#9 Returning NCAA Points: Lehigh

Darian Cruz

The upcoming NCAA season may only seem like a distant ship's smoke on the horizon during these long summer days, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start speculating about the 2017-18 season. Indeed, it is never too early to start speculating.

To get a better idea of what we might see next season, we took a look back at the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships. We compared all the Division I programs by how many team points were earned by their underclassmen to see who will be returning the most firepower for the 2018 tournament.

Teams 11-20 | No. 10 Virginia Tech | No. 8 Iowa | No. 7 Minnesota | No. 6 Arizona State No. 5 Missouri

No. 9 Lehigh: 32 Points

Pat Santoro returns for his 10th season at the helm of the Mountain Hawks wrestling program. Lehigh fans have a lot to look forward to, as Santoro and company return a solid young nucleus, including Darian Cruz, the school's first NCAA champion since Zach Rey won at 285lb in 2011.

Manning the weight adjacent to Cruz will be fellow All-American Scotty Parker, who placed eighth in St. Louis.

Lehigh will have to find replacements for graduating NCAA qualifiers Randy Cruz and Laike Gardner, which will likely fall on the stout shoulders of redshirt freshmen Nick Farro and Luke Karam, although there will be plenty of competition for those spots. With over 40 wrestlers on their roster last year, the Mountain Hawks had one of the most packed (and nicest!) wrestling rooms in the country.

125 Darian Cruz 22
133 Scott Parker 6.5
165 Cole Walter 0.5
174 Ryan Preisch 3

Lehigh will also retain the services of top five 157-pounder Jordan Kutler, though likely at 165 pounds, as Kutler missed the 2017 NCAAs after failing to weigh in at the EIWA Championship.

Fans will also likely see redshirt phenom Jordan Wood on the varsity squad next year, taking over heavyweight following the departure of bloodround finisher Doug Vollaro.

With a balanced squad of youngsters and veterans, and assuming they avoid the injury bug that has plagued them in the past, this may finally be (though we've heard this line before) the year the Mountain Hawks reclaim the EIWA throne from rival Cornell.

In a match that will live forever in Lehigh lore, Darian Cruz beat 2017 USA freestyle world team member and Iowa Hawkeye Thomas Gilman in the NCAA semifinals. You can watch that match in the video below.

We'll take a closer at the No. 8 team next, so stay tuned. Until then, stay comfortable but not necessarily numb, as we have plenty more content about the impending NCAA wrestling season on the way.

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