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Even though the 2020 season is less than a week old, the transfer of Jaydin Eierman to Iowa has already got us thinking about the 2021 team race. It might be crazy to write an article about next year's team race right now, but that's what we're doing.
Based on our best guesses about next season's lineups, the three teams with the most firepower seem to be Iowa, Penn State, and Cornell. So let's take a look at the possible lineups for each of these teams and then make an educated guess about what might go down in St. Louis next March.
2020-21 Penn State Lineup Possibilities
PSU seems to lose serious firepower every year, but they somehow come back as loaded as ever. Could this year be different? This year, Penn State graduates Mark Hall, Vincenzo Joseph, Kyle Conel, and Shakur Rasheed, and there's no guarantee Anthony Cassar returns for another season, either. If Cassar does come back, that should help their chances quite a bit.
So here are some options for the Nittany Lions:
125: Brody Teske
133: Roman Bravo-Young
141: Nick Lee
149: Jarod Verkleeren
157: Brady Berge
165: Joe Lee
174: Carter Starocci
184: Aaron Brooks
197: Michael Beard
285: Anthony Cassar/Seth Nevills
Roster Battles: The heavyweight spot is unlikely to come down to a true roster battle. If Cassar decides to use his second medical hardship year, he'll be the guy, and if this season goes the way he hopes it will, he would be competing for his third national title in 2021.
Surest Title Contenders: If Cassar returns, he's a title contender or a title favorite. Nick Lee will be in the title hunt as well. While any of these other guys could make that kind of push, it's impossible right now to predict that they will. RBY is already an All-American, but in a field that could include Suriano, Fix, and Micic, he's not a guaranteed title threat.
We'll have a clearer answer to the "surest points" question at the end of this season, but right now, this looks like the lowest number of guaranteed points from a Penn State lineup in close to a decade.
Biggest Question: How battle-ready is this group of youngsters? By next year, we'll know a lot more about Teske, Verkleeren, Lee, Starocci, Brooks, and Beard, and it's hard to bet that a group that large will all pan out. Penn State fans can take confidence in the fact that Cael has developed plenty of young studs in his time, but the level of this group is a major question with so few D1 matches under their belts.
2020-21 Iowa Lineup Possibilities
Iowa, on the other hand, has a lot more decisions to make. They'll lose Cash Wilcke at 184 and Pat Lugo at 149, but the recruits, including high-profile transfers, they've hauled in these past two years could make things complicated.
125: Spencer Lee
133: Gavin Teasdale/Austin Desanto
141: Gavin Teasdale/Austin DeSanto/Jaydin Eierman/Max Murin
149: Jaydin Eierman/Max Murin
157: Kaleb Young
165: Alex Marinelli
174: Michael Kemerer/Nelson Brands
184: Abe Assad/Nelson Brands
197: Jacob Warner
285: Anthony Cassioppi
Roster Battles: You'll notice a high concentration of slashes from 133 to 149. That's because the Hawkeyes need to make room for Desanto, Teasdale, and Eierman, three of the highest-profile transfers in recent memory. Throw in Max Murin, and it's a mess.
Nelson Brands is another guy who won't be content as a backup, but his ability to beat either Kemerer or Assad remains to be seen.
Surest Title Contenders: Next season, Spencer Lee could be going for his fourth title. Marinelli and Desananto are title threats this year, and Eierman could be in that conversation as well. Jacob Warner may also rise to that level as four of the guys currently ranked ahead of him will graduate after this season. That's a salty bunch.
Biggest Question: How does Iowa get the most points out of Desanto, Teasdale, Eierman, and Murin? Eierman's best chance at an NCAA title seems to be wherever Yianni isn't. While Eierman knocked Yianni off two seasons ago, Yianni has looked like the better guy since then.
Since it is most likely that Yianni will wrestle 149, logic serves that 141 might be best for Eierman who, if he were wrestling this season, would be the clear #1 which would probably also be the case next year. But is this the best thing for the Hawkeyes?
Next year's field at 133 could be brutal. Suriano, Fix, and Micic could return to the field making it tough for a Hawkeye to land on top of the podium. Desanto is a proven All-American even in a field this deep, but Desanto at 133 might mean Teasdale doesn't fit in the lineup.
Ultimately, Iowa's roster from 133-149 feels like it will be either 1) Desanto and Eierman at the weight classes where they've proven to be highly successful and counting on a solid but somewhat unproven Max Murin or 2) Teasdale, Desanto, and Eierman who might be the three best individual wrestlers of this group but who each would have an uphill battle to win a title.
2020-21 Cornell Lineup Possibilities
The biggest loss for Cornell comes at 133 where U23 World Teamer Chas Tucker will be graduating. Other than that, the Big Red will be much improved over this year's team with the return of Olympic redshirts Vito Arujau, Yianni Diakomihalis, Andrew Berreyesa, and Max Dean. So here are some options:
125: Vito Arujau/Greg Diakomihalis
133: Vito Arujau/Dom LaJoie
141: Yianni Diakomihalis/Josh Saunders
149: Yianni Diakomihalis/Josh Saunders
157: Colton Yapoujian
165: Julian Ramirez
174: Chris Foca
184: Max Dean
197: Ben Darmstadt
285: Lewis Fernandez
Roster Battles: Cornell has a few options next year that center around Vito and Yianni. The most likely weights for these two seem like 125 for Vito and 149 for Yianni. This would allow Greg D a grey shirt year and would keep Josh Saunders at a weight that might fit him better.
Surest Title Contenders: Yianni already has two titles, Dean has been in the finals, and Darmstadt has to be considered a contender in a 197 field that will clear out quite a bit after this year. While it's hard to call anyone a true contender in a field that includes Spencer Lee, Vito is as close as they come if he goes 125.
Biggest Question: In 2021, will Cornell still be a year away? While this Cornell lineup looks outstanding, it will look largely the same in 2022 when Iowa loses Lee, Eierman, Marinelli, and Kemerer. While they should not be ruled out as a legitimate title threat next season, their time might be right around the corner.