The 2015-16 season has been marked by tumult within the Fab 50 national team rankings. Spots throughout the rankings have involved deliberation and contention, with asymmetrical outcomes among teams aspiring for ranking spots. Now for a second straight year, the number one spot in the country is up for debate (and not during the speculative nature of the pre-season when the primary data-point is a subjective one, namely "roster talent").
At the start of the season, Blair Academy (N.J.) was the top ranked team, with Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) the second ranked team. Upon the completion of the Ironman, the top two teams switched positions, while Bergen Catholic (N.J.) and St. Paris Graham (Ohio) retained their spots at third and fourth in the country. The standings at the Ironman went like this: (1) Wyoming Seminary, (2) Blair Academy, and then (3) St. Paris Graham.
Then, on Jan. 2, Blair Academy traveled to St. Paris Graham and was upset by the host Falcons. Each team earned seven victories across the 14 weight classes, with St. Paris Graham earning a 27-24 dual meet win. At that point, Bergen Catholic and Blair Academy swapped positions in the rankings, St. Paris Graham staying at fourth nationally.
Two weeks subsequent, No. 3 Bergen Catholic lost to (at the time No. 9) Bethlehem Catholic (Pa.) by a 28-26 score in a dual meet where each team won seven bouts. That match took place at the Who's Number One duals held at the University of Pennsylvania. The championship match of that event Blair Academy would beat Bethlehem Catholic in the final 36-18 winning nine bouts. The Fab 50 took this shape: (1) Wyoming Seminary, (2) Blair Academy, (3) St. Paris Graham, (4) Bergen Catholic, with Clash champions Buchanan (Calif.) in fifth, while Bethlehem Catholic sat in sixth.
This past weekend's key result was the 35-20 dual meet victory for No. 2 Blair Academy at home against No. 1 Wyoming Seminary, a match in which the Buccaneers took home victories in nine of the 14 weight classes. After this match, there is some argument to be had for three different teams to hold the number one spot in the country: Blair Academy, St. Paris Graham, and Wyoming Seminary (listed alphabetically).
There are some similarities to last season when multiple teams had a case to be ranked number one in the country. At the end of last season, St. Paris Graham was crowned as national champions. In the wrap-up article discussing the rationale for the decision, a primary consideration was how the teams performed when all were present at the same event, the Walsh Ironman.
In this year's edition of that tournament, which was in mid-December, Wyoming Seminary won with 171 points, Blair Academy was second with 146, and St. Paris Graham was third with 126.5. Both the champion Blue Knights and third place Falcons had essentially their "base" (i.e. primary starting) lineup, Blair Academy was absent a nationally ranked wrestler in No. 9 Requir van der Merwe at 132 pounds.
The replacement for van der Merwe in the Ironman lineup for the Buccaneers went 0-2, while it was likely that van der Merwe would have been a mid-to-high placer. That obviously would have yielded more points for Blair (about 15), which shrinks the gap between first (Wyoming Seminary) and second, while extending the margin between second and third (St. Paris Graham).
Subsequent to the Ironman, Blair Academy has taken on both teams in the number one position debate in dual meets. Against St. Paris Graham, the teams split the bouts, but the Falcons came on top by a 27-24 score; while against Wyoming Seminary, Blair Academy won nine bouts in a 35-20 victory.
When comparing their direct competitions, it is my opinion that Blair Academy has had better overall performances against both Wyoming Seminary and St. Paris Graham.
Winning nine of 14 weight classes in a 35-20 victory over Wyoming Seminary out-weighs a relatively narrow defeat in bracketed tournament competition, when considering the personnel in each setting. Within that bracketed tournament, Wyoming Seminary put eight on the podium; Blair Academy put seven on the podium, and van der Merwe would have been number eight.
Even though Blair Academy lost the dual meet to St. Paris Graham, it is my opinion that their margin of victory in the bracketed tournament -- especially short a nationally ranked wrestler as they were -- carries more weight. At the Ironman, the Falcons only put five on the podium, which is obviously less placers than either Wyoming Seminary or the Buccaneers.
The Ironman performance of Wyoming Seminary also merits it being positioned above St. Paris Graham at the present time, even considering the relative dual meet results for each against Blair Academy.
An additional consideration used when considering the position of teams close to one another in the rankings is their overall season resume (obviously if there is a situation where a team is constrained by state regulations on scheduling, that is considered). Here are the notable to-date accomplishments for each team (teams are listed alphabetically):
St. Paris Graham
When stacking up the three resumes, their order of robustness also happens to be the order in which the teams will be ranked in the Fab 50, though that was a peripheral criterion last year and remains as such this year.
Given all arguments listed, it is my belief that the top three teams should be positioned in the following fashion at this time: (1) Blair Academy (2) Wyoming Seminary (3) St. Paris Graham.
Notable events going forward