Zach Hartman at the 2021 EIWA Championships (Photos/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com.com)
*updated from the original article on MatScouts from May 5, 2021*
If you are reading this article, it means you are slightly intrigued by the notion of adding Fantasy College Wrestling to your stable of Fantasy Games: Rotisserie Baseball, Snake or Auction Fantasy Football, Daily Fantasy, even filling out your NCAA Brackets with your friends. Be prepared though, this isn't going to be as easy as you think. Fantasy College Wrestling is a different animal entirely. Unlike Fantasy Football, Jane from Accounting is not walking away with the football crown in your office league. Wrestling is secretive.
It requires research, scouring message boards, listening to any and all podcasts to get that 7-second snippet of information. And sometimes, you just don't know if that wrestler you picked up with your only Add/Drop for the week is actually going to wrestle in that tournament he was entered into until an hour before it starts. Some coaches keep their information close to the chest, while others will be forthcoming. Depends on the team, the wrestler, and the situation.
Remember, â€œ[Suriano is] down in the room now wrestling.â€
Until recently though, we wrestling fans didn't really have any great options to participate in our own kind of fantasy season. It's time-consuming, even though it's roughly the same length as the fantasy football season. Either each team tallies their own points for the week, where every other team will be suspicious if the numbers add up, or one person does the score sheet for each team which can take for-ev-er.
Lucky for us, the guys at WrestleStat created the first publicly available and automated Fantasy College Wrestling platform in the 2019-2020 season. Even though the recent COVID Season tossed them (and everyone, for that matter) a curveball, they have improved the experience year after year. Increased League Manager customization, â€œreal timeâ€ scoring, head-to-head competitions, limit the number of Add/Drops per week, number of bench spots, and the ability to join (or create) as many leagues as you want.
If you participated last year, I hope you sign up again. If you didn't participate, I highly encourage you to do so. Everyone always talks about growing the sport of wrestling; what better way to do so than to make it a competition between friends. Now instead of following just Penn State, Iowa, or your local team, you become interested in how 141 Cole Matthews (Pittsburgh) does against Grant Willits (Oregon State), or that your week's success hinges on the hail mary pickup of Northern Colorado's Jackson Hemauer to win that tournament.
Like making pasta, you have to fold the flour in gently, not all at once. Fold your friends into the sport, and get them to have a vested interest in duals and tournaments. In other words, get them involved in Fantasy College Wrestling. I truly believe Fantasy College Wrestling has an opportunity to not only add another dimension to the fans we have, but an excellent opportunity to gain new fans. It's cheap and fun (and frustrating) exposure.
So, here is your introductory crash course into the wild and wonderful world of Fantasy College Wrestling. First, let's go over the basic need-to-know ruleset:
The Draft and Rosters
WrestleStat's Fantasy College Wrestling draft is a fully interactive snake draft experience that takes as much time (or less) as your typical Fantasy Football draft. Each League Manager can set the number of teams, but the standard league is 10. Should a league not fill all the team spots by draft time, the open slots will be filled by â€œSimulated Teams,â€ who will draft on Auto for the next best available wrestler.
With WrestleStat's comparison algorithm, they are able to have draft data like number of duals and tournaments for the year and projected points for the season.
The typical league team consists of 15 wrestlers: 10 starters (one per weight class), two Floaters (any weight class) and three bench spots. The League Manager also has the ability to increase the number of bench wrestlers per team for the league.
The 10 starters will only score points if they wrestle at the designated weight class. For example, if a wrestler is in the 125 roster spot (say Spencer Lee) and wrestles up at 133 for a dual meet. That result would NOT count.
However, the wrestlers in the two Floater spots can wrestle at any weight class and have the result count. For example, a 125 wrestler (say Spencer Lee) wrestles at 133 and is in one of the Floater spots. That result WILL count.
The bench spots will not score points.
The Default Scoring in WrestleStat's Fantasy College Wrestling leagues had the following parameters:
1) Standard Dual Scoring was used for all competitions (Dual and Tournaments). Meaning, a win by decision was +3 and a loss by decision was -3, etc., etc. A win/loss by Fall, FFT, INJ, or DQ was +6/-6. No advancement or placement points are counted. MFF and Byes are zero points (though this can be changed by the League Manager)
2) Only matches against D1 competition counted for your wrestler's weekly Fantasy point total. Any match against un-rostered, DII, DIII, etc. wrestlers would not count for or against your wrestler's weekly point total
3) Wrestlers on Olympic Redshirt would not be eligible to accrue Fantasy points
4) Regular redshirts ARE eligible for accruing Fantasy points
Each Scoring Week runs from Monday to Sunday. A wrestler will â€œlockâ€ for the Scoring Week at 9am on his team's first competition. This means any add/drops or changing Starters/Floaters would have to be completed before 9am.
For the inaugural season, there were no limitations on add/drops or trades. For instance, my average amount of add/drops between my three leagues was 89 transactions.
Limitation on Add/Drops per week can be set by the League Manager.
Each week, your team would compete head-to-head against another member of your league. Total accumulated points vs total accumulated points. Standings went by overall record, with the tiebreaker being total aggregate points.
The regular season lasts about 15 weeks, with the top four teams competing for the championship in the final two weeks of the NCAA season (much like the National College Football Championship). The middle four teams (#5-8 in the standing) would compete in the â€œBest-of-the-Rest Tournament.â€ for bragging rights.
WrestleStat leagues do not carry over into the postseason (Conferences and NCAAs)... yet.
And that, my Fantasy College Wrestling friends, is the boiled-down ruleset that you need to know. If you want to read the full rules, you can view them HERE.
But you didn't click on this article just to read about rules. You don't Google Search the â€œRules to playing Monopoly,â€ you search for pro-tips and strategies (yes, there is a Monopoly World Championship) . So, let's tease a few:
** Note, for data examples, the last full regular season (2019-2020) was used
Information is king. Knowing what wrestlers are being sent to an Open Tournament or even if a starter like Spencer Lee or Gable Steveson is going to take the mat in the Sunday night dual. Message boards, as toxic and biased as they can be at times, can offer up some very valuable information and insight week by week. You have to get through a lot of dirt and rock to find those flakes of gold.
2. Redshirts Are Wrestlers Too
The pins leader of 2019 was Central Michigan's Matt Stencel with a total of 19 falls. By January 30, 2019, Stencel had 15 pins and then redshirt Anthony Cassioppi had 14, which would have made Cassioppi 2nd in the NCAA (with a faster fall time than Stencel too).
In the 2020 season, the top Fantasy Wrestler across all weights was redshirt 157 Jonathan Ross (Lock Haven) with a record of 52-8 and 135 Fantasy points. 133 Seth Gross (Wisconsin) was 7th with 103 Fantasy points.
You aren't going to win NCAAs with them, but they are the unsung heroes that you need in order to win your league. When your go-to starters are injured, ducking, or are questionable to compete, redshirts and backups can be that bridge to guide you to Fantasy College Wrestling success.
3. Add/Drop Like It's A Business
We all have favorite teams and wrestlers, but sometimes you have to make tough decisions to look past your fan allegiances and drop a beloved guy.
Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) is going to be a hammer for the next few years, and I have no doubt that he can compete with the elite in his weight class, but in 2020 he had three weeks where he faced the #1 (Gross, Loss maj), #2 (DeSanto, Loss dec), and #3 (Bravo-Young, Loss maj) wrestlers. If you would have picked up Codi Russell (Appalachian State) instead, you would have netted +24 Fantasy Points.
That doesn't mean that everyone is droppable. Even though Spencer Lee is going to be on a â€œpitch-count,â€ you know that when he wrestles, it's going to be a win by bonus. You don't have a lot of roster space, but guys like Spencer Lee ought to be one of those 15 spots for the entire season.
Use the Transfer Portal (Free Agency) to its fullest, but only if the favorable matchups are there. Which is a great transition toâ€¦.
4. Look For The Matchup, Don't Force The Matchup
Going back to Tip #1, research is king. That and following our Weekly Outlooks during the season.
Things to consider are the number of matches in a given scoring week and the opposing competition. The instinctual reaction is that the greater number of potential matches, the better. Yes and no.
Yes, because it gives your wrestler more room for error. A wrestler with three matches in a week could lose one and still net a positive Fantasy point total. If your opposing team only has a total of 20 potential matches, and you have a potential 24 matches, the probability of winning may be in your favor.
No, because it can also bite you if a wrestler loses and MFF out of a tournament or only wrestles in one or two of the matches in a team's quad-meet.
Or, sometimes taking the â€œsure-thingâ€ is the safer play. Sometimes starting 165 Keegan O'Toole (Missouri) against Austin Yant (UNI) is a better play than 165 Peyton Mocco (Missouri), even though Mocco had two matches against unranked opponents that same week.
It is really about matchups. For instance: No one can honestly say that 165 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) was not a title contender in 2020. He was an almost absolute start in every week, but there were exceptions. On January 18, 2020, Nebraska rolled into Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a Saturday Dual. Alex Marinelli vs. Isaiah White was slated to be one of the marquee matchups. I didn't (really) have a doubt that Marinelli would come out victorious, but I did not include him on my Weekly Outlook as a good start. Why? Because there was too much risk. I didn't expect Marinelli to get bonus against White, even though his 2020 bonus rate was 52%.
I felt that 165 Zach Hartman (Bucknell) had the better matchup to start over Marinelli, which he was with +12 on the week (two pins). In the inaugural season, beating the #5 ranked wrestler by decision or beating the #159 ranked wrestler by decision would result in the same +3 Fantasy point result. Maybe that changes in the future to have bonus points attributed to ranked competition, but we will see.
There's more to it than those four tips, but at the end of the day, the buck stops with you. Like a day trader in the stock market, do your DD (Due Diligence) and set your lineup how you think it can perform to its optimal potential.