WEEK 1, Nov. 15
Maryville ― The Saints might have been No. 1 without two-time All-American transfer Nate Rodriguez, who comes to St. Louis from Ouachita Baptist. Mike Denny’s group, third in 2015, start the year with nine wrestlers ranked among the top eight in their weight classes. Zeb Wahle and Nick Burghardt are each ranked No. 1.
Nebraska-Kearney ― Marc Bauer’s group starts the year with three ranked No. 1; a fourth, two-time champ Romero Cotton, will hit the wrestling room after adding to his 1,547 rushing yards this fall on the football field. NCAA champ Daniel DeShazer and All-Americans Destin McCauley and Keith Surber give the Lopers plenty of firepower.
Mercyhurst (Pa.) ― Mike Wehler’s Lakers are coming off a program-best fourth place finish at the 2015 NCAAs and might be ready to challenge the big boys next March. Six All-Americans return including Willie Bohince, August Mizia, and Jeremy Landowski. Dylan D’Urso, third in 2014, is back after a redshirt season to give the Pennsylvania school even more potential.
St. Cloud State ― The Huskies climbed that final rung on the ladder in 2015 after bridesmaid showings in three of the last four seasons. Steve Costanzo returns five All-Americans and a very experienced squad including 2015 champ Tim Prescott. Clint Poster and Gabe Fogarty have six combined All-America seasons between them. Going back-to-back will be tough and SCSU is certainly in the mix again.
Notre Dame (Ohio) ― The Falcons start the year a bit down the pecking order, but will get a major boost when three-time, undefeated champion Joey Davis (108-0) returns in January, most likely at 184 pounds. NDC has plenty of star power with Davis and former champions Jon Rivera and Garrett Lineberger, plus 125-pound All-American Ivan McClay.
Pittsburgh-Johnstown ― After a disastrous 31st place finish in 2015, the Mountain Cats and veteran head coach Pat Pecora welcome back three-time All-American Travis McKillop, a redshirt last season who was an NCAA runner-up in 2014. Heavyweight Josh Duplin, a top-eight guy in 2014, also returns after a redshirt meaning the ’Cats could be in the conversation.
Tiffin (Ohio) ― A year after not qualifying any wrestlers for the NCAA Championships, the Dragons had three All-Americans and finished ninth in 2015. All three return. Senior Jake Cramer (197) and junior Garrett Grey (285), plus 149-pounder Mike Screptock give Tiffin a solid trio in duals and tournaments.
Ashland (Ohio) ― Sixteenth last March, Ashland welcomes back senior 197-pounder Joe Brandt, a three-time All-American who redshirted last season. Brent Fickell (149) was top eight in 2015 and two other Eagles start the year in the rankings. Three-time All-American Michael Labry, second in 2015 at 133 pounds, is taking a redshirt year. Otherwise, Ashland may be a bit higher.
Knocking on the door ― Newberry (S.C.), Lake Erie (Pa.), Augustana (S.D.), California Baptist, Findlay (Ohio)