Next year’s nationals will have fewer wildcards

Updated: July 7, 2011

There will be ten fewer wildcard spots for next March’s NCAA Division I Championships and candidates for those spots will have a tougher time earning a wildcard after the NCAA announced July 6 that the Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet approved selection criteria changes for the national tournament.

Unlike the past two years, when 50 wrestlers earned wildcards to compete in the NCAA tournament in Omaha and Philadelphia, respectively, there will be only 40 wildcard spots available for wrestlers looking for national championships and All-American honors in St. Louis, March 15-17, 2012.

That’s because the NCAA will now allow 29 automatic qualifiers of 33 competitors per each of the ten weight classes, which means 290 of the 330 qualifiers will have earned NCAA berths in one of 11 qualifying tournaments two weeks prior to the national tournament. In the past two years since the NCAA based its qualifying standards on current season results, there were a different number of automatic qualifiers per weight class, which totaled 280 after the qualifying tournaments.

The following is a breakdown per weight class the past two years of the number of automatic qualifiers and wildcards:

Weight            2011 Auto/Wildcards            2010 Auto/Wildcards

125            28/5            29/4

133            29/4            26/7

141            28/5            27/6

149            27/6            29/4

157            29/4            27/6

165            26/7            28/5

174            29/4            28/5

184            28/5            27/6

197            28/5            29/4

Hwt            28/5            30/3

Total            280/50            280/50

In order to earn one of the wildcards, wrestlers must now meet two “bronze-level” criteria set up by the NCAA, instead of one. Those standards include:

  • Finishing in the Top 33 RPI
  • Finishing in the Top 33 coaches ranking
  • Earning a .700 winning percentage against all competition
  • Earning one win against a wrestler receiving automatic qualification via an earned position
  • Earning a qualifying event placement one below automatic qualification


According to the NCAA release, “fixing the number of pre-allocated positions per weight class at 29, the cabinet feels that student-athlete performance during the regular season will be the driving factor in the wrestler’s selection to the national championships.”

Meanwhile the NCAA announced that wrestlers, eligible to compete in the national tournament, must wrestle in at least eight matches at that weight during the regular season and before the national qualifying tournaments.

According to the release, “Cabinet members supported the minimum of eight matches to maintain a competitive balance and help the Division I Wrestling Committee manage at-large selections. They also believe it helps strengthen the weight-management plan for the sport, ensuring that student-athletes compete regularly at the desired competition weight class rather than wrestle in multiple classes.”

In last year’s national tournament, one wrestler qualified for the tournament without wrestling eight matches: Chattanooga’s 133-pound Demetrius Johnson whose record was 5-1 before the nationals. There were a few other wrestlers, who competed in a small percentage of matches during the season, including 2010 national runner-up Kirk Smith of Boise State, who was just 8-2 after an injury-plagued season.

In other news, the NCAA Wrestling Committee:

• recommended that Dave Martin, the Senior Associate Director of Athletics at Oklahoma State, serve as committee chairman of the NCAA Wrestling Committee for next year;

• pointed out that Cal State Fullerton, Liberty and North Carolina-Greensboro had discontinued their wrestling programs, dropping the number of NCAA Division I programs to 77 for the 2011-12 season;

• announced that the NCAA wrestling committee and NCAA “are working with the national coordinator of officials to develop a plan aimed at bettering collegiate wrestling officiating. Every aspect of the officiating and evaluation program will be reviewed and a new plan and ap- proach will hopefully be available in the fall.”