Did you enjoy that national championship? Good, because next season has already begun. And it's going to be a crazy, crazy season. A ton of teams will be loaded, and Penn State will have a big challenge on its hands. Let's take a very early look at how the weights might shape up for the 2016/17 wrestling season.
Overview: there are a whopping 9 returning All-Americans, including 1 former champ and 2 finalists. You also get 3 round of 12 guys, plus 4 more who made the round of 16. That's 16 wrestlers who started training this week with eyes set on making the podium in St.Louis next March.
Favorites: Gilman (Iowa) and Tomasello (OHST)
Sleepers: Peters (UNI) wasn't the healthiest this year, but still made the podium. He and Zeke Moisey (WVU) can both put you on your back quickly.
Movers/Newbies: no one's moving into this weight class from above, and there's a chance that Tomasello bumps to 133, though we think he sticks here because that appears to be the best thing for Ohio State. Oklahoma State will put RSFR Nick Piccinnini on the mat, replacing departed senior Eddie Klimara. Piccinnini was (17-4) last year during redshirt. There's one other freshman in the crowded top 20, too.
Penn State: say hello to Nick Suriano, who'll be a true freshman. He finished his Bergen Catholic (NJ) high school career as an unbeaten 4x state champ.
Overview: After an annual place among the top of the "toughest weights" ranking, 133 finally cleared out. We're down to 5 returning All-Americans, 0 champs, 1 finalist, and only 1 R12 and 2 R16.
Favorites: Clark (Iowa), Richards (ILL), Taylor (WISC)
Sleepers: Cortez (PSU), Kaid Brock (OKST) - depending upon his recovery from knee surgery.
Movers/Newbies: We think Ohio State keeps Tomasello at 125, and puts true freshman Luke Pletcher on the mat here at 133. Other freshman to keep an eye on include Navy's Jared Prince and UNC's Ethan Headlee.
Penn State: say hello to Jered Cortez, a 4x Illinois state champ (Glenbard North), and the 2013 Junior Nationals Freestyle champ. He transferred to Dear Old State last off-season after one year at Illinois, and went 12-0 unattached in 2015/16. Here's Jered against Iowa's Cory Clark at Fargo in 2012.
Overview: this is flipped 133. Last year 141 was empty, but now, heading into 2016/17, it features 9 past All-Americans, plus three more wrestlers from the R12/R16.
Favorites: Heil (OKST). Once you get over the fact that he wrestles close matches, you'll notice that he's winning all of them.
Sleepers: take your pick from 2 thru 7.
Movers/Newbies: we have Ohio State letting Micah Jordan bump up to 149lbs (Jordan wrestled freestyle at 154.5 last summer), making way for RSFR teammate Ke-Shawn Hayes, another top-10 recruit. West Virginia and Sammie Henson have a RSFR to keep an eye on as well, in Keegan Moore.
Penn State: Jimmy will be in his last go. He's right there with everyone else physically. Get the mental part squared away, and he'll be on the podium - though it won't be easy to crack.
Overview: this is the Bataan Death March weight class. There are 9 past All-Americans, 4 blood round guys, and 3 round of 16 guys. Two champs (Zain and Tsirtsis), plus a returning finalist (Sorensen). The field is packed with proven talent.
Sleepers: none - not when Zain bonuses the field.
Movers/Newbies: here you'll find Micah Jordan, as well as super-frosh Matt Kolodzik (Princeton). Another freshman to look for will be Max Thomsen, who's under the expert tutelage of Doug Schwab at Northern Iowa.
Penn State: sure glad we've got Zain.
Overview: Yes, we moved Isaiah Martinez to 165lbs. He wrestled there during his redshirt year...three seasons ago. It's time for him to bump up. But even with him gone, 157 returns 6 All-Americans, plus 6 more from the R12/R16 rounds. It's not an easy weight class.
Sleepers: Palacio (Cornell). He does weird stuff, and things to irritate you. He's also pretty good.
Movers/Newbies: I-Mar to 165. Plus three newbies: Bryce Brill, a top recruit a few years ago who'll be returning from injury last year, as well as Fredy Stroker, Minnesota (if Jake Short stays at 149) and Michael Kemerer, Iowa (if Brandon Sorensen stays at 149).
Penn State: Jason Nolf finished second, posting a 34-2 record with 30 bonus point wins. Not too bad. Kinda excited to see what he does as a sophomore.
Overview: even with I-Mar coming up to 165, this weight boasts just 4 past All-Americans, and 4 more from the R12/R16 group. Meaning, prepare for a wild rankings season.
Favorites: Martinez (ILL), Jordan (WISC)
Sleepers: Logan Massa (MICH)
Movers/Newbies: I-Mar bumps here, while Bo Jordan bumps out (to 174). Chandler Rogers (OKST) comes down here from 174, because that's the Okie State way. The real noise, though, comes from a mess of freshman, topped by Michigan's Logan Massa, who beat a handful of national qualifiers last year while redshirting, and lost only to king ape Alex Dieringer (an 8-2 decision in the Scuffle final). Top redshirt Larry Early gets this spot from us in Minnesota's lineup, while incoming freshman Alex Marinelli does the same for Iowa. Ohio State will likely have a true freshman here, top-5 recruit Isaiah White, from powerhouse high school OPRF in Illinois. White won Fargo two years ago over PSU's Vincenzo Joseph. H/T to bveo for the reminder about White.
Penn State: the Nittany Lions will be wrestling this weight off between Geno Morelli, Garett Hammond, and super-frosh Vincenzo Joseph, who went a perfect 8-0 with 2 pins, 5 techs, and 1 major during his redshirt campaign. Joseph likes to score points, and Cael likes guys who like to score points - so we're penciling him into the lineup. Here he is last June, just graduated from high school, beating 2x All-American Anthony Ashnault at Junior World Freestyle trials.
Overview: 9 past All-Americans, and 4 from the R12/16 pool. It'll be another wild year at 174. This is a really deep, really talented weight class.
Favorites: Nickal (PSU), Jordan (OHST), Epperly (VT)
Sleepers: take your pick. There's a bunch of good ones.
Movers/Newbies: So Bo Jordan gets to end his hunger strike, and bumps here from 165. Reigning champion Myles Martin moves to 184. Cornell's Brian Realbuto makes it back from knee surgery, and if Michigan's Davonte Mahomes doesn't - and he takes a redshirt instead - then erase his name and put teammate Taylor Massa there instead. Okie State's Crutchmer also returns from injury. The big newcomer is Anthony Valencia, last year's top recruit, and a Junior World team member. He has an awfully good double leg.
Penn State: Chin up, and keep throwing, Bo.
Overview: 8 returning All-Americans, including both finalists, plus three R12 guys and one from R16. So this weight eases up a bit - but only just a bit.
Favorites: Dean (Cornell), Dudley (NEB) - especially if Dudley makes another big leap like he did last off-season.
Sleepers: Boyd (OKST) really came on last year, and kept it going.
Movers/Newbies: we've bumped Myles Martin here from 174, because Bo Jordan has to eat at some point, and because Martin wrestled 182 freestyle as a high schooler. The lone newbie in our ranking is Zahid Valencia, Arizona State. Yes, the brother of Anthony. Zahid is also pretty good. One newbie just outside the ranking is Minnesota's Steveson (assuming he cuts to 184). Goldy's always pretty good at the big boy weights.
Penn State: for the next several months we'll hear stories about Shakur Rasheed coming up here from 165. And at 6'3", this weight certainly makes more sense for Shakur than 165lbs. But he'll have to beat Mouse for the spot, who - before more injuries - had made huge strides from his RSFR year, and had the clear look of a podium placer. It's not going to be easy to take this spot from Mouse.
Overview: 5 returning All-Americans, including 2x champ J'Den Cox, plus 4 R12 wrestlers and a pair from the round of 16.
Sleepers: Pfarr (MINN), who improved dramatically year-to-year. Maybe he can make another leap.
Movers/Newbies: we don't have anyone moving in or out. And it's pretty hard for a freshman to bust onto the scene up at the big boy weights - you get a lot stronger between ages 18 and 22. But two freshmen to keep an eye on will be Kollin Moore, Ohio State, and Lance Benick, Arizona State.
Penn State: we don't know for certain just yet, but the favorite to replace Morg is Anthony Cassar, a sophomore. Here's what we know about Cassar: 1) he's not been wrestling for very long, picking up the sport in high school. 2) he won the NJ state championship as a senior, despite never qualifying for the tournament before that (the only NJ wrestler in history to pull that off). 3) he made the US Junior World Freestyle team (211lbs) during his true freshman season. Yes, it was a small field, but the field did include Oklahoma State's Preston Weigel, who just missed the podium two weeks ago (losing in the round of 12), and UNC's Chip Ness, who also won a match at NCAAs. 4) Cassar injured his shoulder at Junior Worlds, placing 10th, and had surgery last summer/fall.
Those are the objective facts. Here are the inferences we might draw: 1) Cassar wants to be great, and will put in the hard work to become great. 2) he's athletic. Watch the video below (from team trials); the kid can move his feet. 3) he doesn't have a ton of wrestling habits - good or bad - because he's still (relatively) new to wrestling.
In other words, he's an athletic, purpose-driven slab of marble getting sculpted by Cael, Casey, Morg, and Varner. That's pretty solid reasoning for hope at 197 this year.
Overview: 6 All-Americans, including Kyle Snyder (probably), plus 5 wrestlers from R12/R16.
Favorites: Snyder (OHST), if he returns. Walz, if he doesn't.
Sleepers: there are some pretty good heavies out there, who actually try to score points.
Movers/Newbies: Conor Medbery (WISC) returns from Oly redshirt, and he'll be fun to watch. Iowa's Sam Stoll will be back from surgery, and Thomas Haines should take the mat for Lock Haven.
Penn State: we'll also get to see what Nick Nevills can do when he has more than 2.5 weeks of wrestling under his belt, and when he's not coming off of 18 months missed for two different surgeries. I think it could be pretty good.
If you're buying the lineups/rankings, then you're in for a ridiculous - ridiculous - 2016/17 wrestling season. Here's how the projected lineups for the top teams shake out. Past AAs are bolded.
Ohio State would return 4 All-Americans, including three (Tomasello, Martin, Snyder) who have already won individual championships. That's a pretty good start. They also have Micah Jordan, who finished a "disappointing" R12 in his first go. And to that mix, they add several top recruits: Pletcher (or Rodriguez) at 133; Ke-Shawn Hayes at 141; Isaiah White at 165; and Kollin Moore at 197. The Buckeyes will be loaded.
Not to be outdone, Oklahoma State will enter 2016/17 with five returning AAs, two round of 12 guys (Rogers/Weigel), plus top recruits Piccinnini and Kaid Brock (who lit up 133 before a knee injury as a true frosh). The only hole appears to be heavyweight - and that's a spot that OKST has taken to the tournament for 27 straight years or so. Expect John Smith to get it filled.
Virginia Tech returns...wait for it...six All-Americans, plus two guys (Zavatsky and Mastriani) from the R12/R16 pool. The Hokies could pretty easily have 8 All-Americans next season. Walz and Epperly could make the finals. Dance and Zavatsky seem to have that type of ability, too. But even if they can't, the Hokies will be a murderous dual meet squad.
Iowa knows they already have 3 national finalists, and believes they could have as many as 5. With newcomers Kemerer and Marinelli, and a healthy Sam Stoll, the Hawkeyes will expect to post 7-8 All-Americans next year, too.
Oh by the way? Cornell, NC State, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Lehigh, Michigan, and Iowa State - among others - each return multiple All-Americans to their lineups.
Next season, friends, is gonna be wild.