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Penn State Wrestling Finishes 6th at the National Championships

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For the first time since 2010, Penn State wrestling finished outside the top-5, in 6th place.

What is this heresy? "Not National Champion" does not compute. How did Penn State finish in 6th place?

A bunch of reasons, really. Let's examine them!

2015 Wrestling Nationals Final Team Scores

Place Team Total Points Plc Pts Adv Pts Bonus Pts Champs Finalists AAs Qualifiers
1 Ohio State 102 61 21.5 19.5 2 3 5 10
2 Iowa 84 47 22 15 0 1 6 10
3 Edinboro 75.5 44 16.5 15 0 2 4 6
4 Missouri 73.5 41 18.5 14 1 1 5 10
5 Cornell 71.5 41 18 12.5 1 2 4 8
6 Penn State 67.5 42 19 6.5 1 1 5 7
7 Oklahoma State 66 1 1 5
8 Minnesota 59.5 0 0 5
9 Nebraska 59 0 0 3
10 Virginia Tech 56 0 0 4

Apologies to Oklahoma  State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Virginia Tech. Blognalysis has its inherent limits.

Bonus Points

Every team in front of Penn State scored at least double the amount of Bonus Points that Penn State did. That looks really, really weird, given PSU's Bonus production the past couple years:

Year Place Total Points Plc Pts Adv Pts Bonus Pts Champs Finalists AAs Qualifiers NQ Weights
2010 9th 49.5 25 20.5 4 0 1 3 6 133, 141, 174, 197
2011 1st 107.5 60 31 16.5 1 3 5 8 165, 197
2012 1st 143 82 35.5 25.5 3 5 6 9 141
2013 1st 123.5 68 26 29.5 2 5 5 10 n/a
2014 1st 109.5 64 25.5 20 2 2 7 10 n/a
2015 6th 67.5 42 19 6.5 1 1 5 7 141, 157, 165

PSU was bound to drop back to the Bonus pack some with the graduation of David Taylor & Ed Ruth, but what maybe hurt this year's Bonus Points most was only qualifying seven wrestlers. Kade Moss benefited from some forfeits in scoring 21 points at the Scuffle, but he also had three pins, including one over Oklahoma State's Dean Heil--who placed 4th last weekend! Thirteen of Garett Hammond's 23 wins this season were bonuses. We'll get into the root causes of 157 later, but suffice it to say that not everybody is All-American James English. Maybe if oft-injured, career 149-pounder Luke Frey had been, and maybe if Moss & Hammond had won their 9th place matches at Big Tens and actually competed in St. Louis, they would have scored 4 Bonus Points between them?

Just Win Baby

We covered the individual performances of Penn State's seven wrestlers in detail yesterday and on Tuesday. Four of them lost at least one ridiculously close match that, had they won, would have altered the close team race fairly dramatically. Starting from the top:

  • McIntosh battled back for third to make up 10 of the 12 points he missed out on by not being in the finals. Structurally, in the context of the bracket, though, his loss in the quarterfinals was damaging. Had he scored that last takedown against the Dukie and advanced to the semis, he would have earned 7 points immediately applied on Friday morning and would have set himself up for his first match of the season vs Iowa State's eventual champion, Kyven Gadson. Ohio State's Snyder was on the other side of the bracket and was unaffected by McIntosh's stumble, since they would not have seen each other until a Finals rematch anyway.
  • Iowa's Cory Clark definitely earned his win over Jimmy Gulibon in the 133-pound semifinals, but it was close. At one point after a Gulibon shot, the referee signaled a takedown for Jimmy, who saw the signal and released the leg he'd corraled in order to change position. Clark kept hustling, though, and the ref waved off the Gulibon takedown, instead awarding it to Clark. Had Gulibon secured that takedown (and not given up an ensuing reversal, which Clark may have earned anyway) and hung on for the W, Penn State would have earned another 7 points on Friday night alone. If you watched Oklahoma's Cody Brewer maul the field, you wouldn't have given Gulibon much more of a chance against him than Clark, but after that loss, Gulibon only scored one more team point, so the +6 difference would have been helpful.
  • Jimmy Lawson wasn't very close to winning any of the matches he lost--all to better, more experienced heavyweights--so we'll leave his hypothetical wins alone.
  • Jordan Conaway was a couple matches away from significant point differentials, but they were definitely winnable. Had he finally solved Thomas Gilman in Round 2, not only would Iowa's potential later points have taken another hit (and who knows what kind of psychological toll a fourth(!) top-5 seed losing in the first two rounds would have had on later Hawkeye performances), but Jordan would have faced a rematch with 3-seed Joey Dance. Conaway won their first matchup and could have really started sending his team some points with another win against him in the quarterfinals.
  • Ahead of even Gulibon on the 'thiiiiisss close to significant team points' scale is Matt McCutcheon. If he had been able to hold on to his 3-0 second-period quarterfinal lead over Ohio State's Kenny Courts...man. Seven more points go right to Penn State's team score. That one win would have moved PSU from 6th to 4th place by itself! It also would have taken seven points off of Ohio State's team score and jeopardized Courts' ability to score any more by dumping HIM into the Round of 12 instead of McCutcheon. As it was, Courts only scored one additional point anyway, but the 14-point swing was massive. Big, big missed opportunity to sway the team race right there. Even after that, McCutcheon left another 3.5 points on the table by dropping the 5-2 decision to Dudley. With the way he had been wrestling and the beautiful upset of 3-seed Stauffer in Round 2, Mouse was set up very nicely to really affect the team race, but he couldn't quite get over the hump.
  • Zack Beitz was also a couple matches away from significant a team points change, but a win in his match with Villalonga would have brought PSU closer to Cornell. Had he squeaked a win by Pantaleo in the consis, he would have only brought an additional .5 points and would then be facing 4-seed Clark in the R16. So, not much to see here as far as the team race is concerned.

Tourney Turmoil

If Gabe Dean had lost his finals match, Penn State would have tied Cornell and maintained its streak of consecutive years in the top-5, at five years. But that was a tall order for Lehigh's Nate Brown, whom Dean had already beaten three times this year. But the what-if game can be really fun in dissecting a double-elimination wrestling tournament, what with the three flavors of scoring and the closeness of so many individual matches.

A more accurate possibility (accurate meaning 'closest to reality / closest to actually having happened) was if the refs and the Old Dominion coaches, and the NCAA for that matter, had all handled the Ian Miller - Brian Realbuto quarterfinals snafu better. Miller had a nice lead in the third, 8-4, but Realbuto gassed him and came roaring back. He got an escape and a takedown to bring it to 8-7, Miller. Realbuto immediately cut Miller and took him down again. The officials failed to award that escape point to Miller (the cut point) and instead mistakenly scored two consecutive takedowns, showing the score to be 9-8 in favor of Realbuto. Most scoring software does not allow for that, and the trackwrestling scoresheet indicates a workaround was used; it says, consecutively for Realbuto, 'E1, T2 +2.' What the hell is the +2? It's a workaround to give Realbuto two points that the scorekeeper probably wasn't allowed to key in because the entry immediately before that was a Realbuto takedown (and not a Miller escape / E1). So the end-of-regulation result was, after Miller's riding time point was awarded, 9-9 and in OT, Realbuto swooped in for the winning takedown.

Another missed call that would have drastically changed Penn State's score was an apparent pin by Jimmy Gulibon over A.J. Schopp. Gulibon had him stacked up, with both shoulder blades flat on the mat, for a good three seconds. Control had not yet been awarded, however, and that was all the ref seemed to care about. He never even lowered himself to the mat to evaluate it, instead focusing on the control aspect, which Schopp gained soon after and pinned Gulibon himself. The two missed Bonus Points, the missed .5 Advancement Points and the missed 3 Placement Points would have put PSU in 5th place alone. And a Gulibon win in the 3rd place match, over Minny's Chris Dardanes who barely beat Gulibon in the dual, could have even overtaken Missouri for 4th place. You get the idea: it's a crazy tourney where anything can--and does--happen.

Injuries

I'm sure part of it was my new vantage point only feet from the wrestlers, but this year's nationals felt like a hospital room at different points. The biggest disappointments were in the 157 pound weight class, where there were five very exciting wrestlers and two of them were brought low by injuries. The first was fan favorite Dylan Ness from Minnesota, and Realbuto and Cornell were again the benefactors. In the middle of the third period, Ness hurt his shoulder and had to default out at the 2:28 mark. Realbuto advanced and scored 9 points in that round, the maximum possible in any one tournament round. Realbuto had beaten Ness at National Duals in February, so it's obviously very possible he could have done so again. But the fans missed out on a great match.

After that quarterfinal loss to Realbuto, Ian Miller scored a 24-6 technical fall in the Round of 12 and an 8-4 decision in the consi quarters, before facing Nebraska's James Green in the consi semis. Somewhere in that match with Green, Miller hurt his knee pretty badly.

Green sure felt it.

He proceeded to finish the match while blatantly avoiding that left leg altogether, including cutting Miller after a late takedown so he could finish the match on his feet. It was really bizarre; I'd never seen such blatant sportsmanship over an injury in wrestling before, although it's probably more common than in my experience.

James Green ended up finishing the tourney in third and finishing his career as a 4x All-American (7th, 7th, 3rd, 3rd). In the offseason, he was my pick to win 157 and to challenge Stieber for the Hodge Trophy if anybody might manage to zPain him. But then Isaiah Martinez happened, and Green's quest for a title ended without one. Still, he is going to be missed.

The injuries to Miller & Ness reached a momentarily surprising end, when Miller limped out to center at the start of their scheduled 5th-place match. Even though Ness had shown he could not physically finish his previous match with Realbuto, Ness appeared in his corner and very gingerly slipped his singlet up over his shoulder. I was all like 'no way! Neither of these guys should be wrestling.'

And they weren't.

Ness was forfeiting to Miller. But unlike most medical forfeits where the injured wrestler doesn't even usually appear, this was the official end to the career of the Great Dylan Ness, who finishes as a 4x AA, 2x Finalist and 0x Champ. That such a wrestler as Ness never achieved a title underscores the difficulty of the endeavor, and the impressiveness of Logan Stieber's feat. Ness brought a brand of wrestling to the mat that excited fans of all teams, and the standing ovation he received was the only such unanimous applause heard in the arena the entire weekend. Both Iowa and non-Iowa fans joined in appreciating an entertaining and classy wrestler.

Dylan Ness is definitely going to be missed.

The Alton Twins

The biggest injury contributors to Penn State's 6th-place finish were inside their own house, however.  As recently as the middle of January, Dylan Alton was wrestling well and ranked in the top-8 at 157. But then in the Purdue dual on the 18th, he dislocated one of his two surgically repaired shoulders in a 3-1 overtime loss to Doug Welch. He had spent the fall of this season recovering from his second labrum surgery and the prognosis was pretty good. He'd debuted in the Southern Scuffle and went 5-2 for 4th place and 17.5 team points, including wins over R12 Anthony Collica and Realbuto.

Before the Purdue meet, he continued to look good, going 3-0 with an overtime win over Ohio State's then-#5 Josh Demas and an 11-3 Major Decision over Rutgers. It was absolutely gutting to see him get dinged yet another time. We hoped against hope he could recover one more time, but the coffin nail appeared in the middle of February when Dylan's shoulder failed him again and Oklahoma State's Anthony Collica tech-falled him in the dual in Stillwater.

In Dylan's best, healthiest finish in 2012, he scored 15.5 points battling back to 3rd place after a quarterfinals loss. 157 was pretty wild this year, but one of the guys he pinned in that Scuffle debut was finalist Realbuto. And with the eventual injuries to both Miller and Ness, who's to say Dylan couldn't have reached the finals himself, depending on which side of the bracket he landed with respect to Martinez? Penn State finished 16.5 points behind second-place Iowa; could a healthy Dylan have made up that point difference?

Andrew's luck was perhaps even worse than Dylan's. He was the only one of the two who could squeeze into 141 when they first arrived on campus in the 2011 season, so he was thrown to the wolves in his true Freshman year. And in a very stacked weight!

Andrew came out doing what he does best--big headlocks, throws and pins and got the Rec Hall crowd very excited for what the future might hold. Fourteen(!) of his first 17 wins were pins. His first loss was to #1 Kellen Russell, an eventual 2x Champ, in a 4-3 decision. In the Iowa dual that year, he brought the Rec Hall faithful to its feet when he threw Iowa's returning AA Montel Marion to his back and had what looked like a pin, before running out of steam in an 11-9 loss. In fact, all of Andrew's 10 losses that season were to eventual All-Americans, including a 5-4 decision to Penn's Zach Kemerer in the Round of 12, when the weight cut and battles against the top studs finally took their toll and ended his season.

The next year, Andrew redshirted while Dylan placed third and the following year, both Altons suffered the first of many shoulder injuries. Bizarrely, or maybe not for identical twins, both boys each suffered injuries that required surgery to both of their labrums. Because only one shoulder could be repaired at a time, they wrestled the next two seasons with either two injured labrums or with one injured and one recovering from surgery or with two recovering from surgery. Given the long history of those injuries, fans were cautious about the prospect of having both, or one, available for this first year post Taylor-Ruth. Andrew answered that question pretty quickly when he busted a knee early last Fall that required surgery, and he never wrestled a match this season. It sounds like a medical redshirt possibility path is being embarked upon, but it might be a long-shot, and it's unclear if Andrew would even wrestle that last season at PSU if it is indeed successful.

It's possible that the field may have eventually caught on to Andrew's pinning tricks, although David Taylor continued to pin people at a high rate as his career evolved. But it's really difficult to believe that two healthy Altons this year would have both missed the podium. If we gave a really conservative estimate (again, based on their healthy peformances in 2011 & 2012) of 10 points each, Penn State would have finished this year in second place. And if both of them had made the finals and one won a title, both with a few Bonus Points along the way, say, finishing with 20 and 16 points, Penn State would have closed the 35.5 point gap between 6th and 1st place. And Gable's nine-straight titles streak could still be in reach after Penn State won its fifth national championship in a row.

Real Talk

But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is the Altons were hampered and their careers were unluckily impeded by poor health. Another truth is that Cael Sanderson, after wrestling both Nico Megaludis and Zain Retherford in their true Freshman--team title contention years--redshirted both of them this year. We could do some quick math and give Nico 10 more points than Conaway and Retherford 15 more points than the goose egg at 141, and that second-place gap would be closed and the first-place one would be in hypothetical jeopardy. But that message is over. You get the point.

The real truth is that we pretty much knew what we had most of this season. We saw promise in a few up-and-comers and we heard the coaches religiously stick to their message of positivity, but Penn State's seedings for nationals were pretty fair; they were earned by their season's body of work. When the season was over, Cael admitted that "we always have to believe that we can win, but we also have to have the guys who can score points."

He added, "I think we did a nice job."

So the question: is how nice of a job? Depending on how the algo was constructed, Penn State was projected to finish slightly worse than where they did. There are two key ways to analyze final placements versus the pre-tourney seedings. One is a measurement of the ordinal difference between the seed and the placement. If you were seeded 11th, like Conaway, and finished in 8th, that's a +3 over-performance of seed. The second way is to use an algo to project the non-Bonus Points a particular seed would earn and compare that to the points the actual placement would/did earn. Conaway's 11-seed, using the algo I used all year in the Phat Mat Stats rankings posts, projected to earn 2 non-Bonus Points (Advancement + Placement(which would be zero since 11 is off the podium and out of range of the last scoring place: 8th)). When he finished 8th and earned 5.5 points, the Team Point Differential is 3.5. So Jordan has a +3 Ordinal Differential and a +3.5 Team Point Differential.

Got it?

Penn State's chart looks like this (and here's a link to the whole spreadsheet if you'd like to download it and use it yourselves):

Weight PSU Wrestler Seed Projected Tourney Points Placement Non-Bonus Tourney Points Team Point Differential Seed to Placement Ordinal Differential
125 Jordan Conaway 11 2 8 5.5 3.5 3
133 Jimmy Gulibon 7 6.5 5 10 3.5 2
141 Kade Moss 33 0 33 0 0 0
149 Zach Beitz 12 2 17 1 -1 -5
157 Luke Frey 33 0 33 0 0 0
165 Garett Hammond 33 0 33 0 0 0
174 Matt Brown 2 16 1 20 4 1
184 Matt McCutcheon 14 1.5 9 2 0.5 5
197 Morgan McIntosh 2 16 3 13.5 -2.5 -1
HWT Jimmy Lawson 8 5.5 6 9 3.5 2
Totals/Avgs 15.5 49.5 14.8 61 11.5 7
AA Counts 4 5
Underperformed Seed 2
Wrestled to Seed 0
Overperformed Seed 5

The more I look at that chart, the more I'm bummed about our three holes at 141, 157 & 165. There HAD to have been some points there, if those guys could have just gotten to St. Louis. In any event, that's not too bad: 5 guys over-performing their seed. Cael twice failed to mention Beitz under-performing his seed, both in the hallway after the finals and at the PSWC social when he was busting McIntosh's balls for only finishing 3rd, but I can't tell if that was deliberate or just slipped his mind. Lawson never really threatened to do better than he did and Beitz was two rounds away from his seed, but each of Conaway, Gulibon, McCutcheon & McIntosh were very, very close to improving on even their over-performances of seed. Five over-performers and differentials of +11.5 / +7 are pretty good, right?

Cael's assessment seems apt: they did a nice job this year.

But that's enough about the Nittany Lions for now. We'll have plenty of time this offseason to talk lineups and incoming & returning studs and their prospective impact on the 2016 team race.

Let's look at how those teams ahead of Penn State this year did.

Brutus on Top (1st Place, 102 Points)

I've been crowing Ohio State as my favorite to win this year's title since last summer, based primarily on the presence of multiple top-end firepowers. They had the staple--the returning 3x Champ, a returning third-place AA, three elite newcomers just coming off redshirt or high school and they had a balanced cast of five Tier Two guys who could threaten the podium at any time. Penn State fans had just finished watching some variation of that formula the past four years: a couple bonus-scoring finalists ameliorated with a few All-Americans.

So anyway, all that did indeed happen (nbd) and brutus earned its first ever wrestling National Championship.

Gradulations, brutus.

But check out Ohio State's 2015 variation on it, in terms of performance vs. seed:

Weight Ohio State Wrestler Seed Projected Tourney Points Placement Non-Bonus Tourney Points Team Point Differential Seed to Placement Ordinal Differential
125 Nathan Tomasello 4 12.5 1 20 7.5 3
133 Johnni DiJulius 4 12.5 13 1.5 -11 -9
141 Logan Stieber 1 20 1 20 0 0
149 Hunter Stieber 33 0 33 0 0 0
157 Josh Demas 6 9 17 1 -8 -11
165 Bo Jordan 5 10 3 13.5 3.5 2
174 Mark Martin 10 2 17 1 -1 -7
184 Kenny Courts 17 1 5 10 9 12
197 Kyle Snyder 4 12.5 2 16 3.5 2
HWT Nick Tavanello 33 0 33 0 0 0
Totals/Avgs 11.7 79.5 12.5 83 3.5 -8
Placement Counts 6 5
Underperformed Seed 3
Wrestled to Seed 3
Overperformed Seed 4

Now some of that weird data is the result of subjective decisions regarding how exactly to treat either the unseeded wrestlers ranked 17-33 or the ambiguity of the exact finish of four or more wrestlers who got eliminated in the same round, but had no further wrestle-offs. Four wrestlers got eliminated in the R12 of each weight and four also got eliminated in the R16, while 8 wrestlers got eliminated in consi rounds 24 and 32. There's no way to accurately distinguish their rank within that round. Hunter went 0-2 and finished R32. We could have named his 'placement' at anything from 25 through 33. Similarly, given his unseeded position to start, we could have set his seed at anything from 17 through 33. But to keep the comparative data reasonable, we subjectively set both his starting point & end point at 33.

Martin went 1-2 for a R24 finish, meaning we could set his 'placement' at anything from 17 to 24. In order to avoid skewing the desired resultant competitive data, we chose the lowest gap of under-performance available and set it to 17. Choosing that number over, say, 24, had no effect on the Team Point Differential (it equaled 1pt either way), but it was a big difference in the Ordinal Differential (resulted in -7, instead of -14). Hopefully that explains any variances in the data. In short, I erred on the side of the most minimal impact to Ordinal Differential when selecting a subjective placement or seed inside a group of commonly eliminated wrestlers.

Ohio State had three wrestlers under-perform their seeds. Johnni DiJulius and Josh Demas combined to leave 19 points on the table by not wrestling to their seeds (-11, -8 respectively). Mark Martin's under-performance was swallowed up and barely meaningful in Team Point Differential (starting at the 10-seed with only two projected points, it's difficult to fall too far), but the dive from 10th to Round of 24 made up the overwhelming majority of brutus' team Ordinal Differential (-15). Tomasello's 7.5-point gain and Courts' 9-point gain, combined with Jordan's & Snyder's modest 3.5-point gains, balanced those losses out, though, for a net gain of +3.5 points in Team Differential.

Really, brutus' performance (mostly chalk for its 4 non-injured studs + vast under-performance by Tier 2 Not Named Kenny Courts) really left the door open for some erstwhile challenger to attack them. Lucky thing for Ohio State was...nobody in the field seemed willing to do so.

On Iowa (2nd Place, 84 Points)

This is the fifth year in a row Iowa did not win a team title. More damningly, to both the worst of the rabid psycho fans expectant of Dan Gable-esque dominance in a modern era of 9.9 scholarships and to the moderate, objective, still die-hard but immensely disappointed reasonable folk, the vaunted number one recruiting class of 2010 finished with zero individual Big Ten Champions and zero individual National Finalists. They meekly rounded out their careers with a shared Big Ten Tourney title and a second-place finish at nationals, which prompted this quip from Sophomore All-American, Thomas Gilman:

Iowa's got bigger problems, though, than failure to meet unreasonable expectations. They've got style problems that BHGP has been expressing disappointment in for at least two years and which came to a head in their finals loss to Missouri in February's National Duals. Fans of all teams, though, can see it: the product on the mat looks more pushy and less... score-y.

All that would be fine, even, if they merely met the reasonable expectations. Say, the ones set by the seeds earned in their regular season bodies of work:

Weight Iowa Wrestler Seed Projected Tourney Points Placement Non-Bonus Tourney Points Team Point Differential Seed to Placement Ordinal Differential
125 Thomas Gilman 6 9 4 12.5 3.5 2
133 Cory Clark 3 13.5 2 16 2.5 1
141 Josh Dziewa 5 10 16 1.5 -8.5 -11
149 Brandon Sorensen 4 12.5 4 12.5 0 0
157 Mike Kelly 33 0 33 0 0 0
165 Nick Moore 33 0 33 0 0 0
174 Mike Evans 3 13.5 6 9 -4.5 -3
184 Sammy Brooks 9 2 9 2 0 0
197 Nathan Burak 6 9 7 6.5 -2.5 -1
HWT Bobby Telford 3 13.5 5 10 -3.5 -2
Totals/Avgs 10.5 83 11.9 70 -13 -14
AA Counts 7 6
Underperformed Seed 4
Wrestled to Seed 4
Overperformed Seed 2

It could be fairly argued the Jevva over-performed his previous body of work by reaching the Big Ten Finals, and that he was subsequently seeded inaccurately at #5. He he made up the majority of Iowa's under-performance in both Team Point and Ordinal Differentials. But even if he had been seeded 8 or 12, the Round of 16 finish was a disappointing, if not a wholly unexpected, result. Mike Kelly and Nick Moore crawled to the finish line of tough, hard careers and we shouldn't be surprised if either or both of them announce they'll be getting surgery on some broken piece of their beaten & weary bodies soon here this offseason.

And still (!), with Hunter Stieber's ineffectiveness and brutus leaving the door to the title open in what could be a rapidly-closing window for the Hawkeyes, and Iowa sporting a lineup of seven remaining very capable wrestlers, the requisite achievement fell short.

Gilman and Clark over-performed like the leaders they are quickly becoming and Sorensen clawled back to even after a shocking second-round loss to Penn's 13-seed CJ Cobb. But Sam Brooks had a rough draw that confined him to a seed/placement which all signs indicated he was probably above (although 184 was a really tough weight nationally this year). Senior Mountain Man Bobby Telford also failed to navigate an unlucky early draw and finished in 5th place, far away from the title he was capable of. And lastly, another Senior leader, Mike Evans, for the second year in a row, failed to win a match after losing a super-tight semifinal contest.

This was their year.

Penn State was reloading after Taylor & Ruth, Ohio State looked vulnerable from injury and under-performance, Missouri was choking on a massive scale, Edinboro didn't have quite enough firepower and Cornell had too many holes. This was the perfect year for Iowa to banish their demons and ascend to their rightful place to sitteth at the right hand of Dan the Father Algable.

But, le sigh and la-ment and lalalalalalalet'stalkaboutMissouri.

Them Scots Sure Can Fight (3rd Place, 75.5 Points)

Sorry, no disrespect intended, Edinboro. I was just in a hurry to address Missouri's massive, debilitating choke. Did we mention Missouri choked? We'll get to them in plenty of time. Let's talk about you.

First, mad respect.

You rolled into St. Louis with only six wrestlers, three of whom were studs and one of whom had been hanging around the edges of stud for a full season. Your two 2-seeds both reached the finals, where they suffered defeat at the hands of great champions and did so with class and dignity and fight. Your injured former title challenger got healthy enough to win seven straight consi matches after losing a tight one in the first round and your fourth man, hoo boy. He rode his 13-seed to wins over the 3, 4, 5 & 6 seeds and a 3rd-place finish. Just studly.

Here's how it looked on paper:

Weight Edinboro Wrestler Seed Projected Tourney Points Placement Non-Bonus Tourney Points Team Point Differential Seed to Placement Ordinal Differential
125 Korey Mines 12 2 12 2 0 0
133 AJ Schopp 9 2 3 13.5 11.5 6
141 Mitchell Port 2 16 2 16 0 0
149 David Habat 3 13.5 2 16 2.5 1
157 Austin Matthews 33 0 33 0 0 0
165 Casey Fuller 33 0 33 0 0 0
174 Patick Jennings 33 0 33 0 0 0
184 Vic Avery 13 1.5 3 13.5 12 10
197 Vince Pickett 33 0 33 0 0 0
HWT Forrest Christman 33 0 33 0 0 0
Totals/Avgs 20.4 35 18.7 61 26 17
Placement Counts 2 4
Underperformed Seed 0
Wrestled to Seed 3
Overperformed Seed 3

Three wrestling to seed and three over-performing doesn't jump out at you, but Schopp's and Avery's over-performances shook both the Team Point and Ordinal Differentials. Only Avery returns from that group and Edinboro's top-5 days are over for the time being, until coach Tim Flynn can convince the next superstar from Bellefonte to eschew Penn State and come on up to the Northeast.

Tiger? I Barely Knew Her (4th Place, 73.5 Points)

If you're any kind of a people-watcher sports fan, this tournament is for you. Teams are divided, roughly, by arena section and errybody is reppin their squads' labels. Mizzou fans, representing the official host school, and hoping to watch their team earn their very first NCAA wrestling championship, were out in force.

We all thought they had a lot of reason for hope. They looked amazing in winning February's Nationals Duals, they had three legit individual title threats and a stable of tough Tier Two / podium challengers, and they were the highest-scoring team as projected by seeds.

Slowly, though, session by session, the energy dissipated from their fans' section as nearly all of their highest projected point-scorers fizzled and fell.

Weight Missouri Wrestler Seed Projected Tourney Points Placement Non-Bonus Tourney Points Team Point Differential Seed to Placement Ordinal Differential
125 Alan Waters 1 20 3 13.5 -6.5 -2
133 Zach Synon 33 0 33 0 0 0
141 Lavion Mayes 5 10 7 6.5 -3.5 -2
149 Drake Houdashelt 1 20 1 20 0 0
157 Joey Lavallee 17 1 13 1.5 0.5 4
165 Mikey England 17 1 9 2 1 8
174 John Eblen 4 12.5 13 1.5 -11 -9
184 Willie Miklus 17 1 7 6.5 5.5 10
197 J'Den Cox 1 20 5 10 -10 -4
HWT Devin Mellon 11 2 11 2 0 0
Totals/Avgs 10.7 87.5 10.2 63.5 -24 5
AA Counts 5 5
Underperformed Seed 4
Wrestled to Seed 3
Overperformed Seed 3

Joey Lavallee and Mikey England placed slightly better than their seeds, so only Willie Miklus did significantly better than he was seeded to do. And on the other end, two of their three projected champions fell significantly, to 3rd and 5th, costing the team 16.5 points in the Team Point Differential.

The worst offender, though, was a victim of his own stupidity as much as he was the perils of the field. Missouri's probably-overseeded 174-pounder, John Eblen (at the 4-seed), got knocked to the consis in the first round by an unseeded lad from Oregon State.

He appeared to have been shaking off the frustration of that first-round loss in ensuing Major Decision wins in the Rounds of 32 and 24, but something snapped in the R16 match vs 11-seed Zac Brunson of Illlinois. Eblen deliberately headbutted Brunson, earning himself a swift disqualification from the match and the tournament. The offense was egregious enough that the NCAA took the extra step of removing the four points Eblen had scored to that point from Missouri's overall team score.

Check out its effect on Missouri's chart:

Weight Missouri Wrestler Seed Projected Tourney Points Placement Non-Bonus Tourney Points Team Point Differential Seed to Placement Ordinal Differential
125 Alan Waters 1 20 3 13.5 -6.5 -2
133 Zach Synon 33 0 33 0 0 0
141 Lavion Mayes 5 10 7 6.5 -3.5 -2
149 Drake Houdashelt 1 20 1 20 0 0
157 Joey Lavallee 17 1 13 1.5 0.5 4
165 Mikey England 17 1 9 2 1 8
174 John Eblen 4 12.5 13 1.5 -11 -9
184 Willie Miklus 17 1 7 6.5 5.5 10
197 J'Den Cox 1 20 5 10 -10 -4
HWT Devin Mellon 11 2 11 2 0 0
Totals/Avgs 10.7 87.5 10.2 63.5 -24 5
AA Counts 5 5
Underperformed Seed 4
Wrestled to Seed 3
Overperformed Seed 3

Practically every session, another of Missouri's hopes were dashed by one upset or another. Their previously formidable fanbase whimpered through to Saturday night when they were finally rewarded with a Drake Houdashelt championship to soothe their woes.

It was an important win for Missouri fans.

This tournament can absolutely gut you--and most of this year's tourney did so to Missouri. Watching so many talented and hopeful wrestlers fall short of their goals is a rite of passage for any new fan at this tournament, so when some bright light finally shines and you can celebrate a single individual crowning achievement, it's not only a relief, but it reminds you of the glory this beautiful sport can provide.

Cornell Medium-Sized Red (5th Place, 71.5 Points)

Cornell qualified nine wrestlers, but with significant, season-long struggles at 133, 174 and Heavyweight, they were really only challenging with six. But of those six, four were top-5 material with 2-3 genuine shots at titles, and two more were threatening around the edges of the podium. But with three seeded in the top-2, their chart didn't have much room to go anyplace but down:

Weight Cornell Wrestler Seed Projected Tourney Points Placement Non-Bonus Tourney Points Team Point Differential Seed to Placement Ordinal Differential
125 Nahshon Garrett 2 16 5 10 -6 -3
133 Mark Grey 25 0 25 0 0 0
141 Nick Arujau 2 16 2 16 0 0
149 Chris Villalonga 5 10 6 9 -1 -1
157 Brian Realbuto 2 16 2 16 0 0
165 Dylan Palacio 12 2 13 1.5 -0.5 1
174 George Pickett 33 0 33 0 0 0
184 Gabe Dean 1 20 1 20 0 0
197 Jace Bennett 9 2 13 1.5 -0.5 -4
HWT Jacob Aiken-Phillips 24 1 24 1 0 0
Totals/Avgs 11.5 83 12.4 75 -8 -7
Placement Counts 5 5
Underperformed Seed 4
Wrestled to Seed 5
Overperformed Seed 0

And down they did go. Four of them did. Palacio's and Bennett's drops were not significant. We covered Realbuto's path pretty well above, and Gabe Dean remains the class of 184. I can't decide if he's lucky that he and Ed Ruth only crossed paths at that weight for one year, or if the fans got totally jobbed out of a bunch of epic battles. Probably a good dose of both. Former very-highly-ranked recruit Villalonga finally made the podium in his last chance and their three holes mostly wrestled to seed.

The real disappointment was 2-seed Nahshon. He has certainly had an erratic season, missing weight once and also losing to Mizzou's unranked 133-pounder in the one match he tried to wrestle up a weight, so it wasn't completely unforeseen. But when you've got a title challenger (he was a finalist last year) who finishes 5th, it's always a disappointment, and it greatly reduces hopes for a nice team run.

Cornell's young, though. It's always difficult to keep up with their remaining eligibility because of the way they drop wrestlers out of school to community colleges in order to circumnavigate the Ivies' self-imposed no-redshirt rules (I'm all ears on this phenomenon, so educate me if you've got it). But Gabe Dean, Realbuto and Palacio all have two more years of tourneys. Nahshon's got one more. So they'll be around again next year, but with still a lot of work to do with their back six.

Fin

So that's it, kids. Another amazing national wrestling tournament is in the books. And it once again showcased why it's such a great sporting event. It has it all: upsets, heroes, goats, punks, class acts. Awesome, enthusiastic fanbases. Action. Inaction. Inconsistent zebras. You know, like all sprots.

Best of all, it's got wrestlers, wrestling coaches and wrestling fans. The Wrestling Community is a great thing to be part of.