We're just three weeks away from the inaugural Bowl Championship Series of collegiate wrestling. If that surprises you because you've never heard of it and don't know what it is, fear not. Keep reading for a brief primer of the evolution, as well as current standings and projected matchups. It'll be fun.
Many moons ago (early 1980s) some folks in the Tidewater region of Virginia wanted to draw attention to their burgeoning high school wrestling scene, and get their kids some exposure to collegiate wrestling coaches. So they decided to create a two-level dual meet tournament - one for area high schools, and a second for colleges. College coaches would get some matches for their squads while also getting a look at some of the Commonwealth of Virginia's better wrestlers. Wrestling and recruiting in a single weekend. Good thinking.
The idea took off. Soon, top college programs from around the country began to attend - Iowa, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Oklahoma, and others. And, with so many great programs in attendance, winning the "Virginia Duals" crown became a de-facto "team national title".
Put a "champion" label on something, and wrestlers are going to fight over it. And thus began the grand twisting of a brilliant, original idea. With a "team dual" title at stake, the wrestling coaches decided to beef things up a bit, including moving the tournament from Virginia to Iowa, and shifting the date from the start of the season (November/December/January) to the end of the season (February). The tournament was given a new name as well, "National Duals".
Over time, new questions arose. Why is the tournament always in Iowa? Who determines which teams get to attend? Does it have to be on a single weekend? Do we have to wrestle the same schools four times (if you're a Big Ten school, at least)? Etc. Etc. Etc. And, of course, what would be the best way to "grow the sport"?
That's the wrestling fans' most familiar mantra: grow the sport. In modern parlance, that's become shorthand for "how do we get on television"? And so for the last half-decade, the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) has tried different ideas to gain attention for National Duals, implicitly for the purpose of garnering an ESPN television contract. Among those ideas are the following:
- Expand the field from 8 to 16 to 32 to 16
- Make it two weekends instead of one
- Hold regional qualifiers
- Rotate the site of the finals
- Force teams to participate by crediting place-winning teams with team points towards the national individual tournament
- Remove the "team" component from the national individual tournament
Battle lines were drawn among coaches, too, particularly over those last two ideas. Minnesota's J Robinson, Cornell's Rob Koll, and Missouri's Brian Smith have all been outspoken proponents of "national duals" as a replacement of the current wrestling championship format (which has grown by 50%, 39%, and 67% the last three years whilst these machinations have progressed, by the way) - and wanted to force the top teams into it.
Iowa's Tom Brands and Penn State's Cael Sanderson have been opposed. In fact, these two schools - owners of 7 of the last 8 national titles - have sat out of the national duals in most recent seasons (which is where the angst arises). This year's "Championship Series" was Sanderson's 'let's work together' idea from a few years ago.
The Basics of Wrestling's BCS
A quick look at the Intermat "dual" team rankings shows that half of the national top 10 are Big Ten schools. Big Ten schools (mostly) wrestle each other in season, and at Big Tens, and, occassionally, will also run into each other at NCAAs. There isn't a ton of incentive to wrestle each other a third or fourth time at a "national dual" tournament.
Cael's answer to this problem is to pit the Big Ten versus the The Nation. Put the top 8 Big Ten schools against the best 8 non-Big Ten schools. Fresh opponents equals more excitement.
The eight Big Ten schools will host the dual meets. That allows eight sets of wrestling fans to attend without getting on an airplane. More fans equals more excitement.
The format includes the champions from each of the seven non-Big Ten wrestling conferences, plus one wild card, and matches them up against the 8 Big Ten schools for compelling and rich out-of-conference battles. Everyone has a shot to get in. Everyone involved equals much excite.
The duals will run a single weekend, and TV can pick their favorite matchups to broadcast. Duals are easy to broadcast, and easy to consume by viewers. That makes them attractive to TV people (and, potentially in the future - sponsors). BTN and ESPN, by the way, are rumored to be broadcasting most of the duals. So - mission already accomplished, in year one. (Mostly).
The Standings - Who Gets In
Two weekends of fights remain, so the current standings for all conferences are still unsettled. Unsettled means there's a race to get into the duals. Races are exciting. Let's see where each conference stands at the moment. (Isn't this exciting already?)
The eight Big Ten squads have already been selected, so the standings aren't so race-y in our home conference. Here are the eight host schools: Penn State, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers, Nebraska, Indiana, and Minnesota. It's a shame that they've already been selected, because more than likely, Illinois would bump the Goofers out of the lineup on merit by the final conference standings. Small sacrifices, though. Sorry, Chief Illiniwek.
|South Dakota St||4||1|
|North Dakota St||2||2|
Iowa State is ranked 14th in the latest Intermat poll because voters are lazy, but they have zero shot of making the top 8. Oklahoma State is the heavy favorite to win the Big 12. Oklahoma has an outside shot at grabbing the one wild card spot, but will need help to get there.
Oklahoma needs help, because the top wild card contender is the loser of NC State and Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack has run the table so far, including a big win over Okie State in Stillwater. But here at BSD, we're thinking the Hokies win the conference, putting them into the dance, and putting NC State into the wild card spot. They'll wrestle on February 12th. You can watch it on ESPN3, by the way.
Lehigh just beat Cornell two weeks ago, and beat Navy earlier in the year. The Engineers are in.
Tim Flynn and the Scots got past Rider last week. They're in as well.
Mizzou has only Northern Illinois remaining on the conference schedule, and owns a win over the Chippewas. Barring catastrophe and some crazy tie-breaker scenarios, they're in.
Bakersfield knocked off Stanford a few weeks back, but face a tough finishing slate of Oregon State, Boise State, and Arizona State. If the Roadrunners falter, then I'd take Stanford from this group. But I think they manage it, and win the PAC12.
Your guess is as good as mine. The Mocs beat Gardner-Webb. Gardner-Webb beat App State. App State and UTC wrestle this Friday. It's at UTC, though, so let's go with the Mocs.
This is wrestling, not football - so a lot of these teams have already faced each other. Penn State's wrestled Bakersfield, Virginia Tech, Stanford, and will wrestle Lehigh next week. Iowa wrestled Oklahoma State to start the season. Nebraska's wrestled (or will wrestle) Lehigh and NC State. You get the idea. The following predicted matchups attempts to consider team strength as well as avoiding repeats.
Ro-Tel Queso Dip Dual
Chattanooga at #17 Minnesota
|285||#9 Kroells||#11 Johnson|
Johnson-Kroells should be a good match, but the Gophers probably have too much depth for the Mocs.
Close Shave America (Barbasol) Dual
Cal State Bakersfield at #16 Indiana
The Hoosiers better show up, or they'll be in trouble. Bakersfield might be favored 141 thru 165, and have past All-American Hammond at 184, plus Reuben Franklin at 197.
The James Fenimore Cooper Service Plaza Dual
Edinboro at #12 Rutgers
|157||#17 Lewis||#15 Matthews|
|184||#20 Gravina||#2 Avery|
This would be another tight, exciting dual. You know the Scots will show up ready to fight. Russell and Rivera could pull upsets at 125 and 133. Matthews is capable of bonus at 157, as is a healthy Vic Avery at 184.
The OmahaSteaks.Com Dual
#5 Missouri at #8 Nebraska
|125||#9 Lambert||#11 McGhee|
|133||#12 Montoya||#11 Synon|
|141||#20 Abidin||#10 Manley|
|149||#5 Sueflohn||#3 Mayes|
|165||#14 Wilson||#5 Lewis|
|174||#14 Barnes||#9 Butler|
|184||#10 Dudley||#4 Miklus|
|197||#16 Studebaker||#2 Cox|
Whew - a lot of great matchups in this one. I'm particularly interested in Sueflohn-Mayes at 149, and Dudley-Miklus at 184. That could really shake up the rankings, and post-season seeding for NCAAs.
The Average Officials Dual
#9 Lehigh at #7 Ohio State
|125||#1 Tomasello||#13 Cruz|
|141||#4 Jordan||#18 Cruz|
|157||#11 Ryan||#9 Minotti|
|165||#2 Jordan||#15 Preisch|
|184||#13 Courts||#3 Brown|
|285||#2 Snyder||#12 Wessell|
Lehigh dumped Ohio State in last year's duals tournament, and could do it again.
The Big Boy Pants Dual
#3 NC State at #6 Michigan
|157||#5 Murphy||#6 Gantt|
|184||#10 Abounader||#16 Renda|
|197||#6 Huntley||#17 Boykin|
|285||#4 Coon||#1 Gwiz|
Gwiz vs Coon. That's worth the price of admission by itself.
The KaBoom! Disinfectant Spray Dual
#10 VaTech at #2 Iowa
|125||#2 Gilman||#3 Dance|
|157||#16 Cooper||#4 Brascetta|
|174||#10 Meyer||#4 Epperly|
|184||#11 Brooks||#14 Zavatsky|
|197||#4 Burak||#8 Haught|
|285||#7 Stoll||#3 Walz|
What a great dual (should it come to pass). Iowa's favored at 4 weights; VaTech's favored at 4. And you get two toss-ups. This would be must-see television.
The Grilled Stickeys Dual
#4 Oklahoma State at #1 Penn State
(Big 12 Champ)
|125||#4 Megaludis||#5 Klimara|
|141||#13 Gulibon||#1 Heil|
|149||#1 Retherford||#16 Collica|
|157||#1 Nolf||#7 Smith|
|165||#16 Rasheed||#1 Dieringer|
|174||#1 Nickal||#3 Crutchmer|
|184||#9 McCutcheon||#19 Boyd|
Gulibon and Heil know each other from high school - that would be a great match. Plus Bo vs Crutchmer, who is just about the only guy in the top 10 that Bo hasn't yet wrestled (and beaten). We're homers here at BSD, but believe Penn State rolls.
How do you like the projected matchups? What do you think of this new format? Sound off in the comments.