NCAA Division I wrestling is a famously difficult sport in which to crack the upper echelon of the team standings. As discussed previously, NCAA wrestling is a zero sum game. For every team that rises up the standings, one must fall. Looking across the country as students return to campus, optimism abounds. A great deal more teams than could possibly fit harbor top 10 aspirations, in many cases even higher than that. This makes sense in a lot of ways. The season is long and the entirety of where a team finishes nationally comes down to three days in March during which crazy things can and do happen every year. It isn't hard to go through any roster and pick out grapplers capable of jumping levels and shocking the rest of the country on their way to a high finish. Two or three of those can drastically change the outlook for a team most see struggling to find their way inside the top 20.
With that as the backdrop, we wondered what we could learn by investigating last year's top 20 teams at the NCAA tournament. In particular, we looked at the last time each school had won a title, finished in the top five, and top 10. In addition, we checked on the current head coaches to see how long after they were hired they had their current school accomplishing those feats. This could give us some idea on the time frame a new head man might need to succeed. Of course, programs are taken over in various stages of performance so every situation is a little different. Still, last year's top 20 also represents programs at many different points in their development from traditional powers to those reaching heights they've never managed before. Here is what we found.
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