NCAA Wrestling

Looking Back at how Mid-Season Rankings Predict Seeds and Finishes at NCAAs

The Midlands and Southern Scuffle are a point of demarcation in the NCAA Division I wrestling season. After two months of individual tournaments being prevalent, the Midlands and the Scuffle are the last individual tournaments for the top programs before the post-season begins a couple of months from now. With these two tournaments combined attracting the majority of D1 teams, the rankings experienced a great deal of upheaval this week.

With all the new data points from the last week, the rankings should, in theory, be more accurate than they have been all season. We should now be able to look at them and have our best idea yet as to how March will play out. I decided to see how accurate that look would have been last season at this time. Using the TOM rankings from January 5th, 2016, I wanted to see just how closely related they were to both NCAA seeds and NCAA placements in March.

125

Top 16 Seeds Ranked: 15

All-Americans Ranked: 7

Top Seed Ranked: 1

National Champion Ranked: 4

The top four at this weight, Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State), Thomas Gilman (Iowa), Joey Dance (Virginia Tech), and Nico Megaludis (Penn State) was pretty well established by January and nothing changed by March. Dance would stumble at NCAAs after earning the two seed. Connor Youtsey (Michigan) was suffering through a miserable regular season that found him out of the top-20, but he would rebound at NCAAs and finish fifth. Ryan Millhoff (Oklahoma) and Connor Schram (Stanford) were ranked 18th and 19th, but would come on strong in the second half to earn top-10 seeds and become All-Americans.

133

Top 16 Seeds Ranked: 15

All-Americans Ranked: 7

Top Seed Ranked: 1

National Champion Ranked: 1

Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) had already piled up 23 consecutive wins to start the season on his way to the top-seed and national title. Otherwise, 133 experienced a fair amount of upheaval. Fourth-ranked Johnni DiJulius (Ohio State) would drop all the way to the 10 seed and then fail to place at NCAAs. Cam Kelly (Ohio) was unranked, but earned the 13 seed at NCAAs, Jade Rauser (Utah Valley) made a surprise run to eighth place after a first round loss. He was neither ranked nor seeded. Emilio Saavedra (Old Dominion) had jumped up to eighth in the rankings after his win at Midlands, but he would wrestle just six more matches and miss the post-season entirely.

141

Top 16 Seeds Ranked: 16

All-Americans Ranked: 8

Top Seed Ranked: 1

National Champion Ranked: 1

The pecking order at this weight had largely been established by last January with Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) already sitting at number one and six of the eight All-Americans inhabiting the top-10. The two that weren’t there, Bryce Meredith (Wyoming) and Randy Cruz (Lehigh) were 16th and 20th, respectively. They would enter NCAAs seeded 14th and 16th before Meredith made his run to the finals and Cruz upset the sixth and ninth seeds on his way to an eighth-place finish.

149

Top 16 Seeds Ranked: 13

All-Americans Ranked: 7

Top Seed Ranked: 2

National Champion Ranked: 2

Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) and Zain Retherford (Penn State) were both undefeated with Sorensen taking the Midlands while Retherford won the Scuffle. The Penn State man would be tops by NCAAs after beating Sorensen twice in the second semester. Colin Heffernan was still the ranked man for Central Michigan only to see Justin Oliver win the spot and end up on the podium. Jason Tsirtsis, who was still at Northwestern at the time, had fallen to third and would continue to decline, earning the sixth seed and then going 2-2 at NCAAs. Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State), Mike DePalma (Kent State), and Geo Martinez (Boise State) were all ranked 12th or lower and had double-digit seeds, but finished as All-Americans.

157

Top 16 Seeds Ranked: 13

All-Americans Ranked: 6

Top Seed Ranked: 1

National Champion Ranked: 1

In an eerie parallel to this season, the status of Joe Smith (Oklahoma State) and Dylan Palacio (Cornell) was uncertain as we began 2016. Smith was still redshirting and Palacio had announced he was withdrawing from Cornell in late November. The Cowboy would have his redshirt pulled three days later while Palacio returned to the Big Red lineup on January 10th. Palacio would pin Smith in the NCAA tournament, but both were All-Americans. This ranking included four undefeated wrestlers with Isaiah Martinez (Illinois), Ian Miller (Kent State), Jason Nolf (Penn State), and Thomas Gantt (NC State) all sporting flawless records and top-four rankings. That would be the top-four seeds at nationals, too, though no one made it there unscathed.

165

Top 16 Seeds Ranked: 14

All-Americans Ranked: 8

Top Seed Ranked: 1

National Champion Ranked: 1

Only the eventual 15-seed Clark Glass (Oklahoma) and 16-seed Devon Gobbo (Harvard) weren’t ranked at 165 pounds, but the eventual four-seed and fourth-place finisher Daniel Lewis (Missouri) was just 13th after a 13-3 start to his freshman campaign. Another freshman David McFadden (Virginia Tech) was just in front of him at #12. McFadden would not climb in the second semester, entering the NCAA tournament as the 14-seed, but still finished sixth. Otherwise, Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State), Bo Jordan (Ohio State), and Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin) were already the clear top three and they remained that way.

174

Top 16 Seeds Ranked: 14

All-Americans Ranked: 8

Top Seed Ranked: 1

National Champion Ranked: 15

Eventual national champion Myles Martin (Ohio State) was just 15th, having just come out of redshirt. He would be seeded 11th before making a run to the title. The highest ranked wrestler that did not compete at the national tournament was fourth-ranked Kyle Crutchmer (Oklahoma State). Due to a Crutchmer injury, the Cowboys sent Chandler Rogers who received the ninth-seed at NCAAs. In all, the wrestlers ranked three through seven would fail to place at the end of the year paving the way for three double-digit seeds, Martin, Nate Jackson (Indiana), and Alex Meyer (Iowa), as well as unseeded Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State) making the podium. Meyer was ranked ninth in the January rankings with the others hanging around in the double-digits just as their seeds would eventually be.

184

Top 16 Seeds Ranked: 14

All-Americans Ranked: 8

Top Seed Ranked: 1

National Champion Ranked: 1

This weight got a little weird. Vic Avery (Edinboro) was unranked due to inactivity, but returned in time to earn the three seed, then went 1-2 at nationals. TJ Dudley (Nebraska) was ranked number two after a second-place finish at Midlands, to David Taylor, fell to the seventh-seed, then finished second after all. The semi-finals at nationals were number one Gabe Dean (Cornell) along with the #7 (Dudley), #13, and #14 seeds. Nolan Boyd (Oklahoma State) was ranked just 18th after the Southern Scuffle before going on a tear in the second semester, earning the eighth seed, and finishing fourth. He lost the third-place match to Pete Renda (NC State) who was both ranked 13th in January and seeded 13th at NCAAs. This weight was tricky with Avery, Nate Brown (Lehigh), and Willie Miklus (Missouri) all missing time during the year with injuries which played havoc with the rankings and led to some weird results that made seeding difficult as well.

197

Top 16 Seeds Ranked: 15

All-Americans Ranked: 7

Top Seed Ranked: 1

National Champion Ranked: 2

The top four at 197, Morgan McIntosh (Penn State), J’den Cox (Missouri), Brett Pfarr (Minnesota), and Nathan Burak (Iowa), were already the top four in January, would be seeded there, and finished as the top four at nationals. Pat Downey (Iowa State) was a long way from coming back so he wasn’t ranked. He was unseeded as well before finishing fifth. The other seven All-Americans were the top seven seeds. The only one who had to do some work to get there was Jared Haught (Virginia Tech). Haught was 13th in early January, but got the six seed in March.

285

Top 16 Seeds Ranked: 15

All-Americans Ranked: 7

Top Seed Ranked: 1

National Champion Ranked: UR

The only real change was about as big as you can get with Nick Tavanello (Ohio State) still inhabiting the rankings for the Buckeyes in January. Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) had announced his intention to come out of redshirt, but didn’t wrestle his first college match until January 17th. He wouldn’t lose a single one, winning the title from the two seed. The rest of the All-Americans were already ranked 11th or better and would be top nine seeds by nationals. Three of the top-10 in January, Denzel Dejournette (Appalachian State), Sam Stoll (Iowa), and Tanner Hall (Arizona State) would miss the podium, though Stoll was hampered by injury.

Overall, looking back shows us a couple of things. One, injuries will play a large role as the season moves along both with people going down and guys who have not been healthy returning to do well at NCAAs. The other thing that we all know, but tend to forget sometimes this time of year is that big moves can still be made. Anyone in the rankings could end up with a top-10 seed if they get hot and pretty much anyone who makes the NCAA tournament has a chance to be an All-American with their best tournament. We love to project team points and break down the national title picture at each weight after every big result, but the NCAA tournament will wind up making fools of us all. The next two and a half months is going to fun!

Leave a Reply