Phat Mat Stats is a periodic column that uses individual wrestler rankings, plots the top teams’ lineups, averages the rankings across four top ranking services, uses the averages to project team scores at the National Championships, and leverages the entire exercise to have some fun and talk a little college wrestling.
The root of the projections are the summation of two of the three types of tournament scoring: Placement Points and Advancement Points, as laid out in this chart:
Placement Points are awarded to the top eight finishers as shown in the third column above.
Advancement Points are awarded for wins that move a wrestler forward in a bracket (but not awarded during final placement bouts such as for first or third place). One Advancement Point is earned in the upper championship bracket (when a wrestler has not yet lost any bouts in the tourney) and .5 points are awarded in the lower consolation bracket (after having lost once in the championship bracket).
Bonus Points, awarded to a team when its wrestler not only wins but dominates, are a wildcard addition to the chart above. Even among the sport’s most dominant wrestlers, inconsistencies abound. Our friends at WrestleStat have mathematized a Bonus Point projection based on historical dominance, but I don’t project or chart them in this column.
The Ranking Services
Rankings are the lifeblood of any wrestling content site interested in traffic. They’re the centerpiece of discussion and provide the nexus for the most engagement with wrestling fans.
In the five years I’ve been writing this column, I’ve cycled through a couple different rankings services. Here are my favorites for this year:
- Intermat. I still dig their consistency, clearly-posted date updated stamps and eligibility and previous columns. Weights are on separate pages, but a single unchanging URL. Cons: no transparency about who creates or how to contact, and no season records.
- Flowrestling. I dig their inclusion of textual rationales for that week’s changes, advertised contact info and invitation for engagement, eligibility & previous columns. Cons: awkward navigation (separate dropdowns for 157+ and for the ranking week, despite a permanent-ish inaccurate date stamp at the page top) and no season records.
- The Open Mat. I dig their inclusion of season records and streaks the most. Also the eligibility and previous columns. Can’t quite tell who all is contributing to them, but they do include an email and solicit feedback. Easiest navigation of the four, with all weights being on a single page.
- TrackWrestling. I dig that they rank out to 25. Generally, the more, the better; although, I don’t really get the arbitrary stop at 25, instead of finishing out the 33 of the national tourney brackets. Rationales are somewhat supported via podcast, which can be cool, but is also pretty disconnected. Cons are always navigation and popups on Track’s site. Its business model is so dependent on extra clicks that they pass it to the user in a brutally archaic experience. Still, they publish rankings consistently and I like reading them enough to endure once a week, with a heavily ad-blocked browser.
During the offseason I tried to follow real lineup news and to read the lineup tea leaves for the top teams, and in October I picked 11 teams that looked like they might be the most competitive for Top-10 finishes in March. Here’s the team rankings table from then.
And this week’s look like this.
The National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) puts out a weekly coaches poll that ranks teams in their Dual Meet structure; its website explains it as such:
The NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll is voted on by two coaches from each Division I wrestling conference. Each first-place vote is worth 25 points, 24 points for a second-place vote, 23 for a third-place vote and so on through to one point for a 25th-place vote.
For comparison’s sake, here’s this week’s coaches poll:
Arizona State has made some big changes to their projected preseason lineup, and as a result has dropped a few duals already, but I’ll probably keep charting them for awhile yet, at least through their December dual with Penn State. They’re also crushing on the recruiting trail, so they are a program fans most definitely will want to keep an eye on.
Cornell is always worth observing as well (despite Cael refusing to wrestle them, according to their coach), although their first semester / second semester lineups often vary as they navigate Ivy League conference rules.
As is, let’s dig into the 11 teams I charted and see what’s going on.
Penn State is going to be terribly difficult to unseat in March.
The point dropoff from preseason to this week is a result of one of its seven returning All-Americans (Nick Nevills) being beaten by talented longtime PSU ‘backup’ Anthony Cassar at this weekend’s Keystone Classic in the Palestra. And in fairly dominant fashion!
The ranking services treated Cassar’s win in different ways. Intermat inserted him behind the remaining three returning All-Americans and newcomer Gable Steveson. The Open Mat (TOM) and TrackWrestling put him behind two of the three, and Flowrestling wrote this about putting him second:
In quite the unusual twist, two new names enter the top three at heavyweight this week. Anthony Cassar thoroughly beat his teammate and former #2 Nick Nevills at the Keystone Classic, and Gable Steveson tore off his redshirt to much fanfare and a 8-2 victory over then #3 Derek White. Nevills is the better win, and so Cassar and Steveson enter the top 20 in that order, Gable for the first time in his career and Cassar for the first time as a heavyweight.
Let’s start with one of the defacto wrestle-offs, at 285.
Cassar’s first takedown was in the first period, a beautiful high-crotch that Nevills both got cradled up in and nearly elevator’d out of and into a takedown of his own.
Cassar’s second takedown was in the second period, after choosing neutral himself. It was a freight train of a blast double.
Cassar’s third takedown was in the third period, after Nevills was forced by the score to choose down, and after Cassar had ridden him for most of the period and had locked up the riding time point.
Seemed like a decent enough shot from Nevills, but Cassar’s quickness and offensive aggressiveness turned the result in his favor. It wasn’t the only time Nevills took a shot, but even Cassar’s defense was superior on Sunday.
All in all, a fairly dominant 7-2 decision victory for the new heavyweight. We should remind that Nevills is seven months removed from shoulder surgery, so very well might not yet be back to his full strength, size or confidence. In fact, you could read into a few of Nevills’ shots in this bout as a lack of confidence to finish, but there’s no way around declaring that Cassar looked excellent.
The other March lineup-influencing PSU vs PSU matchup at the Keystone was at 149, where redshirt freshmen Brady Berge & Jarod Verkleeren faced off in the semifinals. Verkleeren was aided in the first by Berge twisting his heavily-bandaged knee, which resulted in Verk being granted a start choice after the injury time. He chose down and escaped within about 20 seconds. Berge chose down in the second and quickly escaped to tie it up, 1-1. When Verk chose down in the 3rd, Berge chose not to try to ride him for the victory and instead cut him loose quickly (for a 1-2 deficit) to try to earn the winning takedown. Which he did, in the final seconds, for a 3-2 win.
Verkleeren asked for a challenge, but Berge’s shot was deep and Verk’s defensive choice looked pretty desperate, especially given last year’s Dean Heil rule implemented to dissuade defenses that expose one’s back like Verk did there at the end.
After that, Berge medically forfeited the finals (different than in Injury Default result after a bout has begun; as such, does not impact his record), so he finished 4-0 with two Technical Falls, a Major Decision and a Decision.
Verkleeren won his consolation semifinal 7-4, but in the 3rd place bout again failed to earn a takedown of his own and lost 4-2 to UPenn’s Artalona. He finished 4-2 with two Majors, a Pin and a Decision.
Berge may be in a slight lead in this race, but his banged up knee will likely factor in to Cael decisions about who to start in upcoming duals against unranked Joey Schiele of Bucknell, and Top-20-ranked Cortland Schuyler of Lehigh (who hasn’t wrestled yet this season) and Top-20-ranked Josh Maruca of Arizona State. Hopefully both will be healthy enough to compete cleanly again in the Southern Scuffle over New Years.
As noted this week, Gavin Teasdale will attempt the extremely difficult task of dropping all the way out of school, recovering from “health issues”, re-enrolling in January and try to compete again for the starting March lineup then.
As Devin Schnupp & Justin Lopez continue to represent PSU at this weight, true freshman Brody Teske has not yet entered any open tourneys unattached. If we don’t get to see him at this weekend’s Mat Town Open, fans may have to wait until the Southern Scuffle to get our first glimpse.
Both TOM & Track have begun to rank true freshman Roman Bravo-Young (20 & 18, respectively). If Lehigh coach Pat Santoro sends out senior returning 7th-place AA and consensus #6-ranked, Scotty Parker (who hasn’t taken the mat yet this season), RBY could have a beautiful opportunity to climb.
The rest of lineup looks steady, both on the mat and in the rankings, as Nick Lee, Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall, Shakur Rasheed and Bo Nickal are all undefeated and ranked mostly according to how they finished on the podium last year.
The Buckeyes’ team score is unchanged from the preseason. Luke Pletcher dropped from the preseason, when Nick Suriano confirmed offseason rumors that he would no longer attempt to compete against Spencer Lee, instead choosing Seth Gross, Stevan Micic and now Daton Fix at 133. And Ke-Shawn Hayes climbed when Arizona State’s Josh Shields bumped up to 165.
Coach Tom Ryan has a few new weapons on board in Columbus, but cumulatively they’re probably not ready to step in to replace the outgoing team points from Nathan Tomasello, Bo Jordan and Kyle Snyder. Logistically, true freshmen Gavin Hoffman (184), Rocky Jordan (174) and Sammy Sasso (149) are at weights that Ohio State has extremely capable senior starters. Myles Martin (184) and Micah Jordan (149) are title contenders and Te’Shan Campbell (now at 174 after cutting hard for many years) could contend for the All-American podium.
At 125, though, TRFR Malik Heinselman looks like a significant upgrade to current starter Braken Mead. They also have new starters stepping in at 165 and 285 already, so maybe this is a good year for Tom Ryan to prep for a new run starting next year, like Cael & Co. did in 2015.
Looking at their charts above, it’s easy to see why Ryan and Buckeye fans poured so much energy into attacking Penn State’s dynastic run last year.
Also, although I haven’t seen anything about this elsewhere...
R.I.P pin chain.— Cliff Fretwell (@knarkill) November 21, 2018
If Ohio State’s Pin Chain has indeed gone missing and there’s a mystery unfolding, Bo Nickal can help solve it.
The 3.5 point drop from the preseason is a result of rankers dropping new starter Pat Lugo, after a 10-9 loss to #18 Russell Rohlfing of CSU Bakersfield and a 7-4 loss to #1 Matt Kolodzik of Princeton.
As noted in our season preview, I think the world of this new Hawkeye lineup. Very high ceiling, quite high. I’ve been getting a bit antsy waiting to see how Michael Kemerer performs, but my Iowa bro RossWB has talked me down by reminding how well Spencer Lee and Alex Marinelli did last year after Coach Brands walked them in slowly. You can check out Ross’ recaps of the CSU, Kent State & Princeton duals at Go Iowa Awesome Wrestle.
The Hawks’ chart shows four R12 guys in DeSanto, Lugo, Wilcke and Warner, who could all easily move into Placement Point territory with one or two solid wins. Max Murin and Kaleb Young are just outside that at #13, and the squad is bookended by #1-ranked Lee and Stoll. Lots of upside here. Very interesting.
John Smith is back with yet another Cowboy squad that not only has very few weaknesses across all ten weights (breadth), but also has a room of talented competitors ready to step in and continue the winning (depth).
165 - 184
In the preseason, there was speculation that coach John Smith would juggle last year’s lineup a bit to make way for 2x All-American (at 157) Joseph Smith (his son) to come back to the lineup from redshirting last year. However, rumor suggests that it became clear that Joseph could no longer fit into 165, so back down to 165 & 174 came last year’s All-Americans, Chandler Rogers & Jacobe Smith.
So what will Joseph do now? OkSt’s got Edinboro transfer Dakota Geer now competing at 184. Can Joseph unseat him? Will they try? Can he convert to Mormonism and take a quick mission? Because his NCAA eligibility clock is ticking, and if they can’t figure out a way to get him into the lineup, he’ll burn one of his two remaining eligibility years.
The current starter here is Andrew Shomers, who everybody except Flo has in their Top-20, but also on the roster is a former All-American from Boise State, Geordan Martinez. He’s had an interesting career (R12 in 2015, 8th in 2016) and appears to have a year of NCAA eligibility left. If any Cowboy Wrestling fans are reading this, please share any available backdrop on Martinez.
Meanwhile, last Friday night, 2018 All-American 149-pounder Boo Lewallen (who fought back to 8th place after Zain Retherford teched him in the Cleveland Quarterfinals) broke his wrist or some such terrible injury. So on Sunday, against Minnesota’s 2017 All-American Tommy Thorn, OkSt sent out Kaden Gfeller, and he battled Thorn to an impressive 9-3 decision victory. Depth!
Super-recruit and age-group world medalist Daton Fix, after having been denied an opportunity against top-ranked Seth Gross on Friday (Gross talked about his back health to Flo after the dual), will still get plenty of opportunities to climb because of the awesome Cowboy schedule. Which does include the Southern Scuffle, so maybe Penn State fans can get a glimpse of him there, before his second-semester schedule could see him face off against Rutgers’ Nick Suriano, Pitt’s Micky Philippi, Iowa State’s Austin Gomez, Lehigh’s Scotty Parker, Missouri’s John Erneste, or Iowa’s Austin DeSanto.
The challenge for the Cowboys in this 2019 team race will be to see who among that crazy breadth and depth (beyond Fix), they can get to climb up into the “top-end firepower” Iowa coach Tom Brands famously labeled the top steps of the podium a few years ago. The lineup looks nice, clearly heads and shoulders above last year’s squad that suffered through a miserable (for them) performance in Cleveland, but with now three former All-Americans still on their bench, the ceiling is very high.
Two early-season losses dropped Drew Mattin from the projected R16 to R24 and Jackson Striggow from R24 to R32, a half-point drop for Mattin and a full point for Striggow. Iowa State transfer Kanen Storr is now being ranked by three of the four services, gaining a point for the team from the preseason.
Alec Pantaleo, one of Michigan’s highest projected point earners, and a 2x AA has already taken a loss this season—to his own teammate. True freshman uber recruit Will Lewan beat him 10-8 in SV in the Michigan State Open a few weeks ago and is one to keep an eye on for the post-Nolf editions of this weight class. In the meantime, Pantaleo is probably ranked pretty accurately.
To answer the very large task of replacing the very large Adam Coon, Michigan recruited a top-shelf heavyweight in Mason Parris. He’s still a true freshman, though, so the performance of current starter Luke Ready (currently 2-4) could contribute to coaching decisions about if or when to unleash Parris (currently 8-1, wrestling unattached) on this increasingly intriguing 2019 weight class.
At the time of the PSU-Michigan dual last January, Logan Massa determined the knee he injured in December was about as healthy as he might hope to get it that season, and came out in his first match back against returning National Champion Vincenzo Joseph. He fell victim to Joseph’s concrete hips and inside trip, ended up on his back and got majored, 12-3.
He had an up and down season from there. He finished 5th at Big Tens, with two losses to Wiscy’s Evan Wick (but two wins over Iowa’s Alex Marinelli), before drawing 10-seed Wick again from the 7-seed in Round 2 in Cleveland. He lost a 9-6 decision and caught an even worse draw in the R24 round of consis, to 8-seed Chandler Rogers, and dropped a 7-5 sudden victory decision to end his season. He looked good last week in a 5-3 win over Lehigh’s Cole Walter.
From a ceilings and floors perspective, Mattin can probably climb still; Micic’s weight class has two new formidable additions in Fix & Suriano; 149 is more cleared out this year for Malik Amine, if he’s ready to make a move. Myles Amine looked as solid as last year in defeating Lehigh’s Jordan Kutler again; he’ll get a chance to prove he can upgrade from his 3rd place position at 174 on January 5, when he faces Zahid Valencia and on February 1, when he faces Mark Hall. Everybody needs to see a lot more of redshirt freshman Jelani Embree still, to know what the Wolverines have at 184.
The Wolfpack team score changed from the preseason for a couple reasons. Suriano’s move to 133 affected rankers’ placement of Wilson. Redshirt sophomore Nick Reenan, who was David Taylor’s last American challenger this summer before Taylor went off and destroyed the world, has now won a few college bouts, including a 4-1 decision over 7th-ranked Ryan Preisch, so the services are paying more attention to him now. The Bullard twins at 165 and 174 are getting similar reactions.
Coach Pat Popolizio’s stellar recruiting the past few years is beginning to hit the starting lineup more, and they’ve got more coming. Hayden Hidlay’s brother Trent is a true freshman behind Bullard at 174.
Like the past few years (and with the inclusion of an ascending Pitt team), the ACC battles between NC State & Virginia Tech should again be fun to watch.
Like many recent Mizzou squads, this 2019 lineup has a couple elite wrestlers and a couple question mark weights. One problem that’s pestered those recent Tiger teams is gaudy individual season records followed by postseason placements below the seeds those records earned them. This year’s schedule has added Lehigh and Arizona State to a slate that already included Oklahoma State and Cornell—and they’ve already defeated Va Tech 21-8—so we’ll see what more we can learn as the Tigers continue moving beyond the Maryville and Lindenwood Opens.
Minnesota’s big news this week is the unleashing of multiple age-group world medalist Gable Steveson. He immediately showed why he is so fearsome, as he manhandled former #4 Derek White of OkSt. Kyle Snyder showed for years how successful an undersized, but strong and athletic (and technically sound/superior) wrestler can be in this weight class. Steveson’s main calling card is his athleticism—but he exhibits it from a size (~250lbs) combo that has not often been seen. He’s got scheduled duals against #7 Jordan Wood and #1 Sam Stoll, so Penn State fans will get a couple chances to see him before Big Tens.
Two big deflations to the exciting announcement of the December PSU-ASU dual have occurred since the preseason. 2017 3rd-placer Tanner Hall is now redshirting and Central Michigan transfer Mason Smith is no longer on the ASU roster. With Anthony Valencia also redshirting, AA Josh Shields has bumped up into 165 and made room for Christian Pagdilao at 157. Former OU AA Milhof looks to have solidified the 125 pound spot, but Cael probably won’t be ready to un-tether Teske before the Scuffle.
But Zeke Jones is still recruiting like a fiend, so hopefully next season’s PSU-ASU dual in Tempe will be more competitive.
I woofed about Mehki Lewis in the season preview, but he’s already taken an “L”—to Missouri’s Conner Flynn. Despite a world championship this Summer, he’s still a redshirt freshman in folkstyle; plenty of time to try to figure out the brutal 165-pound class. The services are ranking Edinboro transfers Korbin Myers and Billy Miller, and are also recognizing Bucknell transfer Tom Sleigh. Former OkSt grappler Ryan Blees has made all four ranking services, but I think this Hokie lineup really misses injured 2x AA Solomon Chishko.
Lehigh’s banged up early, too. Connor Schram, Scotty Parker and Cortland Schuyler haven’t yet wrestled, and Luke Karam injury defaulted out of the Journeyman Open. The ranking services differ on which wrestlers to rank at 157 and 165, and Chris Weiler, their 197 pounder who lost two 1-point matches and finished just off the podium last year has already lost three bouts this year.
Not an ideal condition to be traveling into Rec Hall with next weekend.