On Monday, Penn State coach Cael Sanderson took to Twitter after the National Wrestling Coaches Association Dual Championship Series matchups were announced to voice his frustrations about the pairings.
He posted a statement, “It appears the NWCA dual matchups are incorrect … based on a simple policy we all agreed to, it should look like this.” Along with the post was a picture of matchups, down one side the top eight non-Big Ten schools and down the other side the top eight Big Ten schools.
Last year, coaches across the country agreed that the NWCA dual matches pit the top Big Ten schools against the top non-Big Ten schools based on the USA Today/NWCA Top 25 poll— just like Sanderson’s tweet reflected. If that was followed, the matchups would have consisted of No. 2 Penn State at No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Iowa at No. 5 Virginia Tech, No. 4 Ohio State at No. 7 North Carolina State, No. 6 Nebraska at No. 8 Cornell, No. 12 Rutgers at No. 11 Lehigh, No. 16 Michigan at No. 17 South Dakota State, Indiana at No. 20 Appalachian State and Purdue at No. 24 Edinboro.
Instead, due to some teams not taking part in the event, the matchups didn’t reflect the coaches’ agreement. Only three of the matchups that were on Sanderson’s list were put together after Monday’s announcements.
Penn State is among the teams not affected. The Nittany Lions are still heading to Oklahoma State, Rutgers will still travel to Lehigh and Indiana to Appalachian State.
The other matchups are not even close.
No. 16 Michigan faces No. 7 N.C. State, Purdue is heading to No. 17 South Dakota State and No. 3 Iowa is traveling to No. 24 Edinboro. It will be a battle of red with No. 4 Ohio State at No. 8 Cornell, and the final match in the series is No. 6 Nebraska at No. 5 Virginia Tech.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Sanderson said. “We had a good plan as coaches. A couple months later we find out from a select few that they’ve changed the format to a format that would bring problems like this unfortunately, and that’s where we are now.
“You watch; it’s going to turnaround and be used to try and change our March championship, which will not be good for our sport in my opinion.”
During Tuesday’s media day, Sanderson said on numerous occasions that things just didn’t make sense. It’s not hard to see why.
Coaches across the country have been wanting to make dual meets more meaningful. However, Sanderson said some coaches then come back and say that duals don’t matter.
Sanderson reiterated that could negatively affect the NCAA championships in March.
“We’ve been fighting the national dual monster since we got here,” he said. “It was to stop the never-ending push to change our national championship in March. That’s why we got together and came up with a comprise. The national tournament is what it is today because of the team race. If you take the team race out of the individual championship, you lose a lot of interest in following other teams here and there.”
He went on to talk about how wrestling is unique because of the number of schools that are able to participate in the NCAA tournament. . He felt it is because all of the programs have “a chance at success in the national tournament.”
Sanderson was asked that, if the series were to continue, whether the repetition of participating teams might doom the idea.
“That’s a great question,” he said. “But I mean you could say the same thing if it’s a dual championship. It’s going to be Big Ten teams wrestling each other over and over again, which doesn’t make sense if you’re in the Big Ten. You go back and forth and those losses are counted against and used against you in seeding for nationals but the wins aren’t, historically, that’s what we’ve seen.”
Sanderson has said that wrestling needs to look into the increase of scholarships for its athletes. He believes that is one reason why a dual championship format won’t work as well with only 9.9 scholarships to 10 starting spots. He has found himself the lead man on several hot topics when it comes to certain things in the sport he loves.
“I don’t like to speak up,” he said. “I mean, who wants to be in the middle of controversy? I don’t want to be there, but you have to stand up for what you believe.”
Going through the ranks
At the top: Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157)
Moving up: Jimmy Gulibon by one to No. 10 at 141 pounds
Staying put: Nick Suriano (No. 2, 125), Vincenzo Joseph (No. 4, 165), Mark Hall (No. 7, 174), Bo Nickal (No. 2, 184), Matt McCutcheon (No. 9, 197) and Nick Nevills (No. 3, 285)