I’ve covered how wrestling duals work, but wrestling tournaments can be a different story in terms of scoring and how wrestlers qualify for the national tournament. There are typically four main tournament types you see in college: open tournaments, premier season tournaments, conferences, then the national tournament. For this article, I will focus on conferences and the national tournament. The Big 12 tournament will span over 2 days, but the national tournament, often called NCAA’s, is a whopping 3 day affair. Both of these tournaments are bracketed and double elimination.
How to Qualify for NCAA’s
At the national tournament there are 33 qualifiers at each weight class for a total of 330 wrestlers. These wrestlers earn bids to the tournament by placing at an “auto qualifier” spot. These auto qualifier spots are mathematically decided by regular season performance as wrestlers “earn” spots for their conference at their weight class.
Each qualifying conference tournament is awarded allocations to the national tournament based on regular season performance. The allocations are determined using winning percentage, top 30 coaches’ rank and top 30 ratings percentage index (RPI) with a maximum of 29 allocations per weight class. The other four or more spots per weight class will be filled with At-Large bids, which we will discuss later.
The RPI is a formula based on winning percentage, opponent winning percentage (strength of schedule) and opponent’s opponent winning percentage (opponent’s strength of schedule). Only matches against D1 opponents at the designated weight class count towards the RPI, and a wrestler needs to have wrestled 15 matches to be ranked (https://www.wrestlestat.com/rankings/rpi has a preview of what they might look like throughout the season).
The NCAA announced how many allocations were given at each weight for each conference. This season, the Big 12’s was allocated:
125lbs: 6 Spots
133lbs: 6 Spots
141lbs: 7 Spots
149lbs: 4 Spots
157lbs: 6 Spots
165lbs: 4 Spots
174lbs: 8 Spots
184lbs: 4 Spots
197lbs: 7 Spots
285lbs: 6 Spots
This means that at the Big 12 Tournament this weekend, Noah Surtin would need to place top six, Allan Hart top 7, Josh Edmond top 4, etc. This is why seeding can be so important, as sometimes good wrestlers miss out on “earning” qualifying spots because there are more quality wrestlers than qualifying spots.
If that occurs, then typically at each weight we see 4-5 “At-Large” bids. These spots are for wrestlers who, for a variety of reasons, did not place in the necessary position at their conference tournament to qualify for NCAA’s. Often these are players who suffered an injury but would be able to compete at NCAA’s or wrestlers who were upset at the tournament, but their season record reflects their deservedness to go to the tournament. Ultimately, these At-Large bids are decided by a committee and the reason they are given to a particular wrestler could vary.
While qualifying for the tournament is a long complicated process, the scoring is a little more simple. There are three ways to score team points: placement points, advancement points, and bonus points.
Placement Points are, as the sound, given based on what placement a wrestler receives at the end of the tournament. Points are awarded to the team as follows:
- 1st place: 16 points
- 2nd place: 12 points
- 3rd place: 10 points
- 4th place: 9 points
- 5th place: 7 points
- 6th place: 6 points
- 7th place: 4 points
- 8th place: 3 points
Advancement Points reflect how a wrestler advances through either the championship bracket or consolation bracket before either placing or being eliminated.
- Championship Bracket Advancement: 1 Point
- Consolation Bracket Advancement: 0.5 Points
Bonus Points are awarded in the following results:
- Fall, Forfeit, Default, DQ: 2 Points
- Tech Fall: 1.5 Points
- Major Decision: 1 Points
What’s at Stake
Starting with conference tournaments this weekend, a wrestler can become their conference champion and secure a spot at the NCAA tournament later in March. Mizzou will also have a chance to score enough team points to become the Big 12 Champions again as a team.
At NCAA’s, wrestlers who place in the top 8 at their weight class become All-Americans, a term frequently used to describe this top tier of athletes.
While the process of getting to NCAA’s is very complicated, my advice would be to read my upcoming preview, watch our Tigers compete this weekend against Big 12 competition, and then read my recap to learn who is headed to Detroit for the national championships.