Riordan's Roundup: Feb. 18, 2013

When I reflect on this past weekend's Cliff Keen National Duals regionals, I cannot help but wonder what would have been the case had I instead been watching an actual dual meet national championship.

I do not have a stance on the issue, which is probably dead now, of whether of whether or not a NCAA Division I national championship should be determined by a national dual meet tournament. Frankly, I'm torn on the matter. The current NCAA tournament format is perfection; it is the single greatest annual sporting event held annually on American soil. Integral to the drama and intrigue of the NCAA individual tournament is the fact that it determines the official NCAA team champion. If March's tournament were to lose its role as the determiner or a team champion, the perfection would be lost and the exquisitely cut and polished gym that is the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament would lose quite a bit of luster.

This being said, imagine if the National Duals became an NCAA dual meet championship. Every top team would be in attendance with every weapon at their disposal brought to bear. We would have dual meets with everything riding on the line. The first wrestling competition I ever experienced was a dual meet, and it hooked me for life. With the right teams, the right atmosphere, and the right kind of crowd, a dual meet can be American folkstyle wrestling's most exciting incarnation. Pairing this excitement with the significance of a NCAA championship would potentially create the greatest viewing experience hardcore wrestling fans could ever hopeful, as well as something compelling enough to entice a casual, channel flipping audience.

Would it have been worth having a dual meet national championship at the expense of some of the prestige of the NCAA individual tournament? I don't have a good answer for that question. I can just enjoy the wrestling as it appears before me, and that which appeared before me this weekend were the National Duals four regional competitions.

As an aside, I'd like to add that a current problem with National Duals, or a potential NCAA dual meet championship, is its proximity to high school state championships, and by problem, I mean a problem for high school coaches. For some, their season may still be going as these championships take place. For others, their wives believe they just got them back, and now as they return home, they have to break the news that there is quite a bit more wrestling to watch. This is potentially hazardous.

As it stands right now, the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals is the toughest dual meet tournament in the nation. Congratulations to Cornell, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, and Missouri for winning their regions.

Missouri wins the National Duals Missouri region

Mizzou is a tough tournament team bookended by two potential national champions and a slew of top 20 caliber wrestlers in between. It should surprise no one that they won their region.
One result that sticks out is in Missouri's regional final dual with Maryland, Maryland's Christian Boley pinned Mizzou's Brent Haynes at 197 pounds. Boley, a third seed at last year's NCAAs, has struggled this year. Maybe this win is a signal that he has returned to form.

Cornell (Photo/Cornell Sports Information)
Cornell wins the National Duals Cornell region

In the close 19-17 finals dual with Nebraska, the Big Red win their region with the help of a huge pin by the one and only Kyle Dake. Dake has been nothing short of amazing this year and if he manages to beat David Taylor again to win NCAAs this year, it would take an IOC executive board level of injustice to take the Hodge away from him.

Virginia Tech wins the National Duals Oregon State region

Two old Hawkeyes tilting at each other from opposite ends of the country, Kevin Dresser and Jim Zalesky lead their teams, Virginia Tech and Oregon State respectively, against each other in this regional final. Virginia Tech is the winner of the dual, but wrestling wins from the vision of both of these coaches who have done incredible things for their wrestling programs.

At 157 pounds, Jesse Dong edges R.J. Pena. Keep an eye on Dong, my early dark horse pick to make a crazy run at NCAAs.

Also, don't look now, but Michigan's 149-pounder, Eric Grajales, once the bluest of blue chippers, is starting to really roll at this point in the season. Against Oregon State he notches a 6-4 victory over Scott Sakaguchi.

Oklahoma State wins the National Duals Kent State region

No surprise here that OSU takes this region with a finals win over Kent State. However, at 133, the Cowboys' sixth-ranked Jon Morrison suffers a shocking upset to Kent State's Mackenzie McGuire.

Utah Valley beats Air Force 23-9

I've been nothing but impressed with the Air Force wrestling team this year so this result comes as a bit of a surprise to me. UVU's win was spurred by a big upset at 125 with Jade Rauser upending eighth-ranked Falcon Josh Martinez. These are two programs that not enough people are talking about, but they have bright futures with both enjoying some impressive recruit commitments for next year.

North Carolina Dominates Carolina Duals

In the featured match of the Carolina Duals, UNC's sixth-ranked 141-pounder Evan Henderson earns a 3-1 win over The Citadel's seventh-ranked K. Undrakhbayar, known as Ugi. This was Henderson's second win over Ugi this year and UNC has a couple of lightweights who might really make noise in March.


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Mont (1) about 5 years ago
It's time for a NCAA National Dual Champion. Penn State and other schools shold not be allowed to run and hide and build only for the "individual championships". Duals can and will be a very exciting tournament which will involve more teams, more fans and greater overall coverage. Selfishness on the part of Sanderson and others should not prevent this from happening. If you are the best in the nation then prove it. Everyone knows 4 individuals can win a National Championship now. Coaches recruit to get those 4 or 5. Having a Dual National Champion will making coaching and recruiting more relevant.
TheTruth (1) about 5 years ago
What was the attendance at the regionals? Something to the effect of ~700 at Missouri's and ~2100 at Cornell's? I wonder why they were so low. Maybe we should look at the scores: Cornell wins 42-0 and 19-17, OSU 34-10 and 39-7, VT 33-6 and 20-15, and Missouri 27-13 and 27-15. Two good matches out of these 8. And next week I think we'll see similar scores with Iowa, OSU, on tOSU on the winning sides. Next weeks finals will have how many competitive matches at the highest level? (e.g. Iowa vs. OSU). I fail to see how really strong teams beating up on not as strong teams to the tune of 33-9 or worse is exciting or will compel fans to travel to those sites, even if you are on the winning side. We already know that Iowa, OSU, Penn State, and tOSU are the best teams in the country in a dual format. Does our sport need all the cost and distraction of a National Duals? What's the opportunity cost to current national championships? At it's core, wrestling is an individual sport. We go to see great individuals perform at the highest levels. And they are all there at the National Championship; that's why it's one of the best collegiate sporting events in the country.

Regardless of what you think of Cael Sanderson and Penn State and of their decision to skip the National Duals, when was the last time a team won the national championship with only 4 great wrestlers? My memory doesn't go back to the 60s, but I'd say never. The great Iowa and OSU teams of the past had 8+ All Americans. Looking back at last year, Penn State had 9 qualifiers and 6 AAs in the Top 3. That's 50% more AAs than 4 by my math. I didn't check but I think you'll see many more than 4 AAs from schools like OSU, tOSU, Minnesota, etc.

Let's get the facts together before broad brush statements like "it's time" and calling folks "selfish".
spencerszewczyk (1) about 5 years ago
yes, let's deemphasize the individual tournament, which is hugely successful and makes a boat load of money and gets well over 100,000 spectators and replace it with a national duals championship which no one cares about, loses money, and has a few hundred spectators. that makes a lot of sense.

like thetruth posted above, if you go with a national duals, it's going to be the same 4 or 5 teams winning it every year, with none of the other teams even competing. at least at the individual tournament these "lesser" teams can have a few champs or all americans and place high. you go to a national dual format to determine the NCAA team champion, where only a handful of teams get in every year, and all the teams that don't make the national duals year in and year out will drop their wrestling programs. yes, let's do that, and maybe we can ruin wrestling even more...
Chim Richalds (1) about 5 years ago
In terms of building the sport of wrestling, sticking with the individual championship makes more sense. True wrestling fans will come out and be excited to watch both the individual and team championships. The challenge is drawing in the casual wrestling fan. And the casual fan is here to watch the big time match-up. If we want to bring people to the sport, we have to put the best we have on the foremost national stage. I'm not saying that the National Duals won't be a great event - I'm sure it would be. But the individual championship makes for the best weight-by-weight match-ups, and that is what puts asses in the seats.