Hodge Trophy winner Brent Metcalf of Iowa among five NCAA champions who are back this season
Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
College wrestling practices are underway across the country and with the start of the season just a few weeks away, it’s time to take a quick glance at what to look forward to during the 2008-09 season.
TheMat.com is breaking down each of the 10 weight classes heading into the season, which will culminate with the NCAA Championships on March 19-21, 2009 in St. Louis, Mo.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are the returning NCAA team champion, with Ohio State and Iowa State expected to challenge Iowa for the top spot this season. Nebraska, Cornell, Missouri, Penn State, Illinois and Oklahoma State are among the teams who are capable of being in the hunt.
Five of the 10 NCAA individual champions from 2008 are back this season.
Here is a weight-by-weight look at the upcoming season:
This weight class includes the last two NCAA champions in Indiana’s Angel Escobedo and Edinboro’s Paul Donahoe.
Cornell’s Troy Nickerson, who has placed second and third in the country, also is back after missing last season.
2008 NCAA runner-up Jayson Ness of Minnesota will bump up to 133 this season. Ness is a two-time All-American at 125.
This weight class also includes two-time All-American Charlie Falck of Iowa along with All-Americans Brandon Precin of Northwestern and James Nicholson of Old Dominion.
Oklahoma State’s Obe Blanc, an All-American for Lock Haven in 2007, also is in the mix here.
Two other wrestlers to watch here are Arizona State’s Anthony Robles and Penn’s Rollie Peterkin. Both wrestlers finished one win shy of All-American honors last season.
Donahoe, an NCAA champion in 2007 and a third-place finisher in 2008, is now at Edinboro after being dismissed from the University of Nebraska for off-the-mat issues. He is a senior and would be eligible for the second semester.
TheMat.com Top 3: Escobedo, Donahoe, Nickerson.
Iowa junior Joey Slaton is the top returning finisher here after placing second in the nation this past March in St. Louis.
Minnesota’s Jayson Ness, a two-time All-American at 125, bumps up to 133 this season.
How tough will the Big Ten be in this division? Michigan State’s Franklin Gomez finished third nationally last season and Jimmy Kennedy of Illinois took fourth.
Iowa State’s Nick Fanthorpe is another wrestler who could contend here. Fanthorpe placed seventh in the nation last year after moving up a weight class. Navy’s Joe Baker is another returning All-American at 133.
Other wrestlers to keep an eye on are Penn State’s Jake Strayer, Hofstra’s Lou Ruggirello and Ohio State’s Reece Humphrey. Strayer was an All-American in 2007, Ruggirello fell one win short of All-American honors last season and Humphrey was a World University silver medalist in freestyle wrestling this past summer.
Oklahoma State’s Tyler Shinn also moves up to this class after previously competing at 125.
TheMat.com Top 3: Slaton, Gomez, Ness.
Ohio State’s J Jaggers turned in one of the surprise performances at the 2008 NCAA Championships. Seeded sixth, Jaggers knocked off No. 3 seed Kellen Russell of Michigan, No. 2 seed Charles Griffin of Hofstra and No. 1 seed Chad Mendes of Cal Poly en route to the title.
The next highest returning placewinner at 141 is Iowa State’s Nick Gallick, who took fifth at the NCAAs. Gallick bumped up a weight class last season.
Cornell’s Mike Grey moves up to 141 this year after placing sixth at 133 as a freshman. Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Cody Cleveland placed eighth nationally this past season at 141.
Russell, who spent time ranked No. 1 last season as a freshman, came up one win short of All-American honors last season.
West Virginia’s Brandon Rader is another veteran who could contend here.
Iowa will be very strong here as well. The Hawkeyes will have either All-American Alex Tsirtsis or 2008 NCAA qualifier Dan LeClere competing at 141.
TheMat.com Top 3: Jaggers, Gallick, Russell.
The toughest weight class in the country during the 2007-08 season, 149 may be just as competitive this season.
The best wrestler in the country, reigning Hodge Trophy winner Brent Metcalf of Iowa, is back for his junior season after winning the NCAA title in 2008. The punishing, hard-charging Metcalf may be the best college wrestler since Cael Sanderson.
2007 Junior World freestyle champion Bubba Jenkins of Penn State turned in a strong college campaign last season after placing second to Metcalf at nationals. Jenkins came out strong in the NCAA finals against Metcalf before falling 14-8.
Nebraska’s Jordan Burroughs is another talented and dangerous wrestler in this division. Burroughs placed third at nationals last year as a sophomore. He gained experience this past summer as a member of the U.S. Junior World Team.
North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell, the only wrestler to beat Metcalf last season, also is back. The explosive Caldwell was fifth in the country in 2008.
Two-time All-American Lance Palmer of Ohio State can’t be counted out either. Palmer gave Metcalf his toughest match of the 2008 NCAAs before Metcalf pulled out a 3-2 win in the quarterfinals.
Purdue’s Jake Patascil and Army’s Matt Kyler are two other top wrestlers in this division.
Three-time All-American Dustin Schlatter of Minnesota moves out of this division. Schlatter is moving up to 157 and he may take a redshirt season.
TheMat.com Top 3: Metcalf, Burroughs, Jenkins.
Cornell’s Jordan Leen is back after winning an NCAA title. Leen was seeded eighth before knocking off top-ranked Gregor Gillespie of Edinboro en route to the title.
Gillespie also is back. He won NCAAs as a 149-pounder in 2007.
NCAA runner-up Mike Poeta of Illinois also returns for his senior season. Penn State’s Dan Vallimont is back after finishing third in the country in 2008.
All-American J.P. O’Connor of Harvard is expected to bump up to this division.
Iowa State’s Cyler Sanderson made significant improvement last year in becoming an All-American for the first time in 2008.
Bloomsburg’s Matt Moley rebounded from a first-round loss at the NCAAs to place eighth in the country last season.
Missouri’s Michael Chandler and Iowa’s Ryan Morningstar are two other competitors who could make an impact here.
Minnesota’s Dustin Schlatter plans to move up to 157, but may be taking a redshirt this season. Schlatter has been hampered by injuries since winning the NCAA title at 149 in 2006.
TheMat.com Top 3: Poeta, Gillespie, Leen.
The top two finishers in this weight class were seniors, so this division looks to be fairly wide open this season.
Missouri’s Nick Marable, Cornell’s Mack Lewness and Northern Iowa’s Moza Fay look like the top contenders after placing 3-4-5 in the nation in 2008.
Two Big 12 rivals – Iowa State’s Jon Reader and Nebraska’s Stephen Dwyer – can’t be counted out either. Reader placed seventh and Dwyer eighth in the 2008 NCAA meet.
Also from the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Mason is dropping down a class to 165. Mason was an All-American at 174 in 2007.
Another wrestler to watch in this class is Central Michigan’s Trevor Stewart.
TheMat.com Top 3: Marable, Lewnes, Mason.
Michigan’s Steve Luke is the frontrunner in this division after placing second at the NCAA tournament last year.
Luke will face a stern challenge from Big Ten rival Jay Borschel of Iowa. Borschel placed third in his first NCAA meet last season.
Nebraska’s Brandon Browne also will contend after placing fourth at nationals in 2008.
Missouri’s Raymond Jordan is expected to drop down a class to 174. Jordan placed fifth in the nation at 184 last season.
All-Americans Steve Anceravage of Cornell and Alton Lucas of Hofstra also are back in this division.
TheMat.com Top 3: Borschel, Luke, Browne.
This weight class features a pair of NCAA champions in Northwestern’s Jake Herbert and Ohio State’s Mike Pucillo. Herbert won it all in 2007 and Pucillo won it last season.
Herbert is back on the mat for his senior season after taking an Olympic redshirt last year. Herbert has placed third, second and first at the NCAAs in his career.
Another Big Ten wrestler, Iowa’s Phil Keddy, also could make some noise here. Keddy was one of the most improved wrestlers in the country last season. Keddy went from being 14-16 as a freshman to placing sixth nationally as a sophomore.
Boise State sophomore Kirk Smith placed eighth in the country in 2008.
Harvard’s Louis Caputo and Nebraska’s Vince Jones are two other top wrestlers in this division along with Rider’s Doug Umbehauer and West Virginia’s Kurt Brenner.
TheMat.com Top 3: Herbert, Pucillo, Keddy.
This could be one of the strongest weight classes in the country again this year with two-time NCAA runner-up Jake Varner of Iowa State and All-American Tyrel Todd of Michigan both bumping up to 197. Todd was third in the country at 184 last year.
Also in this class is 2008 third-place finisher Hudson Taylor of Maryland and fourth-place finisher Craig Brester of Nebraska.
Wisconsin’s Dallas Herbst is back after placing sixth last year. Missouri junior Max Askren was seventh in the nation in 2008.
Cornell’s Josh Arnone and Illinois’ Patrick Bond also can’t be overlooked in this class.
TheMat.com Top 3: Varner, Taylor, Brester.
This is another weight class that looks to be up for grabs with the top three finishers from the 2008 NCAAs being seniors.
Oklahoma State’s Jared Rosholt is the top returning wrestler after he placed fourth nationally in 2008. Iowa State’s David Zabriskie was sixth and Wisconsin’s Kyle Massey took eighth. Rosholt, a junior, made noticeable improvement last season. He and Zabriskie have had a number of close battles the past two years.
Navy’s Scott Steele is another guy to keep an eye on here. Stuck behind Navy teammate and third-place NCAA finisher Ed Prendergast last year, Steele will contend for the national title this year. Steele placed third at June’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials in freestyle wrestling and traveled to Beijing, China, as a training partner for Olympian Steve Mocco.
Other top wrestlers in the heavyweight division include Mark Ellis of Missouri, Jermail Porter of Kent State, John Wise of Illinois and Zac Sheaffer of Pittsburgh.
TheMat.com Top 3: Rosholt, Steele, Zabriskie.
Hodge Trophy winner Brent Metcalf of Iowa among five NCAA champions who are back this season