MANHEIM, Pa. -- Oklahoma State garnered 10 of the possible 16 first-place votes to open the 2016-17 NCAA Division I wrestling season atop the USA Today/NWCA Division I Coaches Poll on Wednesday.
The Cowboys went 13-3 last season and finished second at the 2016 NCAA Division I Championships. Coach John Smith’s team returns five All-Americans including 141-pound NCAA champion Dean Heil. Along with Heil, All-Americans Anthony Collica, Joe Smith, Kyle Crutchmer and Nolan Boyd will give the Cowboys a formidable dual meet squad. Transfer All-American Geo Martinez isn’t expected to compete this season for Oklahoma State, while Crutchmer returns after missing most of last season due to injury.
Penn State, last year’s NCAA team champions and NWCA National Duals Champions, finished the season a perfect 16-0 in dual meets. Coach Cael Sanderson’s squad has won five of the last six NCAA team championships and returns four All-Americans, including 149-pound NCAA champion Zain Retherford. The Nittany Lions received five first-place votes. Joining Retherford is NCAA finalist Jason Nolf, and fellow All-Americans Jimmy Gulibon and Bo Nickal. Penn State will be relying on several blue-chip first-time starters this season.
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Iowa, which set the NCAA wrestling attendance record last year with over 42,000 fans at an outdoor dual with Oklahoma State, checks in third. The Hawkeyes went 16-1 last season and finished fifth in New York City at the 2016 NCAA Division I Championships. Coach Tom Brands’ squad boasts five returning All-Americans, including NCAA finalist Cory Clark at 133 pounds. The combination of Clark, Thomas Gilman, Brandon Sorensen, Alex Meyer and Sam Brooks make the Hawkeyes a tough matchup in dual meets.
Ohio State, which won the 2015 NCAA Division I Championship, came in fourth, receiving one first-place vote. The Buckeyes went 11-3 last season and return Myles Martin, NCAA champion at 174 pounds last season, and Kyle Snyder, 285-pound NCAA champion and recent Olympic gold medalist. Martin will move up to 184 pounds this season. The Buckeyes also return 2015 125-pound champion Nathan Tomasello, who like Martin, will move up a weight class this season. Joining the three NCAA champions is All-American Bo Jordan, one of the favorites this season at 174 pounds.
Missouri, one of the most successful dual squads in the last half decade, enters the season fifth. The Tigers went 14-2 last season, captured the Mid-American Conference championship and finished sixth at the NCAA Division I Championships. With four returning All-Americans, including two-time NCAA champion and Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox, coach Brian Smith’s squad will again be one of the best in duals and be in contention for a team trophy come march.
Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Cornell, NC State and Michigan round out the top 10. Virginia Tech, which finished a program-high fourth last season, returns six All-Americans, but 165-pound All-American David McFadden is expected to sit out the first part of the season and potentially redshirt.
The Big Ten has nine of its teams nationally ranked. In addition to Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan, Rutgers, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin are also ranked in the top 20. The ACC, which had a stellar year last year with Virginia Tech and NC State’s 23-1 dual mark, has four teams in the Top 25. Joining Virginia Tech and NC State are 23rd-ranked Pittsburgh and 25th-ranked North Carolina.
The Big 12, MAC and Pac-12 each have three teams represented, while the EIWA has two and the Southern Conference with one.
This season’s coaches poll has also been expanded, with each of the eight NCAA Division I wrestling conferences represented by two voters. Teams are voted 1-25 with points awarded in a 25-24-23-3-2-1 format.