No matter what sport you play, what hobby you enjoy, or what game you tinker at, there's always some work that has to be put in, to not only make it fulfilling but also to become the best you can be at it.
Fantasy Wrestling is not like fantasy football. Well, it is, but there’s a lot more that goes into it. In a typical office fantasy football league, Jane from accounting (who said her favorite team is the Oilers because that’s who her brother liked when growing up in the late 70s) can't just walk in, auto-draft, and take home the league trophy. Fantasy Wrestling requires work.
Right now, you can go to your favorite fantasy sports app and bring up the current medical condition of Austin Ekler and the likelihood of him playing on Sunday. Hell, even college football discloses basic information on player availability. And if you have been a fan of wrestling for more than two seconds, you know that coaches' heads would probably explode if they were held to the same standard.
Wrestling coaches like to keep their plans secret (Remember, “[Suriano is] down in the room now wrestling.”) As you have seen before, potential match-ups are announced but the actual matches that occur (sometimes the anticipated matches of the dual) don't happen. I've even seen Twitter accounts post promotional material featuring specific wrestlers who don't end up competing!
But that fantasy sports for you. The glory and the frustration, the pain of the woulda-shoulda-coulda, and that Sunday night dual miracle with the last match on the West Coast.
Luckily, as I noted in the Fantasy 101 article last week, the guys at WrestleStat have created a fully interactive and fantasy football-like game experience to make each tournament, dual, and individual match that much more exciting. Snake draft and weekly competitions to help get through the next 20-os-so weeks until Nationals.
So to help navigate you through the 2024 Fantasy College Wrestling season (#FCW24), here are some tips and tricks that have helped me to be competitive (and a winner) year in and year out since 2014 when I started doing season-long Fantasy Wrestling (back then it was all by “paper and pencil”, as they say).
Information is king and knowing what wrestlers are going to an unscheduled Open or who is getting the start this weekend with three dual meets on tap is extremely valuable. While we have a robust media presence for our sport, we still don't get the same type of access that major professional and college sports have. Podcasts, articles, and forums/message boards. Despite the sometimes toxic and biased nature of some boards, there are usually some flakes of gold through all that dirt.
Podcasts and short interviews/press conferences have been a recent go-to as some coaches have been more transparent (shoutout Kevin Dresser), but they are not going to always be so easy to find. Sometimes the hour-long podcast has just that one snippet about the Storm Open participants from Ohio State.
Matthew Berry does a “Draft Day Manifesto” every year and one sentence has always stuck with me no matter what fantasy sport I play (especially FCW): You can't always win your league in the first few rounds, but you can lose it.
Something to think about.
2. Mock Draft, Mock Draft, Mock Draft
Wrestlestat allows users to prepare for their draft by creating Mock Draft lobbies which can be set to just about any league size and filled with friends, fans, or simulated users if you want to get in a quickie. Random snake draft placement, so you can test your skills and put that research to work in different situations.
Because you know, YOU KNOW, Jim is going to take Mitchell Mesenbrink RIGHT BEFORE IT IS YOUR TURN TO PICK. So instead of going in blind, know how to adapt and pivot and, as they say, practice makes perfect.
3. Redshirts Are Wrestlers Too…
During the draft, and especially during the season, your high-ranked starters are not always going to wrestle week-in and week-out. You’re going to need some bench wrestlers to step up, especially in the first part of the season. For example: In the 2020 season, the top Fantasy Wrestler across all weights was redshirt 157 lber Jonathan Ross (Lock Haven) with a record of 52-8 and 135 Fantasy points. Seth Gross (Wisconsin) was 7th with 103 Fantasy points.
Now, that's an extreme outlier, right? 60 matches in a season?! Did he have a death wish?
But in 2022, Ethen Miller (MD) had more fantasy points than Nick Lee (PSU) and Joey Milano (NCST) had more than Myles Amine (MICH). This past season, Sheldon Seymour (LEH) had more fantasy points than Liam Cronin (NEB) and Pat Glory (PRIN). In fact, Spencer Lee (IOWA) had an Average Draft Position (ADP) of #3 in 2020, #1 in 2021, #1 in 2022, and #1 this past season (2023), but this is the first time he's finished within the Top-5.
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.
4. First Semester Freshmen
The past couple of years have seen some pretty substantial rule changes, but one that impacted Fantasy Wrestling more than the others has been the True Freshman First Semester Attachment. In the past, true freshmen could be that surprise Michigan State Open placer or Daktronics Open champion to rack up some much-needed points. However, with now needing them to be attached if wrestling anytime in the first semester, coaches are more strategic in when they use their True Freshmen five competition dates.
5. 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.
There’s no debate that Pat McKee (MINN) is a hammer and one of the top wrestlers at 125. But to close out the 2023 season, he faced #4 Matt Ramos (PUR- loss Dec), Unranked Maximo Renteria (ILL- win by Maj), #1 Spencer Lee (Iowa- loss Dec), and #6 Eric Barnett (WISC- loss Dec) for a total net of -5 Fpts.
If you started someone like Braxton Brown in that same time frame, you would have net +7 instead.
That doesn’t mean that everyone is droppable. Even though Vito Arujau (COR) may be on a “pitch count,” 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 Arujau ought to be one of those 15-16 spots for the entire season. It can be difficult to drop a beloved wrestler, but sometimes it is necessary to make tough decisions and look past your fan allegiances.
Use the Transfer Portal (Free Agency) to its fullest, but only if the favorable matchups are there. Which is a great transition to….
6. Look For The Matchup, Don’t Force The Matchup
All these tips have a foundation based on tip #1, Research. One great in-season resource is the #FCWpodcast and the @FantasyD1Wrestl Weekly Outlooks for waiver wire pickups and tournament entry info. The InterMat FCW Forum page is also pretty neat too (wink wink, nudge nudge)
Things to consider are the number of matches in a given scoring week and the opposing competition. The instinctual reaction is that the greater the 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’s out of a tournament or only wrestles in one or two of the matches in a team’s quad-meet.
Or, sometimes taking the “sure thing” is the safer play. Sometimes starting 174 Carter Starocci (PSU) is a better play than Rider’s Quinn Kinner, even though Kinner has two matches against unranked opponents that same week.
An example from 2020 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%.
There’s more to it than those six 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.