The key word in preseason rankings is "preseason." The usual cast of characters start the 2018-19 Division I wrestling campaign at the top of the list, but, being only November, a number of weight changes will occur and first-year starters will begin to make some noise at a few of the early-season tournaments.
Coaches and wrestlers know being highly ranked before Thanksgiving matters little compared to March and team lineups will add and subtract athletes over the next few months.
The team power rankings will run twice monthly, alternating each week with the top 10 individuals at each weight class. Expect the rankings to change throughout November and December as lineups take shape.
Here are our preseason top 10 power rankings:
1 – PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions have won seven of the last eight NCAA team titles and enter 2018-19 as, no surprise, the favorites. The loss of three-time NCAA champ Zain Retherford might barely be noticed with Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174), and Bo Nickal (197), each with at least one NCAA title, back to do more damage. Add All-Americans Nick Lee (141), Shakur Rasheed (184) and Nick Nevills (285), and head coach Cael Sanderson has another powerful squad. Rookies Gavin Teasdale and Brody Teske, a combined 337-3 in high school, will figure out 125 pounds and give the reigning champs another rising star.
2 – OHIO STATE: Head coach Tom Ryan’s 2018 squad took PSU to the wire. Nickal’s dramatic pin in the 184-pound final on a wild Saturday night in Cleveland sealed the deal and kept the Buckeyes just out of reach. Replacing Nathan Tomasello, Bo Jordan, and World champion Kyle Snyder is next to impossible, but OSU returns a veteran group led by former NCAA champ Myles Martin (184) and All-Americans Luke Pletcher (133), Joey McKenna (141), Micah Jordan (149), and Kollin Moore (197). At least seven starters will be upperclassmen.
3 – IOWA: Iowa has not won an NCAA title since 2010, a drought of monumental proportions for a program that won 23 from 1975-2010. The Hawkeyes add transfers Austin DeSanto (Drexel), Pat Lugo (Edinboro), and Jason Renteria (Nebraska) to a group that includes rising star Spencer Lee, a national champion at 125 pounds last March as a freshman. Senior heavyweight Sam Stoll starts the season at the top of the rankings and All-Americans Alex Marinelli (165) and Michael Kemerer (174) are back with 2018 Junior World Team member Jacob Warner, a sophomore, set to man 197 pounds. The 2018-19 version of Iowa wrestling will certainly be a factor.
4 – OKLAHOMA STATE: The Cowboys had a solid dual season and entered the 2018 NCAAs among the top five teams. But an early injury to All-American 197-pounder Preston Weigel set the tone and the 34-time NCAA kings faded to a tie for 13th in the end. Head coach John Smith welcomes back two-time All-American Joe Smith after a redshirt and all eyes will be on 2017 Junior World champion Daton Fix, expected to jump in at 133 pounds. Point-scoring Kaid Brock (141) and Chandler Rogers (174) are back and are part of a squad that could look a lot different come January with a pair of Edinboro transfers in the room.
T5 – MICHIGAN: The Wolverines tied for fourth in 2018 and have a lineup that includes plenty of All-America potential. Steven Micic (133) lost in the NCAA final last March, while veterans Alec Pantaleo (157), Logan Massa (165), and Myles Amine (174) could all finish high on the medal stand again. Replacing 285-pound NCAA finalist Adam Coon will not be easy, but there is, as usual, a lot of talent in the Michigan room.
T5 – ARIZONA STATE: Former freestyle World champion Zeke Jones has led a revival in Tempe. The electrifying Zahid Valencia was perfect as a sophomore and won the 174-pound NCAA title. A pair of transfers, Ryan Milhof (125, Oklahoma) and Mason Smith (141, Central Michigan), should join All-Americans Josh Shields (157) and Tanner Hall (285), plus talented Josh Maruca (149), Anthony Valencia (165), and Kordell Norfleet (184) this season. Expect the Sun Devils to dominate the Pac-12 Conference. ASU hosts Ohio State on Nov. 18.
7 – CORNELL: The Big Red lineup during the early season often does not equal what head coach Rob Koll puts on the mat in March. Last season, the Ivy League kings finished seventh led by crafty rookie Yanni Diakomihalis, the NCAA champ at 141 pounds. Throw in Greco specialist Jon Jay Chavez (165), if healthy, Brandon Womack (174), Max Dean (184), and Ben Darmstadt (197), if healthy; all four have finished inside the top eight. The key for Cornell? Finding a way to put seven or eight on the medal stand.
8 – NORTH CAROLINA STATE: Head coach Pat Popolizio continues to revitalize a program that went away for a few decades. Dual wins over powerhouse programs have been followed up by good March tournament finishes, including a tie for fourth in 2018. The Wolfpack return NCAA finalist Hayden Hidlay (157) and one of the surprises in Cleveland in 133-pounder Tariq Wilson, who was third; both are just sophomores. Central Michigan transfer Justin Oliver (149) and Nick Reenan (184), a redshirt last season, are also tough, as is three-time NCAA qualifier Sean Fausz (125). It could be a fun year in Raleigh.
9 – NEBRASKA: The addition of former NCAA finalist and 2018 All-American Zeke Moisey, a transfer from West Virginia, gives the Huskers another strong starter. All-Americans Chad Red (141), Tyler Berger (157), and Taylor Venz (184) will win a lot of matches, as will former Division II national champion Isaiah White (165), redshirt-freshman Mikey Labriola (174), and 197-pounder Eric Schultz. Do the math and Mark Manning’s team could be much better than ninth.
10 – MISSOURI: No surprise Missouri has a good squad; Brian Smith has been putting quality on the mat for a while. Three-time All-American Daniel Lewis (174) and high-flying Jaydin Eierman, who was an overtime loss away from the 141-pound NCAA final in Cleveland, lead a Tiger team that also includes John Erneste (133) and Grant Leeth (149), who was sixth as a rookie last March.
THE NEXT FIVE – Lehigh, Minnesota, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Northern Iowa