Next Season's Returning NCAA All-Americans: 157 Pounds
We've already taken a look at the top 20 teams ranked by order of returning NCAA points. Now we are going through each weight class and highlight every All-American returning for the 2017-18 season.
Top 20 Returning NCAA Team Points | 125 Returning AAs | 133 Returning AAs | 141 Returning AAs | 149 Returning AAs
We will have a better idea of who will be taking redshirts and what weight classes they will be in as we get closer to the start of the season. Until then, here are our best guesses, though feel free to holler at us with any updates on those topics.
Returns 2 National Championships and 11 All-American HonorsThe second member of Penn State's fab five returns at 157, with two years of eligibility left. Jason Nolf blitzed through the weight class last year, bonusing his way to a national championship (not unlike his teammate Zain Retherford at 149 pounds). Nolf will have plenty of competition, though, of both the newcomer and veteran variety. The question for this weight class will be if any of the competitors can catch up to Nolf or if he has widened the gap.
Jason Nolf, Penn State 2, 1, ?, ?Without discounting the rest of the tremendous wrestlers in the weight class, Nolf's biggest competition will in all likelihood be with his teammates in a battle for the Hodge Trophy. Nolf has but two losses in his varsity career, both during his freshman year to two-time champ Isaiah Martinez. Those losses were in Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. In their first meeting of the season in a dual meet, however, it was Nolf who got the better of Martinez. IMar was up at 165 last season and will likely be there next season, so if someone is going to stop Nolf this year, it'll be for the first time.
Jason Tsirtsis, Arizona State 1, 3, DNP, ?After winning a national title as a freshman and following that with a third-place finish, Jason Tsirtsis has had a star-crossed couple of years. But the former Northwestern Wildcat has re-situated himself in Tempe, Arizona, as a new member of the Zeke Jone's Arizona State Sun Devils. Although Tsirtsis has been a career 149-pounder, it's rumored that he will move up to 157. If he does, the Indiana native will be the next highest-credentialed wrestler in the weight class after Nolf.
Joey Lavallee, Missouri DNP, DNP, 2, ?Last season was Lavallee's break out year for the Missouri Tigers. Lavallee made his first trip to the NCAA podium by way of the finals, where he was majored by Nolf. Mizzou head coach Brian Smith will be counting on the Nevada native Lavallee to lead the Tigers if they want to break into the top four this year and come home with a team trophy.
Michael Kemerer, Iowa 3, ?, ?, ?Michael Kemerer made an immediate impact in the Iowa Hawkeyes lineup last season a redshirt freshman. The Pennsylvania native lost just three times in his first season of varsity competition. Two losses were to Nolf, and one was to Cornell's Dylan Palacio in a dramatic upset in the NCAA quarterfinals. Next season, Kemerer will be one of the top contenders to close the gap on Nolf, his former club teammate and practice partner.
Joseph Smith, Oklahoma State 7, 4, ?, ?The offspring of Oklahoma State head coach John Smith, Joseph has performed admirably in the shadow of his legendary father. Coach Smith pulled Joseph's redshirt after an impressive 2016 performance in the Southern Scuffle, where Joseph finished second to Nolf. With two All-American honors in two years, Joseph will be a cornerstone of a Cowboys squad that will need all the points it can get at the 2018 NCAAs in Cleveland.
BJ Clagon, Rider 5, DNP, DNP, ?Clagon has qualified for three NCAA tournaments but has yet to replicate the success he had a freshman when he placed fifth. Clagon was up at 157 last year for the first time and came tantalizingly close to the podium, getting stopped in the bloodround by fellow New Jerseyan Sal Mastriani of Virginia Tech. New Rider head coach John Hangey will be looking to Clagon to lead the Broncs into the top 20 and possibly their best NCAA finish in team history (which, incidentally, was 18th in 1980).
Tyler Berger, Nebraska DNP, 5, ?, ?Tyler Berger had some big shoes to fill when he took over the 157-pound starting job for the Nebraska Huskers. The Oregon native was charged with stepping into the role of departing four-time All-American (and now three-time world team member) James Green in 2016. In his freshman campaign, Berger came up just short of All-American honors, losing in the round of 12. He finished fifth last year, but if he is going to improve on that placement he'll have to figure out a way past a gang of more highly decorated grapplers.
Paul Fox, Stanford NP, 7, ?, ?Standford Cardinal Paul Fox was one of the biggest dark horses to earn All-American honors last year, surprising nearly everyone with a seventh-place finish after qualifying for his first NCAA tournament as a sophomore. If he qualifies for his second tournament, Fox will have an uphill battle to return to the podium. Fox has proved his doubters wrong before; however, and it may prove unwise to pick against him next season as well.
Watch below the video of Jason Nolf taking out Tyler Berger in the 2017 NCAA semifinals.
Did we miss anybody? Let us know! And stay tuned for 165 coming up next!