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. But to start speculating, we'll need some information first. Just the basic facts.
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. 9 Lehigh | No. 8 Iowa | No. 6 Arizona State | No. 5 Missouri | No. 4 Michigan | No. 3 Oklahoma State
No. 7 Minnesota Golden Gophers: 40.5The Gophers are ranked exactly as they finished at the 2017 NCAA Championships, in seventh place, which may seem surprising since their roster will sport seven wrestlers who scored points in St. Louis.
Six of those wrestlers were in maroon and gold singlets last year. The seventh, Steve Bleise, scored points in the last two NCAA tournaments while wrestling for Northern Illinois. Bleise announced his transfer to Minnesota less than a month ago.
With the addition of Bleise, Minnesota head coach Brandon Eggum and company will have returning points at the first six weight classes. They'll need everyone to score again in Cleveland if they are going to improve on last year's seventh place finish, as the Gophers lost two-time All-American 197-pounder Brett Pfarr to graduation.
It's expected that Bobby Steveson will slide up to 197 next year, with former DIII All-American and recent transfer Owen Webster being the early favorite among many Minnesota contenders to take over 184 pounds next season.
NCAA qualifier Chris Pfarr is back at 174 pounds, though he didn't score any points at last year's tournament. Talented redshirt sophomore Rylee Streifel will likely take over for the departing three-time All-American Michael Kroells at 285.
Keep on eye on 133-pounder Mitch McKee. The rising true sophomore had the toughest schedule of anyone last year, and with a full year of college competition under his belt, the newly minted junior world team member could be ready for a big year. You can watch McKee take out Nebraska's Eric Montoya at the Big Ten Tournament in the video below.
We'll take a closer at the No. 6 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.