The big dogs are gearing up for this weekend’s NWCA National Duals in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Saints of Maryville (Mo.), ranked No. 1, will look to repeat itheir championship performance from last season. There are no changes from Week 7 to Week 8, but that might not be the case after plenty of competitive Division II duals this weekend.
1 ― Maryville (Mo.): If the Saints have their full complement of starters in Indiana they will be tough to beat. Head coach Mike Denney’s squad has six wrestlers ranked among the top five and very few holes in a lineup that has been at the top of the rankings since the 2015-16 season started.
2 ― St. Cloud State: The 2015 NCAA champions won National Duals titles in 2012 and 2013 and have finished no lower than third since 2011. Beating SCSU in a dual meet will require all hands on deck and 10th-year head coach Steve Costanzo’s team might just raise the trophy on Saturday. The Huskies should roll to the semifinals where Nebraska-Kearney could be waiting.
3 ― Notre Dame College (Ohio): Welcome back three-time national champion Joey Davis. The Falcons were already good, but with Davis in the lineup NDC has a team that can win it all, this weekend and in March. An expected quarterfinal matchup with Mercyhurst might be worth the price of admission.
4 ― California Baptist: Heavyweight Joe Fagiano continues to lead the Lancers, who face DI Stanford on Saturday. Most of the second semester schedule keeps CBU west, so they might be under the radar until Regionals.
5 ― Mercyhurst (Pa.): The Lakers hammered a good Lake Erie College team, 36-2, to open 2016 and might be a darkhorse in Fort Wayne. Is it time for someone new to lift a National Duals trophy? Mercyhurst opens with a good Indianapolis squad, then might get Notre Dame College in the quarters.
6 ― Pittsburgh-Johnstown: The Mountain Cats should get through McKendree (Ill.) in the opening round in Fort Wayne and will get a shot at Nebraska-Kearney a round later. If UPJ is going to compete in March, this weekend might be a good place to build some confidence.
7 ― Nebraska-Kearney: UNK welcomed back national champion Romero Cotton just in time for the slugfest that awaits in Fort Wayne. The Lopers should get by Tiffin (Ohio), will be favored against UPJ, and might just have a classic with SCSU Saturday morning. Head coach Marc Bauer’s team is No. 7 in this week’s DII Power Rankings; it would not be a huge surprise if they were No. 1 this time next week.
8 ― Wisconsin-Parkside: The Rangers are not in Fort Wayne. They will be in Missouri with an anticipated dual with No. 10 Lindenwood on Friday. After a great first semester, UWP needs to beat LU if they expect to remain on this list.
Knocking on the door
Lindenwood (Mo.), Lake Erie College (Ohio), Upper Iowa, Augustana (S.D.), Indianapolis, Wheeling Jesuit (W.V.), Ashland (Ohio), Findlay (Ohio)