Last September a Blue Ribbon Task Force proposed multiple changes to the NCAA Division I wrestling season. The biggest alternation would come with the introduction of an official dual meet championship tournament. The Task Force envisioned a 16-team dual meet tournament composed of conference dual champions and at-large selections, which would take place following the individual NCAA championship.
It remains to be seen if the proposal will ever come to fruition. However, it is certainly interesting food for thought. Let's take a look at what a dual meet championship might actually look like if the system had been in place for this year.
Under the proposed system all conference champions would automatically qualify for the tournament. That means the following teams would automatically qualify:
Penn State (Big Ten Conference)
North Carolina State (Atlantic Coast Conference)
Missouri (Mid-American Conference)
Arizona State (Pac-12 Conference)
Appalachian State (Southern Conference)
Cornell (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association)
Rider (Eastern Wrestling League)
Oklahoma State* (Big 12 Conference)
*Oklahoma State and South Dakota State both went undefeated in conference and did not wrestle in the regular season. For the purpose of this hypothetical scenario, Oklahoma State takes the automatic qualifier spot due to having the higher InterMat dual meet ranking.
With the conference champions automatically entered into the field, that leaves eight at-large spots open. For this exercise, the highest ranked non-automatic qualifiers in the InterMat dual meet rankings earn bids to the tournament. The following teams would qualify:
No. 2 Ohio State (Big Ten)
No. 5 Michigan (Big Ten)
No. 7 Iowa (Big Ten)
No. 9 Virginia Tech (ACC)
No. 10 Lehigh (EIWA)
No. 12 South Dakota State (Big 12)
No. 13 Nebraska (Big Ten)
No. 14 Wyoming (Big 12)
Under the new system, a committee would likely decided the at-large participants based on record, RPI and a coaches ranking, much like the current individual selection process.
The Blue Ribbon Task Force proposal does not include seeding criteria. For the creation of the following hypothetical brackets, seeds came from the InterMat dual meet rankings. However, it is hard to imagine how teams jockeying for seeding position in a dual meet season would not create more excitement and focus around the dual meet season.
The proposal outlines that the top eight seeds would host dual meets on the tournament's first weekend. Then, the top remaining seed after the first weekend would host the remaining eight-team field.
Using a mixture of most recent result and predictions, the following is how the bracket plays out. Obviously, anything can happen in wrestling and that is exactly what would make a dual tournament that much more interesting.
Per this prediction, the finals would be a rematch of one of the best duals of the year with Penn State and Ohio State facing off. Penn State won the last match thanks in large part to an upset of then-number-one Kollin Moore by Anthony Cassar. Since then Shakur Rasheed has taken over the starting spot at 197. However, in this hypothetical scenario, Penn State would have multiple-time NCAA Jason Nolf back in the lineup.
While the final match would be a rematch per this projection, this scenario would also result in 85 individual matches that have never occurred before. The proposal seems to be a long way from happening. However, in theory, the new season structure would put an emphasis on duals and give the wrestling community another marquee event at the Division I level.