ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Iowa has a stranglehold on the NCAA wrestling championships, and would like to retain the status quo.
The five-time defending titlists have also won eight of the last nine entering the three-day meet that starts Thursday. The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 1 in the polls, and have been in the top spot most of the season.
''All our guys are looking forward to competing,'' coach Jim Zalesky said. ''I think there are five or six teams that could score a lot of points, and we know the key to doing well is just being consistent every round.
Iowa's list of nine qualifiers includes five holdovers from last year's meet and four newcomers. Doug Schwab is the defending champion at 141 pounds and T.J. Williams, who's wrestling at 157 pounds, won at 149 last year. Both are seeded first this year.
Two others, Jody Strittmatter (125) and Eric Juergens (133) are seeded first at their weight class.
''To me, this team is a little more experienced maybe than last year,'' Zalesky said. ''But we still have four new guys in there.''
The only other team to win during Iowa's run is Oklahoma State in 1994.
Teams from the heartland again dominate the field, with five Big Ten and three Big 12 schools comprising the sport's top eight. Minnesota has been the runnerup the last two years and again has a strong team, and Iowa State, which tied for fourth last year, won the national duals.
''Just like last year, there were a lot of teams in the hunt,'' Minnesota coach J Robinson said. ''It's great for the fans. As that board changes after every session, it gives them a chance to talk and get crazy.''
Iowa State also has 184-pound Cael Sanderson, who last year became the first freshman ever to be named the tournament's most outstanding wrestler. Sanderson, one of three brothers competing for the Cyclones in the meet, is 74-0 for his college career and 35-0 this season.
Last year, Sanderson also became the school's first freshman champion and was named the Cyclones' male athlete of the year.
''My only concern is that he starts reading the newspaper clippings and people start slapping him on the back and telling him how great he's going to be and how great he is,'' coach Bobby Douglas said. ''Anyone can get beat on any given day. Now, he's going to have to have a pretty bad day.''
Senior Cody Sanderson is 29-2 and ranked second at 133 pounds. Cole Sanderson, a junior, is 20-8 and ranked seventh at 157 pounds.
Other top individuals are heavyweight Brock Lesnar of Minnesota, the runnerup last year, and top-ranked Byron Tucker of Oklahoma, a perfect 29-0 at 174 pounds.
The meet is being held in St. Louis for the first time, and it's a guaranteed hit. Organizers have sold a record 93,000 tickets at the Kiel Center, breaking the previous mark of 90,064 set in 1997 at Northern Iowa.
Kiel Center is the largest venue to ever host the meet.
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