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Ohio State football players learn the true meaning of freedom

Urban Meyer is continuing to teach his players the importance of freedom by honoring those who have served.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

"We have some incredible people on our team, as most places have, and I don’t think you realize the depth until you ask for this kind of assignment. They opened their hearts to something as serious as this, and I was blown away."

-Urban Meyer, via Jesse Temple, ESPN

As a continuation of "Patriot Week" at Ohio State in May, which aimed to teach members of the football team real-life lessons about their freedom, head coach Urban Meyer is seeking ways to help others beyond the team itself. As a result, Meyer and the team reached out personally to the families of deceased servicemembers through a letter writing campaign. To make the process even more personal, Ohio State staff worked to match the players on the team with the families based on their own hometown. Defensive end Tracy Sprinkle, for example, was matched with fellow Elyria native Army Sgt. Daniel M. Shepherd, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. Meyer said that he will continue to incorporate the letter writing campaign into his "Real Life Wednesday" sessions, and that many of the players have found the sessions in preparation for Memorial Day to be extremely impactful. In his letter to the family of Marine Staff Sgt. Mark A. Wojciechowski, who died in Iraq in 2009, Hilliard wrote "From now on, everytime I hear the national anthem before a game, I will think of your son, and be thankful for every selfless hero who has put others before themselves in making an extreme sacrifice for the people of this country. Though I have never met your family, I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers for the rest of my life."

"Defending national champion Alabama has 10 of the 17 first-place votes and goes into the season as the clear No. 1."

-Steve Helwagen, 247Sports

With seemingly innumerable preseason polls available, all with different standings, 247sports compiled 17 of the most prominent polls currently available to produce a composite ranking of college football teams as they currently stand prior to the start of the 2016 season. Having lost two-thirds of its starters to the NFL Draft, the Ohio State Buckeyes are sitting at the No. 7 spot in the consensus poll, though they are as high as No. 3 in others. Michigan comes in at No. 5, but Ohio State ranked higher in four of five major preseason magazines. With the consensus poll, the Big Ten Championship would pit Iowa (No. 15) against Michigan. However, the Big Ten race will ultimately come down to Jim Harbaugh’s first trip to Columbus Nov. 26.

In terms of the College Football Playoff, the top-four teams are: Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Florida State. Ohio State and Tennessee (No. 8) are currently matched in the Cotton Bowl Jan. 2 as highly-ranked at-large bids.

While several teams, including Clemson, Oklahoma, Florida State, LSU and Tennessee, each received at least one first place vote, Alabama is the clear-cut favorite at the top spot. Following the trend of recent years, the SEC also seems to be the preseason’s favorite conference, with six teams in the top 25 and three in the top 10. The Big Ten, tied with the ACC and Big 12, has four ranked teams (Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and No. 14 Michigan State).

"Head coach Tom Ryan and his grappling Buckeyes have embraced the challenge of being a contender in the most grueling conference in any collegiate sport."

-Joe Dexter, the Buckeye Battle Cry

Just a year removed from the first NCAA crown in program history, the Ohio State wrestling team is not letting up on its slate for the 2016-17 season. Despite its schedule last year, Ohio State still managed a third-place finish in both the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament as the team continued to improve over the course of the season. With so many tough opponents heading into this season, it will be a similar learning curve for the young but talented squad.

Already forced to contend with some of the most prominent wrestling programs in the country, such as Penn State and Iowa, the Buckeyes will also have to face Missouri, who upset Ohio State last season in Columbia. While the Buckeyes will have to travel to Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska, the latter two of whom finished in the top-10 of last year’s NCAA Tournament, Ohio State will face Northwestern, Rutgers, Illinois and Penn State at home. Ohio State is not scheduled to face Michigan in dual meets this season.

Despite the loss of key seniors, including Hunter Stieber and Johnni DiJulius, Ohio State returns six starters from last season, including junior Kyle Snyder, who is competing in the Rio Olympics later this summer. Snyder entered last season planning to redshirt in preparation for the Olympics, but returned to the Ohio State squad following the start of the team’s conference matches, ultimately earning a national title at the 285-pound weight class. After a third-place finish at Germany’s Grand Prix over the weekend, Snyder will head to Rio to compete in the 97 kg freestyle class. Beyond Snyder, the Buckeyes are inundated with young talent, including sophomore Myles Martin, who won the first national championship for a true freshman in program history at the 174-pound weight class. Ohio State also returns 2014-15 NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello at the 125-pound weight class.