Coming off of a 6th place finish last season, Penn State will put a young but supremely talented roster on the mat, in pursuit of a 5th National Championship in six years. Our Lions enter 2015/16 as the favorite. Let's take a look at the team standings, and each of the 10 individual weights.
All rankings courtesy of the great guys at Intermat.
Pre Season National Ranking
|1||Penn State||97.5||Big Ten|
|2||Oklahoma State||89||Big 12|
|5||Ohio State||71||Big Ten|
|9||North Carolina State||47||ACC|
|20||Iowa State||24||Big 12|
|22||West Virginia||22||Big 12|
See? I wasn't lying. Penn State's ranked 1st in the preseason. The usual suspects - Okie State and Iowa - are close behind. Lehigh and NC State are two pretty good "sleeper" teams, if you're looking for a sleeper to break into the top 5.
Next, let's take a look at the ten individual weight classes.
|1||Nathan Tomasello||Ohio State||Sophomore|
|2||Nico Megaludis||Penn State||Senior|
|3||Zeke Moisey||West Virginia||Sophomore|
|6||Joey Dance||Virginia Tech||Junior|
|7||Eddie Klimara||Oklahoma State||Senior|
|9||Dylan Peters||Northern Iowa||Junior|
|11||Ronnie Bresser||Oregon State||Sophomore|
|13||Chasen Tolbert||Utah Valley||Senior|
|15||Josh Martinez||Air Force||Senior|
|17||Josh Rodriguez||North Dakota State||Junior|
|20||Trey Andrews||Northern Colorado||Junior|
Our Guy: Nico's back after taking a redshirt last season. In three years, he's placed 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd. He's a tough - mentally and physically - as they come. He's a pit bull on the mat, makes nary a mistake, and just. won't. ever. quit. His gas tank has no bottom. What else can you say? He's been our favorite since he stepped on the mat as a true frosh, and we think he earns a much deserved national title this season.
The Field: Ohio State's Tomasello and VaTech's Dance can score from neutral - Tomasello with a left-handed high crotch, and Dance with sweep singles to your right foot. WVU's Moisey (via Bethlehem Catholic) finished runner-up at NCAAs last season in spite of his un-seeded start, using big moves to score a ton. With Sammie "the bull" Henson in his corner, Moisey's always a threat.
Not Top 8 Sleeper(s): Darian Cruz (10th - another BeCa prep) won't be 10th for long - he'll be moving up the rankings. 17-Rodriguez will probably pull an upset or two at Midlands.
Predicted Finish: 1-Nico, 2-Tomasello, 3-Dance, 4-Gilman, 5-Klimara
|5||Johnni DiJulius||Ohio State||Senior|
|8||Earl Hall||Iowa State||Senior|
|9||Jordan Conaway||Penn State||Senior|
|14||Joey Ward||North Carolina||Junior|
|16||Mack McGuire||Kent State||Senior|
|19||Kevin Norstrem||Virginia Tech||Sophomore|
Our Guy: Jordan Conaway wrestled 133 as an undersized freshman, finishing one match short of the podium. He sat behind Nico and Jimmy Gulibon as a sophmore. Then, he took over 125 last season, and made the podium. All-American. (How great is that?) He'll slot back here at 133 for his last go, and it's a weight that might suit him better, actually, given his particular set of skills. It's a brutal weight, though.
The Field: Cody Brewer must suck as much weight as anyone in the country. In his championship final demolition of Iowa's Cory Clark, Brewer looked like a 157lber - except that Brewer was lightning fast. Cornell's Nahshon Garrett bumps here from 125, and can probably hang with Brewer's speed (but strength might be another matter). For our money, the aforementioned Clark is as safe of a semi-finalist bet as anyone else, including Brewer.
Not Top 8 Sleepers: Take your pick. Given the right matchups, most of the top 20 could make a run to the podium.
Predicted Finish: 1-Brewer, 2-Clark, 3-Garrett, 4-Taylor, 5-Beckman
|1||Evan Henderson||North Carolina||Senior|
|2||Dean Heil||Oklahoma State||Sophomore|
|3||Jimmy Gulibon||Penn State||Junior|
|4||Kevin Jack||North Carolina State||Sophomore|
|5||Chris Mecate||Old Dominion||Senior|
|8||Rick Durso||Franklin & Marshall||Senior|
|9||Geordan Martinez||Boise State||Sophomore|
|10||Dan Neff||Lock Haven||Senior|
|11||Zach Horan||Central Michigan||Senior|
|17||Dante' Rodriguez||Iowa State||Sophomore|
|20||Micah Jordan||Ohio State||Freshman|
Our Guy: Well here we go. Jimmy finished 5th last year - down at 133. Count us among those who think his bump to 141 will be a very positive move for him and the team. He could match strength with the strongest 33ers, so that shouldn't be a problem. And now his speed should shine brighter. Prepare for a bunch of head snap - go behinds.
The Field: this weight's up for grabs. It was a 3-man field last year (Logan Stieber, Mitchell Port, Devin Carter) - and all three are gone. The top returning placewinner is Okie State's Heil, who took 4th (a distant 4th, getting mauled by Carter in the consi final). UNC's Henderson returns from a redshirt, as does F&M's Durso.
Not Top 8 Sleepers: Dan Neff (10th) and Zach Horan (11th) are past AA's (and PA preps), though at different weights. Call me stupid, but I like Danny Sabatello.
Predicted Finish: 1-Gulibon (WHY NOT), 2-Heil, 3-Ashnault, 4-Durso, 5-Neff
|2||Zain Retherford||Penn State||Sophomore|
|5||Alexander Richardson||Old Dominion||Senior|
|9||Anthony Collica||Oklahoma State||Junior|
|12||Sal Mastriani||Virginia Tech||Junior|
|13||Colin Heffernan||Central Michigan||Sophomore|
|15||Gabe Moreno||Iowa State||Junior|
|16||Michael DePalma||Kent State||Senior|
|18||Christian Pagdilao||Arizona State||Sophomore|
|20||Christian Barber||North Carolina||Senior|
Our Guy: All aboard the Zpain train. Zain took a redshirt last season, on the heels of his 5th place finish as a true frosh. Based on his freestyle videos, it appears he's been hanging out in the weight room with Frank Molinaro. If you only remember him as the 18-year old who beat Logan Stieber, you might not recognize him. But - sure looks like it's been a productive redshirt.
The Field: It won't be a cakewalk for Zain. Tsirtsis is a former champ. Sorensen is much like Tsirtsis, for better and worse. Clagon is just plain good. Claxon can score. Sueflohn is funky. Lots of challenges.
Not Top 8 Sleepers: VaTech's Mastriani has something to him. 149 might be a better weight for Okie State's Collica.
Predicted Finish: 1-Retherford, 2-Tsirtsis, 3-Sorensen, 4-Clagon, 5-Richardson
|2||Ian Miller||Kent State||Senior|
|3||Nick Brascetta||Virginia Tech||Senior|
|6||Cody Pack||South Dakota State||Senior|
|7||Jason Nolf||Penn State||Freshman|
|9||Lucas Smith||Central Michigan||Senior|
|10||Thomas Gantt||North Carolina State||Senior|
|12||Chance Marsteller||Oklahoma State||Freshman|
|15||Aaron Walker||The Citadel||Junior|
|16||Dylan Cottrell||West Virginia||Junior|
|18||Russell Parsons||Army West Point||Junior|
Our Guy: Don't go to the restroom, don't look away, don't even blink - you'll miss Jason Nolf scoring more points. He's going to take shots the entire bout. He's...he's pretty good.
The Field: Copy paste what I just wrote about Nolf right here, for defending champ Isaiah Martinez. He, too, is awfully good. As for the rest - Miller is electric (when healthy). Brascetta is a horse. Murphy and Minotti don't score a ton, but they don't let you score either. Cornell's Palacio drops here from 165lbs - that could be a good move for him.
Not Top 8 Sleepers: NC State's Gantt. Okie State's Marsteller.
Predicted Finish: 1-Martinez, 2-Miller, 3-Brascetta, 4-Nolf, 5-Marsteller
|1||Alex Dieringer||Oklahoma State||Senior|
|3||Ethan Ramos||North Carolina||Sophomore|
|5||Cooper Moore||Northern Iowa||Junior|
|6||Tanner Weatherman||Iowa State||Senior|
|8||Max Rohskopf||North Carolina State||Junior|
|12||Seth Thomas||Oregon State||Senior|
|13||Adam Fierro||CSU Bakersfield||Senior|
|14||Garrett Hammond||Penn State||Sophomore|
|20||Connor McMahon||SIU Edwardsville||Senior|
Our Guy: Garrett had an up-and-down freshman season, like 97% of all freshmen. He fell achingly short of qualifying for NCAAs, and now he's being pushed in the room by another freshman, Shakur "Corey" Rasheed. Garrett's #14 rank pre-season is no guarantee that he'll keep the starting spot. But, no matter who starts, the expectation is that he'll reach the NCAAs and get a couple of wins.
The Field: Alex Dieringer is a horse. He is become death, the destroyer of worlds. No one's particularly close to knocking him off. Ike Jordan is a very good, fundamentally sound wrestler. His cousin Bo might drop back down to this weight, and give this class a little spice.
Not Top 8 Sleepers: Take your pick. I'm not sold on numbers 3 - 8, any more than I'm sold by numbers 9 - 20. If you need just one, then try out Northwestern's Sebastian, a highly touted super frosh who used a redshirt last season. But be warned - with jNW giving the popular Drew Pariano the boot, their squad could be unsettled.
Predicted Finish: 1-Dieringer, 2-Jordan, 3-I have no idea
|1||Bo Jordan||Ohio State||Sophomore|
|3||Zach Epperly||Virginia Tech||Sophomore|
|4||Kyle Crutchmer||Oklahoma State||Junior|
|9||Mike Ottinger||Central Michigan||Senior|
|14||Bo Nickal||Penn State||Freshman|
|16||John Staudenmayer||North Carolina||Senior|
|17||Lelund Weatherspoon||Iowa State||Junior|
|20||Bryce Hammond||CSU Bakersfield||Senior|
Our Guy: Bo Nickal has a lot of skins on his wall from high school. He came to PSU last year and started adding some college skins to his collection, but an injury cut his season short (at the Scuffle). I think Bo turns a lot of heads, and climbs up the rankings.
The Field: this weight cleared out a ton of seniors, but into that void came a whole bunch o' dudes. Bo Jordan (165), Brian Realbuto (157), and Elliott Riddick (197!!) all can wrestle very well. Bo, as noted in the 165 preview, may not stay at this weight, depending upon Ohio State's team needs. But if he does, he's probably the favorite. That notwithstanding, this will be a wild weight class.
Not Top 8 Sleepers: Numbers 10 - 15 are all pretty decent sleeper picks, in our opinion.
Predicted Finish: ????? Put Epperly on the podium. But other than that, ????
|3||Blake Stauffer||Arizona State||Senior|
|5||Kenny Courts||Ohio State||Senior|
|6||Hayden Zillmer||North Dakota State||Senior|
|7||Jack Dechow||Old Dominion||Junior|
|13||Matt McCutcheon||Penn State||Sophomore|
|14||Nikko Reyes||Northern Colorado||Junior|
|15||Nolan Boyd||Oklahoma State||Junior|
|17||Pete Renda||North Carolina State||Junior|
Our Guy: Matt "Mighty Mouse" McCutcheon came as close to the podium as you can get without quite making it. It was an awfully good freshman campaign, and included wins over four wrestlers currently ahead of him in the pre-season (#'s 11, 9, 8 and 3). Mouse seems like the type who'll take that experience and build on it.
The Field: the field is brutal, with 10 past All-Americans peppering it.
Not Top 8 Sleepers: start at 9, and go thru 18. Being a homer, I'll take Mouse. Iowa's Brooks seems like a pretty good bet, too.
Predicted Finish: 1-Dean, 2-Brown, 3-Dechow, 4-Avery, 5-Brooks
|1||Morgan McIntosh||Penn State||Senior|
|9||Jake Smith||West Virginia||Junior|
|12||Cody Crawford||Oregon State||Sophomore|
|13||Anthony Abro||Eastern Michigan||Senior|
|15||Mark Martin||Ohio State||Senior|
|16||Nathan Rotert||South Dakota State||Sophomore|
|17||Jared Haught||Virginia Tech||Sophomore|
|19||Bryce Barnes||Army West Point||Senior|
|20||Trent Noon||Northern Colorado||Senior|
Our Guy: Morg finished 3rd last season. This is his year, in our opinion. When Morg stays aggressive, no one is beating him.
The Field: J'Den Cox won it all two years ago, and has a brutal ride. Duke's Hartmann knocked Morg out of the champions bracket last season. Iowa's Burak has gotten better every year. After that, things thin out.
Not Top 8 Sleepers: there are some good names in the list, but we're taking VaTech's Jared Haught, from way down at #17.
Predicted Finish: 1-Morg, 2-Cox, 3-Hartmann, 4-Burak, 5-Open for business
|1||Nick Gwiazdowski||North Carolina State||Senior|
|2||Ty Walz||Virginia Tech||Junior|
|4||Blaize Cabell||Northern Iowa||Senior|
|5||Austin Marsden||Oklahoma State||Senior|
|7||Amarveer Dhesi||Oregon State||Sophomore|
|10||Riley Shaw||Cleveland State||Senior|
|12||Denzel Dejournette||Appalachian State||Junior|
|17||Nick Tavanello||Ohio State||Junior|
Our Guy: sad news, friends. We all thought we'd see super-frosh Nick Nevills here, ranked somewhere between 6th and 12th. Unfortunately, word from the room is that Nick suffered a season-ending injury. Cael asked James Franklin if he could borrow true frosh walk-on linebacker Jan Johnson, a 2x PIAA champ. James consented. According to Jan, he quickly remembered that there's a big difference between "football shape" and "wrestling shape". It's gonna be a tough hill to climb.
The Field: Nick "Gwiz" is better than everyone else. Also of note, he tries offensive moves (and scores points with them). His championship victory over Tony Nelson two years ago clinched Penn State's sixth national title. So, there's reason to cheer for him, too.
Not Top 8 Sleepers: sticking in the Big Ten, I wouldn't be surprised to see one of 15-Black or 16-Tavanello on the podium. Outside the conference, I like 12-Dejournette. He can wrestle.
Predicted Finish: 1-Gwiz, 2-Coon, 3-Walz, 4-Marsden, 5-Kroells