We're a few weekends into the wrestling season, so there are now real, this-season results for the wrestling media services to use in implementing their rankings. As with anything internet, their decisions along the margins are usually both defensible and assailable--and fun to debate. Most are crystal clear that they operate on resumes and do not predict or project, but that part isn't as fun, so let's flip the script and use their averages to see what the team race might look like if everybody placed according to their ranks--this week.
Following are the six primary ranking services, in rough order of my preference, along with my takes on each. Most of them will update weekly from here on out, most often on Tuesday of each week.
1. Gregg A Henry (GAH), writing for The Wrestling Report. This is my favorite because it is the only one that ranks each weight out to the full 33 wrestlers who qualify for nationals. He clearly displays the last update date at the top and includes notes for each weight about top wrestlers who are injured or redshirting. Negatives include a lack of wrestler season records, no indicator of the previous week's rankings, and the eligibility year mention doesn't include redshirt information.
2. Intermat. They only rank out to 20, but they're consistent with updating weekly and their update date is clearly published. I may have a soft spot for them because I've read them for so long. Dig their consistency. They show previous week's rankings and school class without redshirt information. They don't display season records, but they do possibly one better in that each wrestler's name is a hyperlink to their NWCA match database. One click and you can see their whole season results including opponent, date and score.
3. Amateur Wrestling News (AWN). This list has historically been run by a dude who used to wrestle for J Robinson at Minnesota, so it's often more debatable than others, although usually pretty easily defensible. It includes season records and previous week's rankings and ranks out to 20. Class info does not include redshirt info, but their notes about star absences from rankings are helpful. They don't use a permalink to the rankings page, though; each week's update has its own URL, which allows for an accruing archive of rankings. Each week's rankings include all 10 weight classes on one page, where others, like Intermat, store each weight on different pages.
4. Flo Wrestling (FLO). I really like reading Flo's newest wrestling analyst, Christian Pyles, and he's the one who does their rankings. They rank to 20 and include a Pound for Pound rank that's always fun to debate (Stieber's exciting win over Maple at the Allstar prompted them to bump him up ahead of Ruth for #1), and they include the previous week's rankings, but no season records or redshirt information. Each weight is on its own page and each has a very helpful note about changes from week to week and the reasons behind them. Annoyingly, though, they don't publish the date of the rankings. Seems like an easy remedy, so maybe they'll fix that. They've also not donated enough screen real estate to their table of 20 wrestlers, which generates an annoying inner scroll. Really, though, not much separates Flo, AWN & Intermat for me.
5. Divsion 1 College Wrestling (D1CW). This list ranks to 25 and has no published date, season records or previous week's rankings. The site doesn't indicate how often, or when, they are updated, although I charted their list the first few weeks and can confirm that they have made changes.
6. Win Magazine (WIN). This list is last, mostly because they rushed out their preseason ranks (9/27/13) and made a lot of errors. It's also hideously formatted and tough to read. They include the previous week's rank, but exclude redshirt info and season records. They do, however, spell out the points system that they use in their Tournament Power Index.. And it's nearly identical to what I'll be using here!
NCAA Tournament Scoring Reminder
1. Placement Points: 16, 12, 10, 9, 7, 6, 4, 3 for placing 1st through 8th
2. Advancement Points: 1pt for advancing in the championship bracket (via win or bye), .5pts for advancing in the consolation bracket. Two years ago, in the 2012 NCAA tourney, they awarded an Advancement Point to all wrestlers in the first round who did not have a pigtail match (33 wrestlers mandate that there is one at each weight), so there were 5 possible Advancement points if you made it to the finals. In last year's 2013 tourney, they abolished that, so, sadly, David Taylor will only be able to best his score of 31.5 that tourney if he draws a pigtail match and ends up wrestling 6 matches, instead of 5.
3. Bonus Points: 2pts for Pin/DQ/Default, 1.5pts for Tech Falls, 1pt for Major Decisions. These are too fluid to project, but are one of Penn State's many strengths come tourney time.
Adding projected Placement Points and Advancement Points together gives us this matrix to use against the rankings:
Those Advancement Points are not exact, but good enough for this exercise. The assumptions are detailed in the last column, but there are other scenarios whereby a wrestler could end up with those amounts of Advancement Points. Using the above values, and assuming that a rounded average of a wrestlers current rank equals their final placement at nationals, we get these results for our beloved Nittany Lions:
I gave any wrestler unranked by that service a 33, which is the last qualifying spot for Nationals, and the first thing that jumps out at you from the PSU chart is that fat 33 AWN gave to Ed Ruth. They're the only service to remove him from rankings because of his suspension, and I'm sure they think it's funny, but, again, it is defensible. Sanderson has been unspecific, so Ruth's suspension is indefinite. So I get it. And hey, it's Ed's freakin fault anyway. But you can see what that does to his average: it takes him from an average rank of 1 & 20 projected points all the way down to #6 and 9pts.
While Ruth was only a problem for one service, Penn State's unsettled lineup is troublesome for most of them. They all have to guess on Conaway vs. Gulibon and I think three went with one and three with the other. Retherford is now on the radar of all six services, but with no huge signature wins, he still averages a Round of 12 finish, which brings only 1.5 team points. And how would you treat the Altons, who are recovering from injury? No timetable has been given for their return. Intermat, Flo & WinMag have all elected to continue to rank them, despite having no 2014 results for them yet. GAH, AWN & D1CW each have chosen to treat English & Vollrath as the Penn State starters instead.
There are scenarios whereby Penn State could win the team title with less than 2pts from the Altons (remember: this exercise excludes a Bonus Point projection), but it would be tight, like it was last year. The AWN anomaly aside, PSU averages four guys in the Top 3, with two of them huge favorites for a title. Plus, there's Morgan McIntosh. I'm betting that by January 3rd, he'll be at the top of the 197 rankings. We'll know a lot more about the rest of our lineup by then too, but for now, this is about where Penn State should be.
While we're at it, let's Chaaart. This mutha. Out. For Penn State's three most likely challengers in the 2014 team race.
Iowa's got four Top 3 guys too. Only one of their #1s is, maybe, as heavily favored as PSU's, but the other is a returning champ. It's their middle tier where they project the points difference over PSU: Evans & Clark project to mid-AA, earning 9 & 10pts respectively. While PSU's average rank across all ten classes is lower than Iowa's, Iowa projects to earn more points. Jeeva is unranked by 3 services, so they can climb there, and we all know how close Evans & Brown are to each other. There are a lot of wildcards in this exercise, but you can plainly see that the Hawkeyes lineup sets up to seriously challenge for the title.
Minny, as they seem to be every year that they contend, is awfully, awfully balanced. While they only have two Top 3's, their middle tier is a points-scoring machine. Only two services continue to rank Steinhaus, who was a consensus Top 5 guy preseason, because he is recovering from a surgically repaired ACL. Like the Altons, who knows what to expect from him when he returns, but if you count him, they have five guys ranked either 4 or 5! That's 55 points if you're counting at home. Retherford & the Altons may end up competing very well head to head against the Dardanes twins and Ness, but for right now today, Minny looks extremely formidable.
Okie's got three Top 3's, but their middle tier is weak and, right now, they have two very significant holes. Not that there's much difference, points-wise, between a Round of 12 finish (2pts) and a non-qualifier, but it looks like, unless something extraordinary happens for them at 184 or Heavyweight, they are going to lack the top-end firepower needed to best the other three giants.
That's all for now. Put your gypsy hat on and let us know what you see when reading the charts.