The 2017-18 college wrestling season is in the books and that means we now have a complete data set to compare to past seasons. On this week’s Stat Corner powered by WrestleStat, we’ll look at points per match, average bonus per match, and pin rate over the last five years broken out by weight class. This should give us a good idea of where college wrestling is going and whether the new rules introduced before the 2015-16 season, including the four-point nearfall and several stalling additions, have had the desired effect of encouraging more action. Let’s begin with points per match in Division I.
After the initial bump when the new rules were introduced, we saw another sizable gain last season in points per match with a small step back this year that was still well ahead of 2016 and clearly improved over the pre-rule change days. 165 pounds this season became the highest scoring weight class in the data set after 125 broke the 10 point barrier a year ago. The trend of the lightest two weights scoring a lot, 141 through 184 varying but largely staying close to one another overall, and the two heaviest weights seeing the least scoring held once again. The 165 total is eye-catching but in 2016 that weight class barely outscored 197 so it seems unlikely to be anything more than a good year. Each weight class has seen scoring rise since the rule changes, suggesting that the average match is effected similarly. Has this rise in scoring correlated with a rise in bonus points?
This table shows bonus points per match on a tournament scale (one for a major, one and a half for a tech, two for a fall). The question is, was 2015 and outlier or was 2014? Without the numbers from prior seasons, it is difficult to tell. If 2015 was lower than normal, bonus points haven’t risen all that much despite the new rules. If it was 2014 that was outside the norm, we have seen a good step forward in that regard. It stands to reason that a four-point nearfall and increased stalling calls would reward the more aggressive wrestler, resulting in extra bonus. 2017 and 2018 are the two highest averages in the set, but the increase is less than five percent over 2014. One possible culprit is the fall rate. You’ll notice that despite their lack of scoring, heavyweights have been right alongside the other weight classes in bonus points over this time frame. It isn’t always necessary to score a lot to produce bonus. So, we should check out fall percentage as well.
As expected, 285 is pinning people at a rate that exceeds every other weight class. This is no surprise to anyone who watches wrestling on a regular basis. Though their rate has fluctuated quite a bit, it is largely flat since the rule changes. That cannot be said for the pin rate overall. Though the change has been relatively small, the three years since the four-point nearfall was introduced have seen fall rates below both of the two years prior. The weight classes have each experienced the change a bit differently with some way down (184) while others have increased significantly (133). This is to be expected given how small the overall trend is. This year climbed back to within half a percent of the 2015 rate and even at its lowest, the fall percentage was down less than two percent. Still, given that bonus points are up overall with the fall rate down, we could be seeing more wrestlers opting for tilts rather than going for moves more likely to result in a fall. This sort of thing can be cyclical and, again, the difference isn’t large. Still, it is something to keep an eye on as we move forward.