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  • Photo: Photo/Juan Garcia

    Photo: Photo/Juan Garcia

    Ranking No. 1-ranked wrestlers' NCAA title chances

    With the regular season complete, the only thing left for the NCAA wrestling season are the conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament. The question becomes which wrestlers who finished the regular season at No. 1 will run the table and become NCAA champions? The following is a look at who is most and least likely to accomplish that feat.

    Zain Retherford (Photo/Juan Garcia)

    1. 149: Zain Retherford (Penn State)

    Other Contenders: No. 2 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa), No. 3 Grant Leeth (Missouri), No. 5 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern).

    For the past three seasons, Retherford has basically been a sure thing. He has gone undefeated over those seasons and captured a pair of NCAA titles. This season has been more of the same. He has won all 23 of his matches and scored bonus in 91 percent of those matches. He holds a 5-0 career record against No. 2 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) and majored No. 5 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) back in November. He will clearly be the biggest favorite heading into this year's NCAA tournament.

    2. 133: Seth Gross (South Dakota State)

    Other Contenders: No. 2 Stevan Micic (Michigan), No. 3 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State), No. 4 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State)

    Gross finished one match short of an NCAA title last season as he lost to Cory Clark (Iowa) in the finals. This season, he has put together an undefeated 21-0 record at 133 pounds. He did bump up in weight to 141 pounds and dropped a match against No. 1 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming). He claimed a 7-1 decision over Stevan Micic (Michigan) at the NWCA All-Star Classic in November, but has not yet faced No. 3 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State).

    3. 174: Zahid Valencia (Arizona State)

    Other Contenders: No. 2 Mark Hall (Penn State), No. 3 Daniel Lewis (Missouri)

    Valencia lost only one match last year. He dropped a one-point match against No. 2 Mark Hall at the NCAA tournament and ended up finishing third. This season both Valencia and Hall are officially undefeated, but Valencia did defeat Hall in an exhibition match at the NWCA All-Star Classic. Another possible contender at this weight is No. 3 Daniel Lewis (Missouri). He has gone undefeated with an 85 percent bonus rate in his first year at 174. However, he has never faced Valencia or Hall.

    Bo Nickal (Photo/Juan Garcia)

    4. 184: Bo Nickal (Penn State)

    Other Contender: No. 2 Myles Martin (Ohio State)

    When it comes to Nickal, it is always important to mention No. 2 Myles Martin (Ohio State). The two wrestlers have one of the best rivalries in the sport. However, in their most recent match Nickal dominated and ended up winning a 10-2 major decision. If the Penn State wrestler has finally gotten over the Martin hurdle there should be no stopping him at the national tournament.

    5. 157: Jason Nolf (Penn State)

    Other Contenders: No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa), No. 3 Hayden Hidlay (NC State)

    Without an injury, Nolf would be much higher up this list. He suffered a knee injury against No. 18 John Van Brill (Rutgers) in January and has not returned to the mat. If Nolf competes at this weekend's Big Ten tournament and looks good, he could be a lock to make his third NCAA final and pick up his second NCAA title. No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) has gone undefeated this season, but historically he has struggled against Nolf. No. 3 Hayden Hidlay (NC State) is a bit of a wild card. He has gone undefeated and appears to have made strides coming off his redshirt season.

    6. 165: Isaiah Martinez (Illinois)

    Other Contenders: No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa), No. 3 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State)

    No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) knocking off No. 3 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) allows Martinez to move back into the No. 1 spot at 165. So far this season, he has not gotten a chance to avenge his loss to Joseph in last year's NCAA final. The winner of the upcoming Big Ten Championships, should be the favorite at the NCAA tournament. However, at this point, it would be hard to bet on Martinez without seeing the rematch against Joseph.

    7. 141: Bryce Meredith (Wyoming)

    Other Contenders: No. 2 Jaydin Eierman (Missouri), No. 3 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell), No. 4 Joey McKenna (Ohio State), No. 5 Kevin Jack (NC State), No. 7 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State), No. 8 Nick Lee (Penn State)

    For the last few seasons, No. 7 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) has lorded over this division. This year, he has looked extremely vulnerable and dropped four matches. Meredith started the slide for Heil with an overtime victory back in December. The Wyoming wrestler also holds wins over No. 2 Jaydin Eierman (Missouri) and No. 5 Kevin Jack (NC State), but on the other hand, he dropped a match against No. 3 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell). This ranking says less about Meredith's ability as a wrestler and more about the wide open nature of 141 pounds this season.

    8. 125: Nick Suriano (Rutgers)

    Other Contenders: No. 2 Darian Cruz (Lehigh), No. 3 Spencer Lee (Iowa), No. 4 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State)

    Suriano went undefeated in his sophomore season, but he has been out of action since the first weekend of February. Reports are that he was out with an illness, and he will be back at this weekend's Big Ten Championships. However, with that much of a layoff, nobody knows what to expect from the New Jersey native. While he does hold a win over No. 2 Darian Cruz (Lehigh) last season he has never faced No. 3 Spencer Lee (Iowa) or No. 4 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) in his collegiate career. If he is not at one-hundred percent, he could struggle against any of those three wrestlers.

    Adam Coon (Photo/David Peterson)

    9. 285: Adam Coon (Michigan)

    Other Contender: No. 2 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)

    Coon did what appeared to be impossible when he defeated world and Olympic champion No. 2 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State). With the win, he moved into the No. 1 ranking. However, it is hard to not consider Snyder the favorite. While he has been virtually unbeatable at the collegiate level, he has suffered losses on the international circuit. Despite those losses, he has still turned it on and taken home championships. Coon has had a great career, but Snyder is likely still the favorite at heavyweight.

    10. 197: Jared Haught (Virginia Tech)

    Other Contenders: No. 2 Ben Darmstadt (Cornell), No. 3 Mike Macchiavello (NC State), No. 4 Kollin Moore (Ohio State), No. 5 Willie Miklus (Missouri), No. 6 Shakur Rasheed (Penn State), No. 7 Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State)

    No. 4 Kollin Moore (Ohio State) held the No. 1 ranking for most of the season. However, he suffered a pair of late season losses against Anthony Cassar (Penn State) and No. 3 Mike Macchiavello (NC State) that knocked him off the perch. Haught stepped into the spot despite having been pinned by Moore at the Cliff Keen Invitational. Haught is the deserving No. 1 wrestler, but this weight is wide open. Even after the conference tournaments, it will be hard to determine a favorite.

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