and the tough, hard-nosed wrestler looks strong again this season. Iowa’s Michael Kemmerer had a superb freshman season, placing third at NCAAs. Kemerer is a guy I really like, but he will need to keep progressing to have a shot at knocking off Nolf. Missouri’s Joey Lavallee, Nebraska’s Tyler Berger and Michigan’s Alec Pantaleo also should be in the mix.
My pick: Nolf
165: Penn State freshman Vincenzo Joseph pulled off a big upset when he knocked off two-time NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez of Illinois in the 2017 finals. Martinez is as talented as anyone in the country, but his conditioning and his ability to go seven minutes or more has been an issue. If Martinez is in shape, he will win. Michigan’s Logan Massa is another young star in this class along with Oklahoma State’s Chandler Rogers.
My pick: Martinez
174: Penn State’s Mark Hall, who wins every big tournament he enters, won his first NCAA title as a freshman. Hall did fall in the all-star meet after dropping a one-point decision to another stud sophomore, Arizona State All-American Zahid Valencia. Ohio State senior Bo Jordan was second in this division last year.
My pick: Valencia
184: Penn State star Bo Nickal won arguably the NCAA’s toughest weight class last year. The explosive, big-move Nickal was just a sophomore. That class isn’t as deep anymore, but it still has past NCAA 174 champion Myles Martin of Ohio State coming back. Northern Iowa’s Drew Foster is another returning All-American in this division.
My pick: Nickal
197: Three-time NCAA champion J’den Cox of Missouri finally finished his eligibility, so this class opens up considerably now. The top contenders are Kollin Moore of Ohio State, Jared Haught of Virginia Tech, Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State, Kevin Beazley of Michigan and Willie Miklus of Missouri.
My pick: Moore
Heavyweight: Ohio State senior Kyle Snyder has won two NCAA titles, but his biggest accomplishments are an Olympic gold medal and two world titles on the Senior level. Snyder’s only problem, which he overcomes, is being a small heavyweight. Michigan’s massive Adam Coon is a big, strong heavyweight who could challenge Snyder. But Snyder is just too good and too tough. Enjoy watching Snyder – he’s already one of the best wrestlers in U.S. history at the international level.
My pick: Snyder
Team race: Cael knows how to prepare his team to peak when it counts most and this year will be no exception. Penn State will be pushed by Ohio State, but the Nittany Lions have just a little more firepower. Michigan has an excellent shot at being in the top three. If Iowa hits its peak and stays healthy, it could be in the running for a trophy as well.
My pick: Penn State