Since 2012, the NCAA has handed out a statistical award to the most dominant wrestler in each division. The formula is simple, take the number of team points, using the dual scale, scored by a wrestler and divide it by the number of matches wrestled. We wanted to see what the Division I most dominant standings might look like right now. However, given we’re still early in the season, we decided to include all matches, not just those against other DI opponents like the official award will in March. Anyone that has wrestled at least seven matches was eligible and only matches that were actually contested were counted. No forfeits. Here is where we stand heading into this weekend.
10) Mike Hughes, Hofstra, 285 – 14 matches, 7 falls, 1 tech, 1 major, 5 decisions, 66 team points, 4.714/match
It isn’t surprising to see Hughes on this list, but a year after he had 10 tech-falls, it is a little weird to see him with just one through 14 matches. The senior has nearly matches his pin total from last year, though, suggesting he is turning some of those five pointers into six. Of his matches that have gone the distance, only one saw the opponent score. 12th ranked Shawn Streck (Purdue) pushed Hughes in a 6-5 loss. His other five seven minute matches were shutouts.
9) Taylor Venz, Nebraska, 184 – 13 matches, 7 falls, 2 techs, 1 major, 2 decisions, 1 loss, 62 team points, 4.769/match
After Venz pinned his first four opponents in Vegas, including a pair of ranked foes, he had 56 team points over the first 10 bouts of his redshirt freshman season. Myles Martin (Ohio State) cooled him off a bit, dealing the Cornhusker his first loss of the season, 19-4, and Venz won a pair of decisions after that against top-10 opponents. Though that hurt his statistics a bit, there is no question he’ll take the wins any way he can get them.
8) Myles Martin, Ohio State, 184 – 13 matches, 2 falls, 7 techs, 3 majors, 1 decision, 62 team points, 4.769/match
Speaking of Martin, he is the only wrestler on this list that hasn’t pinned at least half of his opponents this season. The 2016 NCAA champion at 174 pounds prefers to light up the scoreboard as he did against Venz. The junior’s only decision of the season so far came in the CKLV finals when he beat fifth-ranked Dom Abounader (Michigan), 8-5.
7) Ben Darmstadt, Cornell, 197 – 10 matches, 6 falls, 2 techs, 1 decision, 1 loss, 49 team points, 4.9/match
The Cornell freshman has feasted on a fairly weak schedule so far this season as he battles Ben Honis for the starting spot. Honis got the call in Vegas, but if Darmstadt keeps pinning people, he’ll make it tough to keep him on the bench. While the numbers are impressive, Darmstadt has only faced one ranked opponent, Frank Mattiace (Penn) who beat him. One thing is for certain, though, when he is the better man, he leaves no doubt.
6) Bo Nickal, Penn State, 184 – 8 matches, 4 falls, 1 tech, 2 majors, 1 decision, 40 team points, 5/match
Nickal finished fourth in last year’s NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler final standings with 4.85 team points/match. He was third on his own team in 2016-17 and has fallen to fourth so far this year. He had 17 falls in 27 matches as a sophomore which makes it surprising that his pin rate is “only” at 50%. Still, it is a small sample size. Nickal can pin just about anyone at any given time.
5) Daniel Lewis, Missouri, 174 – 11 matches, 6 falls, 1 tech, 2 majors, 2 decisions, 55 team points, 5/match
New weight, no problem for Lewis as his move to 174 has seen his bonus rate rise higher than ever, though he has had a soft schedule for the most part. However, even when it gets more difficult, Lewis has proven he can hammer solid opposition, beating Seldon Wright (Old Dominion), 15-0, and majoring Wil Schany (Virginia), 14-2. His fearsome top work seems to be hitting on all cylinders once again which is bad news for everyone else at 174.
4) Jaydin Eierman, Missouri, 141 – 10 matches, 5 falls, 1 injury default, 1 tech, 2 majors, 1 decision, 52 team points, 5.2/match
Already having matched his pin total from last season, Eierman is off to a much smoother start as a sophomore. Last year at this time, he was struggling to make 133, a fight he would ultimately lose, being forced to move up mid-year. This season with less of a cut, he is flying, being held to a decision just once, by Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State) a big-time prospect that is redshirting this season. This Tiger is another who can put it on ranked opponents, owning a 20-4 tech-fall over 19th ranked Michael Longo (Oklahoma) this season.
3) Mark Hall, Penn State, 174 – 10 matches, 6 falls, 3 techs, 1 decision, 54 team points, 5.4/match
One of the under the radar developments of the young season has been Hall jumping into the bonus point race in Happy Valley most expected to be between Nickal, Zain Retherford, and Jason Nolf. Though Hall’s bonus point ability was a bit underrated last season, he did finish ninth in the final most dominant standings, he has been downright scary as a sophomore, teching or pinning each of his opponents before a 3-2 decision over fifth-ranked Jordan Kutler (Lehigh). While he hasn’t shown the ability to wax top-10 foes like Retherford and Nolf, he might be headed in that direction.
2) Zain Retherford, Penn State, 149 – 8 matches, 6 falls, 1 tech, 1 major, 45 team points, 5.625/match
Last year’s Hodge Trophy winner also took home the Most Dominant Wrestler award after putting up 5.56 team points per match for the entire season. He is right on that pace again during his senior campaign. So dominant is Retherford that Ryan Deakin’s (Northwestern) 10-2 major decision loss to the Nittany Lion was seen as a notably good effort and rightly so. Zain had just three matches that weren’t techs or pins last season. It will be interesting to see if anyone can keep the margin below eight in 2017-18. Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) has done it before so if Retherford puts it on him in the regular season, look out. He is not scheduled to see Deakin again until the Big Ten tournament.
1) Jason Nolf, Penn State, 157 – 8 matches, 7 falls, 1 tech, 47 team points, 5.875/match
Nolf finished second to Retherford in the 2016-17 most dominant standings, but he started this season off by pinning his first seven opponents. His eighth win, last weekend against Lehigh’s Ian Brown, was “only” a tech-fall as he won 23-8. The junior now has just four decisions among his 69 victories in the Penn State lineup. He and Retherford are scoring bonus at such startling speed that any non-fall lowers their rate and a major is something of a disaster. Certainly, getting the win is still the goal first and foremost, but there is no question they are competing against each other in this area. Nolf has taken the lead for now. We’ll have to wait and see whether he can hold it.