The battles at each of the 10 weight classes in college wrestling always seem to offer plenty of interest and intrigue.
This year is no exception.
Four of the 10 NCAA champions from 2007 return this season.
The returning champions include Paul Donahoe of Nebraska at 125 pounds, Gregor Gillespie of Edinboro at 149, Mark Perry of Iowa at 165 and Josh Glenn of American at 197. Gillespie reportedly is planning to move up to 157 this season.
2006 national champion Dustin Schlatter of Minnesota also is back for his junior season at 149.
The 2008 NCAA Championships are scheduled for March 20-22 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Here is TheMat.com’s preseason weight-by-weight breakdown of how the 2007-08 college wrestling season is expected to shape up:
Donahoe is the returning champion, but he will need another strong performance to repeat in a weight class that once again is very deep and very talented.
Seven of the eight All-Americans from 2007 are back for this season.
Donahoe’s strongest challenger likely will be Cornell junior Troy Nickerson, whom Donahoe beat in the semifinals last year. Nickerson was an NCAA runner-up as a freshman in 2006 before placing third last year.
The weight class also includes three returning All-Americans from the Big Ten Conference. Indiana’s Angel Escobedo placed fourth at the 2007 NCAAs with Big Ten champion Jayson Ness of Minnesota fifth and Iowa’s Charlie Falck eighth.
Lock Haven senior Obenson Blanc was sixth in the country last season and Stanford’s Tanner Gardner placed seventh.
Look for Oklahoma State’s Tyler Shinn and Illinois’ Gabe Flores to be among the other top wrestlers in this division.
PRESEASON TOP 4 AT 125: Donahoe, Nickerson, Escobedo, Ness.
Oklahoma State senior Coleman Scott is the top returning finisher here after placing second to Penn’s Matt Valenti last year.
Scott likely will be pushed by Big 12 rival Tyler McCormick of Missouri, two-time All-American Mack Reiter of Minnesota and Indiana All-American Andrae Hernandez.
McCormick placed sixth at nationals last year while Hernandez was eighth. Reiter missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury, but is back healthy this year and is a legitimate threat to win it.
Penn State’s Jake Strayer, who placed seventh at the 2007 NCAAs, is another wrestler to keep an eye on.
Iowa State's Nick Fanthorpe is expected to move up to 133 after qualifying for nationals at 125 as a freshman. Fanthorpe was 27-11 this past season.
Michigan State’s Franklin Gomez, who bumps up a class from 125, also could be a factor in this division. Freshman Corey Jantzen of Harvard is the top newcomer at 133.
Nebraska sophomore Kenny Jordan was a Junior College national champion this past season. Jimmy Kennedy of Illinois is another top wrestler in this class.
PRESEASON TOP 4 AT 133: Scott, Reiter, McCormick, Hernandez.
Northwestern’s Ryan Lang won his first 29 matches last year before falling in the NCAA finals to Derek Moore of UC-Davis.
With Moore’s eligibility finished, Lang is the favorite to move up to the No. 1 spot this season.
Hofstra’s Charles Griffin placed third in this division last year with Oklahoma State’s Nathan Morgan fourth, Rider’s Don Fisch fifth, West Virginia’s Brandon Rader sixth and Ohio State’s J Jaggers seventh. All those guys are back.
Minnesota’s Manuel Rivera, who finished 38-4 last year, is back healthy again after suffering a late-season injury in 2007. Rivera was a contender to win it last year before being injured.
Iowa’s Alex Tsirtsis was an All-American at 141 in 2006. He will face tough competition in his own room at 141 as he battles Virginia Tech transfer Dan LeClere for the No. 1 spot on the Hawkeye team.
Wisconsin sophomore Kyle Ruschell finished one win shy of being an All-American last season.
Iowa State sophomore Nick Gallick, younger brother of past NCAA champion Nate Gallick, is expected to move up to 141. Nick Gallick is hoping to build on a 28-10 freshman season. Gallick went 2-2 in his first NCAA meet at 133.
PRESEASON TOP 4 AT 141: Lang, Morgan, Griffin, Fisch.
Dustin Schlatter, who was hurt late in the 2006-07 season, is the frontrunner here with Gillespie moving up to 157. Schlatter placed third at the 2007 NCAAs after winning the title the year before as a freshman.
Michigan senior Josh Churella returns after placing second in the country last year. Ohio State sophomore Lance Palmer was fourth nationally as a freshman last season.
The Big Ten is stacked at this class with talented sophomore Brent Metcalf of Iowa set to make his collegiate debut here. Metcalf fared well in numerous Senior-level freestyle events this past season while waiting to gain his eligibility after transferring from Virginia Tech to Iowa.
Penn State’s Bubba Jenkins, a 2007 Junior World champion in freestyle, also drops down to 149 after qualifying for the NCAAs at 157 as a freshman in 2007.
Harvard’s J.P. O’Connor is back after placing fifth in the nation.
Another wrestler to watch is Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska. Burroughs placed second at University Nationals in 2007.
PRESEASON TOP 4 AT 149: Schlatter, Metcalf, Churella, O'Connor.
Gillespie may be the favorite here, even though he is moving up a class. He will have a tough battle on his hands with Wisconsin's Craig Henning back after placing second last season.
The Big Ten is loaded here as well with third-place NCAA finisher Mike Poeta of Illinois and sixth-place finisher C.P. Schlatter of Minnesota back this season. Past All-American Brandon Becker of Indiana, who did not place at the 2007 NCAAs, also returns.
Other returning All-Americans include Pittsburgh’s Matt Kocher (fifth), Stanford’s Josh Zupancic (seventh) and Drexel’s Ryan Hluschak (eighth). Cornell's Jordan Leen, eighth nationally at 149 last season, is expected to move up to 157.
ISU's Cyler Sanderson, one win shy of All-American status as a freshman at 149, likely will bump up to 157 this year.
Among the wrestlers contending for All-American honors here could be Missouri’s Michael Chandler, Iowa’s Ryan Morningstar, Nebraska’s Chris Oliver, Oklahoma’s Will Rowe and Penn’s Matt Dragon.
PRESEASON TOP 4 AT 157: Gillespie, Henning, Poeta, Schlatter.
Perry is the clear-cut favorite in this division after he knocked off two-time NCAA champion Johny Hendricks of Oklahoma State in the 2007 finals.
Perry’s toughest challenger appears to be Big Ten runner-up and NCAA fourth-place finisher Eric Tannenbaum of Michigan.
Central Michigan’s Mike Miller, eighth in the country last year, is the only other returning All-American at 165.
Indiana’s Matt Coughlin, seventh at 149 last season, is reportedly bumping up two classes to 165 this year.
Arizona State’s Pat Pitsch is another wrestler to watch in this class. Among the other wrestlers who are in the running for All-American honors include Northern Iowa's Moza Fay, Minnesota's Tyler Safratowich, Illinois' Roger Smith-Bergsrud, American's Mike Cannon and Nebraska's Stephen Dwyer. Fay is expected to bump up after going 35-10 at 157 last season.
Top newcomers at 165 include Iowa State freshman Jonathan Reader, a past Junior Nationals champion, and Cornell's Mack Lewnes.
PRESEASON TOP 4 AT 165: Perry, Tannenbaum, Miller, Coughlin.
This weight class has a different look with the departure of two-time NCAA champion and two-time Hodge Trophy winner Ben Askren of Missouri.
Pittsburgh’s Keith Gavin, second to Askren at the 2007 NCAAs, is now the man to beat at 174.
Navy’s Matt Stolpinski returns after placing fourth at nationals last year.
Other returning All-Americans include Oklahoma State’s Brandon Mason (fifth), Michigan’s Steve Luke (sixth) and Central Michigan’s Brandon Sinnott (seventh).
Minnesota senior Gabe Dretsch and Cornell's Steve Anceravage, a national qualifier at 165 last season, also are wrestlers to watch at 174. Nebraska’s Brandon Browne is a newcomer to keep an eye on in this division.
PRESEASON TOP 4 AT 174: Gavin, Stolpinski, Mason, Luke.
Northwestern’s Jake Herbert won the 2007 NCAA title as a junior, but won’t be back to defend his title in 2008.
Herbert is taking an Olympic redshirt to concentrate on freestyle wrestling. Herbert plans to return to Northwestern for the 2008-09 season.
Look for 2007 NCAA runner-up Jake Varner of Iowa State and 2006 NCAA runner-up Roger Kish of Minnesota to battle it out for the national title in 2008. Varner beat Kish in the 2007 NCAA semifinals.
Michigan’s Tyrel Todd also should be in the hunt after placing fifth last year. Todd placed fifth in freestyle at the 2007 U.S. Nationals.
Ohio State’s Mike Pucillo is back after finishing sixth nationally. Harvard’s Louis Caputo returns after placing seventh in the country. Caputo wrestled on the U.S. Junior World Team in freestyle.
Missouri’s Raymond Jordan also should be in contention here along with Nebraska’s Vince Jones, who is back on the mat after being an NCAA qualifier in 2006.
PRESEASON TOP 4 AT 184: Varner, Kish, Todd, Pucillo.
Glenn is the returning champion and favorite in this class, but 197 once again is one of the deepest divisions in the country.
2006 NCAA runner-up Phil Davis of Penn State may be the leading candidate to knock Glenn off this season. Davis placed fifth at the NCAAs last season.
Past All-Americans Mike Tamillow of Northwestern and Wynn Michalak of Central Michigan also have designs on winning a title in their senior seasons.
Big 12 champion Max Askren of Missouri and Big 12 runner-up Craig Brester of Nebraska, a pair of talented sophomores, also figure to be contenders at 197. Askren was the No. 1 seed at the 2007 NCAAs before going 0-2. Brester was seeded seventh and finished one win shy of being an All-American. Brester’s losses at the NCAA meet came to Glenn and fourth-place finisher J.D. Bergman of Ohio State.
Another wrestler from the Big 12, Oklahoma’s Joel Flaggert, is a past All-American. Another wrestler to watch is Wisconsin’s Dallas Herbst, who was 31-8 last season.
Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Matt Koz, who missed All-American honors by one victory at heavyweight last March, is expected to drop down to 197 this season.
PRESEASON TOP 4 AT 197: Glenn, Askren, Davis, Brester.
This may be the weakest, and most wide-open, weight class in the country this year.
Northwestern’s Dustin Fox appears to be the favorite. He’s the highest returning NCAA finisher after taking third last year.
Other returning All-Americans include Central Michigan’s Bubba Gritter (fifth), Cal State Fullerton’s Wade Sauer (sixth) and Bloomsburg’s Mike Spaid (eighth).
Bergman, a two-time All-American at 197, reportedly is moving up to battle the big boys at heavyweight this year.
Iowa is still waiting for senior Matt Fields to become a factor in this division. Fields was 28-12 last year and seeded seventh at the NCAAs, but fell short of placing. Fields had a strong offseason, winning University Nationals in freestyle and faring well on a trip to Europe.
Iowa State has an exciting young heavyweight in David Zabriskie, who went 27-8 last year. Zabriskie is a bit undersized in this class, but he makes up for it with a strong gas tank. He missed being an All-American by one win last season.
Navy’s Ed Prendergast is another top wrestler in this weight class. He was seeded sixth at the 2007 NCAAs before failing to place.
Oklahoma State’s Jared Rosholt and Nebraska’s Jon May, who is coming back from an injury, also should be in the mix for All-American honors.
PRESEASON TOP 4 AT HEAVYWEIGHT: Fox, Gritter, Bergman, Fields.