The NCAA moved the wrestling tournament away from campus locations to facilitate easier travel, better accommodations, and increased access/attendance. And that's why, after holding the Championships in Philly and St. Louis the last two years, they've moved the greatest college tournament in the world to Des Moines, IA. That's right - a town so big and easy to reach that it registers as a misspelling in most word processing applications.
But one thing they've improved over the years is the qualification and selection process for wrestlers to make the tournament. I can't remember all of the details, but rest assured that it used to really suck. Now, at least, it usually passes the standard sanity checks.
The first component to this is automatic qualifiers, which the NCAA allots on a per conference, per weight class basis. As shown in the table below, the NCAA wisely allocated the Big Ten 74 automatic qualifying bids, matching last year's record total. And if you, the reader, are one of the Top 6 wrestlers from next weekend's Big Ten Conference Championship at the 141 LBS weight class, then you get an automatic invitation to compete at the National Championships. Gradulations.
That's correct. If you went 0-11 on the year like Wisconsin 184-lber Ben Cox, but you can run the table at Big Tens and beat So-Fresh-So-Clean Ed Ruth along the way, then you, sir, get an invitation to the NCAA Championships. You'd deserve it, too.
If, however, you were to finish 7th at Big Tens at 184, then you're S.O.L. for the auto qualifier, and your fate rests in the hands of a selection committee. That selection committee will look at your RPI and your Coaches Poll ranking, as well as your overall winning percentage within your weight class, and - if they clouds part and you're one of the top 3 based on those qualifications - then you could receive an At-Large invitation. And though you never want to rely on that process, it never hurts to take a look at the numbers.
For example, if David Taylor somehow did not finish in the Top 8 for 165 LBS at Big Tens, then with his #1 RPI and #2 Coaches, and his 99.99% winning percentage, and his Past Champion and Past All-American accolades - he's a pretty good bet to get an At-Large bid.
Where it gets tricky is if someone like, oh I don't know.....#15 Joey Lazor, Northern Iowa's 141lber, gets upset at the MAC Championships. And Oregon State's 141 #4 Mike Mangrum gets upset in the Pac12 Championship. Both the MAC and Pac12 have just one automatic bid at 141lbs each. So if Lazor and Mangrum are both upset and finish 2nd, then they both enter the pool of candidates looking for one of those three At-Large bids. And that kind of scenario could make it difficult for a guy like PSU's Bryan Pearsall, should he finish outside the Top 6 at Big Tens.
But that's still 8 days away. Eight torturous, painfully long days.
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