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.
If no one told you when to run and you think missed the starting gun, have no fear, we have you covered with the full countdown of all the top 20 teams listed by returning NCAA points.
We looked 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.
We'll start with the teams 20 through 11, listed below.
20. Nebraska: 13
19. Rider: 13.5
18. Rutgers: 16
17. Central Michigan: 17
16. Wyoming: 17
15. Edinboro: 17.5
14. Illinois: 22
13. South Dakota State: 23
12. Northern Iowa: 24.5
11. NC State: 25
We'll count down the top ten individually, starting with the Virginia Tech Hokies.
No. 10 Virginia Tech Hokies: 25.5 PointsSouthwest Virginia's premier Division I program is having a transitional offseason, as Tony Robie was recently promoted from associate head coach to head wrestling coach, following the departure of Kevin Dresser to Iowa State.
Robie lost the anchors to his lineup, as multiple-time NCAA All-Americans Joey Dance at 125 and Ty Walz at 285 used up their final year of eligibility last season.
Robie will also have to make do without the services of two-time All-American Zach Epperly, who will not return to the team after he graduated despite having another year of eligibility. Sal Mastriani has also graduated, and is now an assistant at Brown; he had an eighth-place finish in St. Louis.
But the cupboard is far from empty for Robie and the Hokies faithful. Heading into the 2017-18 season, 25.5 of the 63.5 points scored in the 2017 tournament will be back.
Additionally, the Hokies will welcome back David McFadden to their starting lineup. McFadden had an impressive redshirt season after earning All-American honors as a true freshman at the 2016 NCAA tournament.
Also coming off redshirts for Virginia Tech are Kyle Norstrem and Andrew Dunn, whom the Hokies will count on to replace Dance and Walz at 125 and 285 pounds, respectively.
Robie, along with new assistants Frank Molinaro and Jared Frayer, will need everyone firing on all cylinders, but there is enough talent returning to successfully navigate what could otherwise be a tricky transitional season.
No. 9 Lehigh: 32 PointsPat 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.
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.
No. 8 Iowa Hawkeyes: 38.5 PointsIt's rare to see the University of Iowa so low on any rankings related to college wrestling, but a peak at last year's senior laden lineup is all it takes to figure out how the Hawkeyes land in the no. 8 spot.
Half of the starting lineup has been lost to graduation; Thomas Gilman, Cory Clark, Topher Carton, Alex Meyer and Sam Brooks all need to be replaced. This will be a tall order, as those five wrestlers collected a total of ten All-American honors over the course of their careers.
Thankfully for the Hawkeye faithful, a couple of guys of All-American caliber will be returning, specifically middle weight studs Brandon Sorensen and Michael Kemerer at 149 and 157 respectively.
Joey Gunther is going to face stiff completion in the Hawkeyes' wrestling room next season, with blue chippers Kaleb Young and Alex Marinelli coming off redshirt.
With Brooks graduated, it has been speculated that Cash Wilcke could move down to 184. It's unclear who would then takeover 197. 285 is more settled, however, head coach Tom Brands and the rest of the black and gold coaching staff are counting on heavyweight Sam Stoll healing up and returning to the lineup.
And no look ahead at the Hawkeyes would be complete without a mention of uber recruit and two-time UWW Junior World Champion Spencer Lee. Lee is the No. 2 recruit on the Class of 2017 Big Board and though true freshmen rarely start at Iowa, Lee may be pressed into service at 125 pounds.
Iowa is going to need a lot more than 38.5 team points if they are going to hoist a team trophy in Cleveland next year. Whether they can beat the odds and climb over their more deeply stocked rivals will be one of the closely followed storylines of the 2017-18 NCAA season.
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.
Ethan "Backpack" Lizak headlines the returning Gophers, having scored more NCAA points than any of his teammates thanks to a finals appearance in last year's 125-pound tournament.
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.
No. 6 Arizona State: 42The Sun Devils may not have discovered the secret to life, the universe, and everything, but they do return an eye-popping 42 points from last year's tournament.
Arizona State coach Zeke Jones and staff qualified four freshmen and a sophomore for the 2017 NCAA Tournament. As such, they lose no NCAA points to graduation. They also benefit from some addition by subtraction, specifically by subtracting the three penalty points Jones lost his team during Tanner Hall's third-place heavyweight bout with Virginia Tech's Ty Walz, which would explain why Arizona State scored only 39 points at last year's tournament.
Technically, Jones returns next year as well, but we're leaving those penalty points for lack of control of the mat area off the tally anyway.
Besides their five 2017 NCAA qualifiers, Sun Devil fans can also look forward to the addition of former Northwestern national champion Jason Tsirtsis in the lineup. What's left unsettled, however, is how all those middle weights are going to share mat time next season.
FloWrestling's Ryan Holmes took a crack at how things could look in Tempe next year, with the prevailing theory being that the Valencia brothers and Josh Shields could move up a weight, leaving Josh Maruca and Tsirtsis to man 149 and 157, respectively.
Also joining the ASU varsity team next year is Ryan Millhof, who redshirted last season following his transfer from Oklahoma. Millhof would be the fourth returning All-American on the team, joining Zahid Valencia, Tsirtsis, and Hall.
Millhof and Tsirtsis will provide some veteran experience for an otherwise young Sun Devils squad that will look to make noise at many NCAA tournaments to come.
No. 5 Missouri Tigers: 46.5Missouri head coach Brian Smith lost not just one of the greatest wrestlers in school history but also in NCAA history, as senior J'den Cox finished his Tigers career as a three-time national champion without the benefit of a redshirt season. The black and gold will also have to contend without the services of three-time All-American Lavion Mayes.
But don't expect the Tigers to be just lost souls swimming in a fish bowl this year. They return an exceptional nucleus, including three All-Americans from St. Louis, and hopefully a healthy Willie Miklus, an All-American in 2015 and 2016.
Redshirt freshman Jaydin Eierman had a breakout season at 141 pounds, earning fifth place in St. Louis and taking out a host of hammers throughout the season. One of those hammers was unfortunately fellow senior teammate and two-time NCAA qualifier Matt Manley, who was squeezed out of the lineup with Eierman at 141 and Lavion Mayes at 149. Another casualty of wrestling's inexorable meritocratic grind.
NCAA finalists Joey Lavallee will be expected to provide senior leadership as he returns to 157. Daniel Lewis also has two All-American honors in two seasons and will bump up to 174 to make room for Conner Flynn at 165, creating one of those most dynamic middle weight trios in the NCAA.
John Erneste returns after a round of 16 finish in March, and two-time qualifier Barlow McGee is back to make formidable lower weight battery.
A mended Miklus at will likely be up at 197, taking over for the irreplaceable J'Den Cox. Miklus scored 12 points in 2016, so exceeding last year's team total of 86.5 points will be a lofty but not unattainable goal for the Tigers next season.
No. 4 Michigan Wolverines: 57 PointsThe puzzle pieces of Joe McFarland's lineup are all coming together for the 2017-18 season at Michigan. The Wolverines finished 10th in the 2017 team race, but that is with three key starters sitting out last season on redshirt.
Those pieces and several others return for McFarland and company this fall. Michigan will also add three returning All-Americans from last year's squad and All-American transfer Kevin Beazley from Old Dominion.
Expectations are high in Ann Arbor, as with an arsenal that stocked, the Wolverines are expected to blow past last year's team-point total of 47.5.
Redshirt freshman All-American Logan Massa leads Michigan in 2017 returning points. Logan masticated the competition last year, feasting on high-profile 165-pounders and losing only three times, all of which were to NCAA champions.
Stevan Micic, Myles Amine, and the aforementioned transfer Beazley all return with All-American credentials, as do two of the former starters who spent last year on redshirt.
Senior Adam Coon brings a second- and third-place NCAA finish with him to wrestle heavyweight one final time. Rising redshirt junior Alec Pantaleo placed sixth as a sophomore at 149 and will wrestle either 149 or 157. Senior Domenic Abounader has yet to make the podium but won matches at three NCAA tournaments. The Wolverines senior will be favored to finally break through and place in the top eight at 184 pounds next year.
As with most stacked teams, Michigan will have the enviable problem of too many quality wrestlers and not enough weight classes to go around. Davonte Mahomes is an All-American-caliber 174-pounder snake bitten by injuries and, even if now healthy, will have a difficult time making the starting lineup next season.
It is a good problem for the Wolverines to have, as the maize and blue have sky-high hopes. Even if a national championship is out of reach, anything less than a top four team trophy will carry with it at least some level of disappointment.
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.
No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes: 110.5 PointsA staggering amount of points returns to the Buckeyes lineup next year. Scoring 110.5 team points may have been enough to win team titles in seasons past, but next year it is likely only good for being just another brick in the wall.
That team total is also half a point more than what Ohio State earned in St. Louis: The Buckeyes lost Jose Rodriguez's 2.5 points at 125 due to his transfer out, but they gained TeShan Campbell's three points when he transferred to OSU in March.
Ohio State also added a junior college national champion transfer in Dayton Racer, who is expected to fill in at 157, complementing an already stacked lineup.
The big question in Columbus, Ohio, is if three-time All-American Nathan Tomasello will be back at 133 pounds or if he will go down to 125, where he won an NCAA championship his freshman year.
If NaTo goes down a weight, expect to see true sophomore Luke Pletcher move down from 141, opening up a spot for Ke-Shawn Hayes. If NaTo stays up at 133, we'll probably see Brendan Fitzgerald at 125 and either Pletcher or Hayes at 141, although Pletcher has a redshirt to burn.
Two-year starter Jake Ryan will challenge Racer at 157, but the rest of the lineup looks pretty well set, as the Buckeyes have no worse than a fourth-place finish at every other weight. Micah Jordan placed fourth in St. Louis, and Bo Jordan placed second. Myles Martin "only" placed fifth in 2017 but won the whole tournament the year before. And Kollin Moore placed third in St. Louis at his first NCAA tournament.
Team leader Kyle Snyder (you may have heard of him), is coming off his third straight NCAA finals appearance and his second straight title.
No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions: 144.5 PointsWe all knew Penn State would be the number one team on this list. The only question was just how many points they would return.
You have to go back to Oklahoma State's vaunted 2005 team just to find an NCAA champion that scored more points at the tournament than head coach Cael Sanderson gets back for next season. The Cowboys won with 153 points from five champions. Five, is, incidentally, the number of NCAA individual champions that return to Penn State's lineup.
So should expectations for the 2017-18 Nittany Lions be not at just an NCAA title, but at an NCAA record?
We'll leave that up to the Penn State faithful. In the meantime, we can take a look at who scored points in St. Louis that return to the blue and white lineup.
Absent from this list is 125 pounder Nick Suriano, who earned the No. 3 seed at the tournament but was too injured to compete.
Rising senior Corey Keener transferred to State College, PA from Central Michigan, where he earned two and a half points for the Chippewas at the last tournament.
Rising junior Jered Cortez missed most of last season with an injury, but will be the favorite to grab the starting nod next year at 141.
The next five weights are all defending national champions. Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf both bonused their way through the entire NCAAs. Vincenzo Joseph pinned a two-time national champion in the finals. Mark Hall won as freshman. Bo Nickal beat the Hodge Trophy favorite in the finals.
Those five don't need any additional hype, so I'll leave it at that.
Matt McCutcheon was "only" a round of 12 finisher in 2017 and will be pushed next year by Anthony Cassar, if the latter is finally healthy. Nick Nevills will be a favorite to achieve All-American status for the second time at heavyweight in Cleveland.
A Table Of All The Returning 2017 NCAA Tournament Point Scorers
|Northern Iowa||149||Max Thomsen||10|
|Northern Iowa||184||Drew Foster||7.5|
|Northern Iowa||133||Josh Alber||3.5|
|Northern Iowa||165||Bryce Steiert||2|
|Northern Iowa||174||Taylor Lujan||1.5|
|South Dakota State||133||Seth Gross||19.5|
|South Dakota State||174||David Kocer||1.5|
|South Dakota State||165||Luke Zilverberg||1.5|
|South Dakota State||197||Nate Rotert||0.5|
|NC State||141||Kevin Jack||16.5|
|NC State||125||Sean Fausz||4|
|NC State||133||Jamal Morris||1|
|NC State||165||Brian Hamann||0.5|
|Central Michigan||149||Justin Oliver||5|
|Central Michigan||174||CJ Brucki||4.5|
|Central Michigan||285||Newton Smerchek||2.5|
|Central Michigan||184||Jordan Ellingwood||2.5|
|Central Michigan||141||Mason Smith||1.5|
|Central Michigan||157||Colin Heffernan||1|
|Rutgers||157||John Van Brill||0.5|
|Virginia Tech||149||Solomon Chishko||12|
|Virginia Tech||184||Zack Zavatsky||1|
|Virginia Tech||197||Jared Haught||12.5|
|Arizona State||149||Josh Maruca||1|
|Arizona State||157||Josh Shields||2|
|Arizona State||165||Anthony Valencia||3|
|Arizona State||174||Zahid Valencia||18.5|
|Arizona State||285||Tanner Hall||17.5|
|Oklahoma State||125||Nick Piccininni||16.5|
|Oklahoma State||133||Kaid Brock||11|
|Oklahoma State||141||Dean Heil||20|
|Oklahoma State||157||Joseph Smith||13.5|
|Oklahoma State||165||Chandler Rogers||14|
|Oklahoma State||197||Preston Weigel||10|
|Ohio State||133||Nathan Tomasello||15.5|
|Ohio State||141||Luke Pletcher||1.5|
|Ohio State||149||Micah Jordan||17.5|
|Ohio State||165||TeShan Campbell||3|
|Ohio State||174||Bo Jordan||17|
|Ohio State||184||Myles Martin||13.5|
|Ohio State||197||Kollin Moore||18.5|
|Ohio State||285||Kyle Snyder||24|
|Penn State||133||Corey Keener||2.5|
|Penn State||149||Zain Retherford||28|
|Penn State||157||Jason Nolf||27|
|Penn State||165||Vincenzo Joseph||23|
|Penn State||174||Mark Hall||22.5|
|Penn State||184||Bo Nickal||27.5|
|Penn State||197||Matt McCutcheon||4|
|Penn State||285||Nick Nevills||10|
Okay so when it comes to returning 2017 NCAA tournament points, that's all that is now, and all that is gone, and all that's to come, and everything under the sun.
Thanks for reading!