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College Wrestling Update for March 21: D-1 Championships: Who stepped up?

By Jason Bryant

Another collegiate wrestling season has come to a conclusion and already folks are starting to analyze who will be the team to beat next year.

Oklahoma State's run at the NCAA championships was remarkable. John Smith's Cowboys piled up buckets of bonus points throughout the tournament and outdistanced its most capable challenger, Minnesota, by nearly 40 points. Oklahoma State has now won four straight NCAA team titles.

How did the Cowboys do it? Simple.

The wrestlers Smith expected to show up, for the most part, showed up. While defending national champions Zack Esposito and Steve Mocco failed to repeat as champions, Jake Rosholt and Johny Hendricks did repeat. But what about next year?

While the cupboards are hardly bare in Stillwater, the Cowboys return just four starters in their quest to win their fifth consecutive NCAA championship and 35th overall.

J Robinson's Golden Gophers beat the Cowboys twice in duals this season, but failed to perform up to their seeds in the tournament.

Of the 122.5 points Oklahoma State scored in the tournament, they return 54.5 points. Hendricks will be back to make a run at a third NCAA title at 165 pounds next season. He scored 23.5 points at the national meet.

OSU's sixth-seeded Coleman Scott placed fifth, rebounding from an opening round loss to Wyoming's Bryce Leonhardt to score 17.5 points.

Oklahoma State's Nathan Morgan, the second seed, finished sixth, scoring just 10 points. The only other returning point-scorer is 174-pounder Brandon Mason, who accounted for just 3.5 points.

But while Scott bested his seed by one and Morgan fell four spots lower than his seed, it was bonus points (the Cowboys scored nearly 30) that was a key difference.

Rosholt was the fourth seed despite being a two-time NCAA champion and he won his third title, picking up 26 points along the way. Placing three spots higher than his seed. Mocco matched his seed, finishing second, while Hendricks placed one spot higher, winning the championship as the second seed. Mason was seeded 11th, made the quarterfinals and lost to Matt Herrington of Penn in the Round of 12, finishing just about at his seed.

By contrast, Minnesota came in with seven seeded wrestlers, four of which matched their seeds right on. Top seeds Dustin Schlatter and Cole Konrad won national championships, while Mack Reiter, the fourth seed, finished fourth. Second-seeded Roger Kish was the runner-up.

Minnesota stands to be an early favorite for the title next year as the Gophers lose just one senior, Matt Nagel at 165. Seeded sixth, Nagel failed to place after finishing sixth in 2005.

Of the 84 points that Minnesota scored, the Gophers return 83.5 of them. That number could have been more had second-seeded C.P. Schlatter not had a disastrous tournament. A runner-up place could have netted the Gophers roughly 18 more points from the elder Schlatter, putting them over 100.

The point is moot, as C.P. Schlatter scored just 1.5 team points, but Oklahoma State's bonus points still carried the Cowboys.

Let's look at the power of the Top 15 teams at the 2006 championships and what they have returning. 2006 points in parenthesis.

1. Minnesota 83.5 (84)
2. Oklahoma State 54.5 (122.5)
3. Penn 51 (51)
4. Missouri 41.5 (45)
5. Iowa 40.5 (70)
6. Hofstra 40 (52.5)
7. Northwestern 36 (48.5)
8. Oklahoma 35 (80.5)
9. Cornell 35 (62)
10. Edinboro 34.5 (56)
11. Penn State 28.5 (53.5)
12. Iowa State 26.5 (48.5)
13. Arizona State 20.5 (61.5)
14. Michigan 17 (57.5)
15. Lehigh 12 (53.5)

Factor in Minnesota could have an All-American contender at 125 with Jayson Ness coming off a redshirt year and a body at 197 that could qualify for the tournament, the Golden Gophers look in great shape to take the trophy away from Oklahoma State.

The most surprising number in the field is Lehigh, which returns Matt Fisk (125), Trevor Chinn (149) and Paul Weibel (285). Between them, the trio scored 6.5 points. Penn returns all of its points, while Hofstra returns the brunt of their team, losing Jon Masa, but likely to get Mike Patrovich an additional year.

With stellar recruiting classes the last several years, don't expect Oklahoma State to finish 10th.

By conference

As usual, the Big 10 Conference had more All-Americans than any other conference, with 28. The Big 12 had 18, followed by the EIWA with 12, the Pac 10 with nine, the EWL had four, the CAA had three, while the MAC, ACC and SoCon each had two. The East and West Region didn't place a single wrestler, however Northern Iowa's C.J. Ettelson reached the Round of 12 while fourth-seeded Nick Baima was injured and defaulted out of both matches.

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