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. 7 Minnesota | No. 6 Arizona State | No. 5 Missouri | No. 4 Michigan
No. 3 Oklahoma State: 85 PointsLegendary head coach John Smith is in a constant state of reloading at Oklahoma State. No matter how many studs graduate, he's always got a wrestling room full of hammers ready to restock the lineup.
Former Boise State All-American Geo Martinez or Jonce Blaylock will man 149 for the Cowboys, providing a high-caliber replacement for graduating senior Anthony Collica.
Junior college transfer Jacobe Smith will wrestle varsity for the first time with junior eligibility. He will be a threat to make the podium at 174 pounds next season following the departure of two-time All-American Kyle Crutchmer.
The Cowboys' 103 points in St. Louis would have been good enough for a team title on three different occasions since 2007. They'll have to grow that number if they want to hoist a championships trophy in Cleveland next year.
Oklahoma State appears to have the lightweights covered, as 125, 133, and 141 all return All-Americans with Nick Piccininni, Kaid Brock, and two-time national champion Dean Heil, respectively. The 141 weight class is returning a crazy amount of talent nationwide. However, Heil will once again be the favorite, and Smith and company will be depending on those placement points.
The middleweights will have the aforementioned Martinez and two other returning All-Americans in Joseph Smith and Chandler Rogers at 157 and 165, respectively. Junior All-American Preston Weigel will be looked upon to provide stability at the upper weights, as 184 and 285 will be unsettled with the graduations of Nolan Boyd and Austin Schafer.
The Cowboys will have plenty of contenders for the spots, and whoever earns them should be considered a podium threat next season, as the OSU coaching staff has a knack for getting the best from its wrestlers, whether they be blue-chip recruits or walk-ons.
One breakthrough performance at the 2017 NCAA tournament came from sophomore Chandler Rogers, who was seeded ninth for the second year in a row but made the podium for the first time with a fifth-place finish. You can watch Rogers pick up a win in the round of 16 and two bonus team points in the video below as his pins the No. 8 seed Dylan Cottrell of West Virginia.
We're getting close to the No. 1. Spoiler alert, it's the team returning five NCAA champions. Which means you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out which team is No. 2. But stay tuned, and confirm your brilliant powers of deduction anyway. Then stay and read on for the probing analysis, as we check out the No. 2 NCAA points returner next. Until then, stay comfortable but not necessarily numb, as we you can expect to see plenty more NCAA content coming through in waves.