- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Oklahoma State is a wrestling powerhouse that hasn’t won an NCAA title in nearly a decade.

This could be the year the Cowboys finally win again and break the Big Ten’s stranglehold on the top spot.

Oklahoma State garnered 10 of the 12 first-place votes in the initial NWCA coaches poll released last month. The Cowboys lost just one starter from last season and will be led by 165-pounder Alex Dieringer, who will be going for his third national title.

“He’s going to have to stay focused on and continue to train with the mentality of putting points on the board. Definitely a big year for him to put his name in the record books,” Oklahoma State coach John Smith said of Dieringer.

What to know as other teams chase the Cowboys in their quest for a 35th national title and first since 2006:

HOKEY POKEY

Oklahoma State will also return 149-pound national runner-up Josh Kindig and heavyweight Austin Marsden, who was eighth in the country a year ago. Austin Collica won the Big 12 at 141 pounds last season and could push for All-America status in 2015-16. But the Cowboys will be tested early and often. They open Saturday at fourth-ranked Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium in the first meet ever held at a Division I football stadium, an event that could draw close to 40,000 fans. They also wrestle on Nov. 29 at Minnesota - a perennial power that looks to be a bit down this year - and get a return date against the Hawkeyes on Jan. 11 in Stillwater.

CAEL’S KIDS BACK?

Penn State saw its four-year run of national championships end in 2014-15. But coach Cael Sanderson’s Nittany Lions are ranked second heading into this season, with Morgan McIntosh (197 pounds) and Jimmy Gulibon (141 pounds) expected to push for national titles. Penn State also returns a pair of All-Americans in senior Nico Megaludis and sophomore Zain Retherford, who should only be better this season after taking redshirts a year ago. The Nittany Lions look like the best bet to push the Cowboys.

BIG YEAR FOR BIG BLUE? At No. 3, Michigan hasn’t been ranked this high heading into a season in a decade. The Wolverines are as deep 1-10 as any team in the country, with their top-ranked recruiting class from three years ago expected to help the program push Penn State, Iowa and Ohio State in the top-heavy Big Ten.

HAWKEYES/BUCKEYES: Iowa has four legitimate national title contenders, including junior Cory Clark and sophomore Brandon Sorenson. Ohio State, which won its first NCAA title a year ago, should be solid yet again. But the fifth-ranked Buckeyes will be without their best wrestler: Kyle Snyder took an Olympic redshirt to compete for a spot on the U.S. team headed to next summer’s Rio Olympics and stunned the international community by winning a world title in Las Vegas two months ago.

INDIVIDUAL STARS: North Carolina State’s Nick Gwiazdowski is heavily favored to win his third straight NCAA crown at heavyweight, and last season Isaiah Martinez of Illinois was the first freshman to go unbeaten and win nationals since Sanderson did it at Iowa State in 1999. Oklahoma’s Cody Brewer is back after a surprise run through the field at last year’s NCAA meet at 133 pounds.

___

Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LukeMeredithAP

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide