Penn State wrestling team opens season as heavy favorite to win another national crown

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
  • The Penn State wrestling team has won seven national titles in the last eight years.
  • Penn State enters the 2018-19 wrestling season as the consensus No. 1 team.
  • Eight of Penn State's 10 potential starters are ranked nationally.

As college wrestling season officially kicks off this week, Penn State sits comfortably atop most major rankings.

Penn State's Jason Nolf, top, is one of the Nittany Lions' top returning wrestlers for the upcoming season. AP FILE PHOTO

Coming off its third undefeated season and seventh national championship in the past eight years, and with four past national champions and seven All-Americans returning, it’s hardly a surprise.

Penn State was the unanimous No. 1 in the first National Wrestling Coaches Association Division I poll released Wednesday, picking up all 16 first-place votes for 400 points.

Last season’s runner-up, Ohio State, was second with 376 votes, followed by fellow Big Ten foe Iowa at No. 3, then Oklahoma State, Michigan, Lehigh, Missouri, North Carolina State, Cornell and Arizona State, to round out the top 10.

Penn State will wrestle four of those teams — Ohio State, Michigan, Lehigh and Arizona State — in duals this season.

Lock Haven, featuring former Kennard-Dale standout Chance Marsteller, tied with South Dakota State for the No. 20 spot in the Top-25 poll.

Penn State fared just as well in other national preseason rankings, coming in at No. 1 in InterMat’s Tournament Power Index, FloWrestling’s team standings and the NCAA’s power rankings.

The Nittany Lions earned a dominating 140.5 points in InterMat’s TPI, which ranks a team’s potential tournament strength based upon individual rankings. Ohio State was a distant second with 99 points, followed by Oklahoma State with 87, Iowa 86.5 and Michigan 72.5.

Helping Penn State to earn those 140.5 points was the fact that eight out of 10 potential starters are ranked — seven in the top five at their respective weight classes. InterMat does not rank true freshmen.

Returning national champions seniors Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal, along with junior Vincenzo Joseph, each earned the No. 1 ranking at 157, 197 and 165 pounds, receptively.

Junior Mark Hall, a two-time finalist and 2017 national champion at 174 pounds, and two-time All-American heavyweight Nick Nevills both earned No. 2 rankings.

All-Americans sophomore Nick Lee and senior Shakur Rasheed picked up No. 4 rankings at 141 and 184, while redshirt freshman Brady Berge, widely expected to start at 149, came in at No. 16, after going 4-1 wrestling unattached in the Princeton Open last season.

Penn State wrestling kicks off its season Nov. 11 against Kent State, when Nickal will get the chance to cement himself as the No. 1 at his new new weight class with a win over No. 2 Kyle Conel.