It's safe to call the Penn State wrestling program a dynasty. The Nittany Lions have seven team titles in the last eight years and their only loss during that stretch came to Ohio State in 2015. Coach Cael Sanderson has the Nittany Lions on a three-year NCAA title winning streak and welcomes back three 2018 national champions, and another who claimed top honors in 2017. Penn State is in a position to repeat as title contenders yet again. However, anything can happen in March, so here are the teams that have the potential to challenge Penn State on the national stage.
The Buckeyes looked to be in contention for the 2018 title until a series of losses at the hands of Penn State put the team title out of reach by eight points. This year, head coach Tom Ryan will field a healthy, deep roster of potential national champions, including five returning All-Americans, though the loss of four-time All Americans Nathan Tomasello (125), Bo Jordan (174) and Kyle Snyder (285) will hurt the team in their quest for the national title. After team wrestle-offs last week, the Ohio State starters and redshirts are still undecided, but Brakan Mead, Malik Heinselman, Te'Shan Campbell and Gary Traub could be potential contenders in the weight classes left empty by the graduated All-Americans, depending on who Ryan selects as his starters. Leading Ohio State as captains this year will be All-American and NCAA finalist Myles Martin, who fell to Penn State's Bo Nickal in last year's championship, All-American Micah Jordan, brother of Bo, and All-American and Big-10 champion Joey McKenna. Luke Pletcher won 30 of 34 matches and also earned All-America honors last March. The Buckeye roster still contains plenty of star power, but they will face an uphill battle to take down Penn State this year.
Despite Penn State and Ohio State being the clear leaders heading into the season, the strength of Iowa's roster cannot be ignored. The Hawkeyes finished third at last year's championship, 44.5 points out of first place and 36.5 points behind the runner-up Buckeyes. Iowa returns 125-pound defending national champion Spencer Lee, and the Hawkeyes also bring back heavyweight Sam Stoll, the pre-season No. 1 in his division. At 133 pounds, Iowa could also have a national contenders in transfers Austin DeSanto (133) and Pat Lugo (149), plus solid entries in Alex Marinelli (165) and Mike Kemerer (174). The Hawkeyes finished fourth at the Big-10 championships, behind Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan. An Iowa national title will require more than just a standout performance from their lightweight and returning Big-10 Freshman of the Year, Lee; they are going to need Stoll to finish on top as well and also earn points for middle-ranked other starters.
The Cowboys, who return all four All-Americans from last season, could also challenge. Junior Kaid Brock, after two All-America seasons at 133 pounds, moves to 141 pounds, with two-time All-American Chandler Rogers also expected to move up a weight class. Joe Smith, who redshirted in 2017-18, is also back and brings two All-America medals. Juniors Nick Piccininni (125) and Boo Lewallen (149), plus seniors Preston Weigel (197) and Derek White (285), are also back. The Cowboys will be favored to capture another Big 12 Conference crown and expect to rebound from a disappointing NCAA finish last March.