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NCAA Wrestling: Fall vs. Tech Fall

Fall or Tech Fall: Both are equally difficult but should the point system be swapped? Would the outcome of the NCAA Wrestling Championships be changed? Take a look!

2023 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championship Photo by Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Now entering full offseason mode and an opportunity to veer away from the weekly previews and reviews, it’s time to branch out and look around for new ways to expand the knowledge of those interested in the wrestling world, both collegiately and into the lower levels of the high school ranks.

I recently argued with myself on team points and how they could be changed or ways to score victories differently. In what may be an unpopular opinion, I have concluded that a win by technical fall could be swapped with a win by fall, points-wise. I have also concluded that I don’t think anything should be changed. So basically, I’m still on the fence about what to believe.

Initially, a win by fall would conclude in a team receiving six points for a dual or two points if you are in tournament action. As to a tech fall where you receive five team points in a dual and one and a half points in a tournament. But what if these two were swapped? How would it change the outcomes or affect scoring?

I went back over the past ten years for a decent sample size and dug up both victories by fall and by tech fall during the NCAA Championships. The overall numbers in my conclusion ratio-wise were absurd and actually hold my theory right as to why it’s way more difficult to beat an opponent by fifteen or more points than to end up with a win by fall.

Over the past ten years, during the NCAA Championships, the numbers of falls to tech falls are 657 to 194. That is nearly a 4:1 ratio of pins to tech falls and a difference of 463. If you extend those numbers out a little bit further, you have 1,314 to 291 activity points, which is a difference of 1,023.

So what were to happen if we switched the way these activity points were scored, making a fall worth one and a half, and a technical fall worth two? Before we get to the results, let’s take a look at the flipped numbers. By switching the bonus points you end up with 985.5 fall activity points to 388 tech fall points, which is a difference of 597.5 points. This closes the gap in activity points dramatically! The real question though, does it affect the outcome of team scores?

There is no doubt that the competition levels and talents among wrestlers have grown and the talent gap between wrestlers has been narrowed. Going back to 2013, the 2014 Championship gave us the highest total of wins by fall with 76 and the 2017 season gave us the highest tech fall victories, 33. On average since 2013, fans will see roughly 66 falls and 20 tech falls during the NCAAs.

Now to the results, which honestly, are slightly disappointing. After gathering the numbers, charting them, calculating, and making adjustments, only one time did it even make a difference. In 2018, the fourth-place trophy would be leaving on a different bus. NC State would be walking out with a half-point advantage jumping Michigan with two falls and two tech falls to Michigan’s two falls and one tech fall.

Outside of the top four team finishers, there were a few position changes here and there but nothing that makes a difference to the final team results. The other thing that was noticed when looking at the top four finishes is the gap from place to place. Going from first place to fourth place, the space in team points was wide which in turn the change of a half point to three or four points at the most wasn’t nearly enough to close the gap or alter results. Even if you made these two bonus victories equal, you will get no changes.

As for the dual side of things, that’s a whole other breakdown itself and something that will take more time and number crunching. I looked into it briefly but until dual meets actually matter outside of exciting head-to-head matchups and have some sort of reward behind them, the effort is not worth the reward.

In summation, should we make a change to the point system, no I don’t believe so. Would it make wrestling interesting, that depends on how much you like seeing more action. Winning by a fall or tech fall are both extremely difficult. Are falls more exciting than a tech, absolutely but watching the effort behind someone putting on a clinic with chain wrestling and move-after-move is equally as impressive.

The numbers clearly show you have way better odds at pinning someone in competition than getting a tech fall, but if you swap them, the numbers could sway in another direction. Either way, wrestling is still wrestling and if you win your matches the results will follow.

Adjusted Scoring Chart
NCAA Championship Win by Fall (2013-Present)
NCAA Championship Win by Tech Fall (2013-Present)