The first thing to keep in mind is that we only have preseason rankings on which to base our opinions. Those rankings will inevitably change, perhaps drastically, by the time the season is over. Thus we can only attempt to guess at this point.
The second thing to take note of is that not every dual is known, as many of the matchups at dual meet tournaments and events are to be determined (or else we just couldn't locate the matchups). We also did not include tournaments, and several teams clearly emphasized tournament participation over dual meets.
Finally, as much as we wanted to analyze every team in the NCAA, and we did at least take cursory looks at just about every DI team's schedule, time constraints limited our in depth analysis to 18 teams. We also stopped taking note of opponents outside the preseason 31 because of arbitrary time constraints. Apologies to anyone we didn't get to.
With our caveats out of the way, here are the top five toughest dual meet schedules:
1. Minnesota Golden GophersThe Gophers are one of two teams -- the other being Iowa -- that will wrestle each of the top four teams this year. They will also see nine top 20 teams, which is tied for the most in the NCAA. Being in the Big Ten helps with crafting a tough schedule, but Minnesota went the extra mile to make sure it saw quality out-of-conference foes. Oklahoma State and Cornell were both conference champions last year, and South Dakota State, North Carolina and Rider are all top-tier competition. Throw in trips to the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and the Daktronics Open and few teams will be as battle tested as Minnesota come March.
2. Michigan WolverinesThe Wolverines were the other team besides Minnesota to have nine top 20 opponents on its schedule. Michigan also went out of its way to ensure it had quality out-of-conference dual meets. The Wolverines will see both Lehigh and Arizona State in what looks to be top 10 years for both programs. Big Blue will also make their annual appearance at the CKLV for good measure.
3. Iowa HawkeyesFew teams get as much publicity for the teams they don't schedule as the Hawkeyes, but Tom Brands and company have still managed to construct a monster slate of dual meets. They'll see the current top four teams in the nation -- as they are currently ranked -- and Big Ten beasts Illinois, Rutgers, and Minnesota. Iowa's out of-conference schedule aside from Oklahoma State is not quite as strong as the top two teams on our list, but Rider is a very tough team. The Hawkeyes' annual match Iowa State will be a major event regardless of either team's ranking.
4. Ohio State BuckeyesIt's no coincidence that a fourth Big Ten team makes our list, as the toughest conference in the NCAA will naturally have the toughest schedules. The Buckeyes supplement their powerhouse in-conference schedule with matches against Arizona State, North Carolina State, and Princeton.
5. Arizona State Sun DevilsAs part of his commitment to building the Sun Devils back into a title contender, Zeke Jones has assembled the toughest out-of-conference schedule of anyone in the country. Oregon State and Stanford will be stout competition for sure, but the rest of the schedule is chock-full of non-Pac-12 powers. It must have no easy to task to find a way to get the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Lehigh, South Dakota State, and North Carolina to jigsaw into the schedule. Arizona State will also be making trips to the CKLV and the Midlands, just in case the duals weren't enough.
Honorable MentionLiterally everyone else. Scheduling is a thankless job and every DI coach who fills up a full slate of events deserves kudos. If you can think of another DI program not in the top five, we have officially included it as an honorable mention.
Below is the list of all the top 18 schools and every one of their top 31 opponents in the 2017-18 season.
No. 1 Penn State: 2 Ohio State, 3 Michigan, 6 Lehigh, 9 Iowa, 10 Minnesota, 13 Rutgers, 26 Buffalo
No. 2 Ohio State: 1 Penn State, 3 Michigan, 7 Arizona, State, 9 Iowa, 10 Minnesota, 12 NC State, 13 Rutgers, 21 Princeton
No. 3 Michigan: 1 Penn State, 2 Ohio State, 6 Lehigh, 7 Arizona State, 9 Iowa, 10 Minnesota, 16 Central Michigan, 17 Nebraska, 20 Oregon State, 21 Princeton, 31 Wisconsin
No. 4 OK State: 5 Missouri, 9 Iowa, 10 Minnesota, 11 UNI, 12 NC State, 18 North Carolina, 19 Wyoming
No. 5 Missouri: 4 OK State, 8 Virginia Tech, 11 UNI, 14 Illinois, 16 Central Michigan, 18 North Carolina, 22 Rider, 29 Virginia, 30 Cornell
No. 6 Lehigh: 1 Penn State, 7 Arizona State, 8 Virginia Tech, 21 Princeton, 25 Navy, 27 Pittsburgh, 30 Cornell, 31 Wisconsin
No. 7 Arizona State: 2 Ohio State, 3 Michigan, 6 Lehigh, 15 SD State, 18 North Carolina, 20 Oregon State, 27 Pittsburgh, 28 Stanford
No. 8 Virginia Tech: 5 Missouri, 6 Lehigh, 12 NC State, 16 Central Michigan, 18 North Carolina, 21 Princeton, 27 Pittsburgh, 28 Stanford, 29 Virginia
No. 9 Iowa: 1 Penn State, 2 Ohio State, 3 Michigan, 4 OK State, 10 Minnesota, 13 Rutgers, 14 Illinoi, ,22 Rider
No. 10 Minnesota: 1 Penn State, 2 Ohio State, 3 Michigan, 4 OK State, 9 Iowa, 13 Rutgers, 14 Illinois, 15 SD State, 18 North Carolina, 22 Rider, 30 Cornell
No. 11 UNI: 4 OK State, 5 Missouri, 15 SD State, 18 North Carolina, 30 Cornell
No. 12 NC State: 2 Ohio State, 4 OK State, 8 Virginia Tech, 17 Nebraska, 18 North Carolina, 29 Virginia
No. 13 Rutgers: 1 Penn State, 2 Ohio State, 9 Iowa, 10 Minnesota, 14 Illinois, 17 Nebraska, 18 North Carolina, 21 Princeton, 29 Virginia, 31 Wisconsin
No. 14 Illinois: 5 Missouri, 9 Iowa, 10 Minnesota, 13 Rutgers, 17 Nebraska, 31 Wisconsin
No. 15 SD State: 7 Arizona State, 10 Minnesota, 11 UNI, 16 Central Michigan, 19 Wyoming, 20 Oregon State, 27 Pittsburgh
No. 16 Central Michigan: 3 Michigan, 5 Missouri, 8 Virginia Tech, 15 SD State, 26 Buffalo
No. 17 Nebraska: 3 Michigan, 12 NC State, 13 Rutgers, 14 Illinois, 18 North Carolina, 19 Wyoming, 28 Stanford, 31 Wisconsin
No. 18 North Carolina: 5 Missouri, 7 Arizona State, 10 Minnesota, 11 UNI, 12 NC State, 13 Rutgers, 17 Nebraska, 19 Wyoming, 27 Pittsburgh, 29 Virginia, 30 Cornell