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WIN’s Pre-NCAAs Notebook
By Mike Finn
Making sense of seeds
If it’s the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, there is talk about seedings. That is especially true in 2014 when many fans are trying to figure out how some wrestlers were ranked high and some were not … or not ranked at all.
Among the more notable question marks came at 197 pounds where Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson, ranked No. 1 by WIN and other national rankings, was seeded No. 5 for this year’s tournament. Another came at 141 pounds, where The Citadel’s returning All-American Ugi Khishignyam was ranked No. 8 by WIN but not seeded at all. The Bulldog (with a 22-3 record) drew Penn State’s Zain Retherford, ranked No. 3 in WIN’s rankings and seeded No. 3.
“It is what it is,” Sanderson said. “It’s not time for us to think about what has happened. If you looked at some of the weight classes, there was something strange and why that was, I don’t know. It’s what we have and we have to make due.”
Oklahoma State coach John Smith did not have problem with the seedings and questioned the validity of rankings other than those of the NCAA Wrestling committee that gave wrestlers a Ratings Performance Index during the latter part of the regular season. According to the Feb. 27 RPI, prior to the NCAA qualifying tournaments, Gadson was ranked No. 9, while Ugi Khishignyam was ranked No. 23.
“What do you judge (seedings) by?” Smith said. “Do you judge it by the internet where there are rankings without doing the homework. I think (the NCAA committee) did their homework. I sure out of 160 seeded athletes, there are a few who could have gone a different way. Overall, I looked at it as pretty good.”
Minnesota coach J Robinson believes the committee should explain its seedings better.
“I believe in transparency,” said Robinson, who was on the NCAA Coaches Ranking panel. “I think the Big Ten coaches do a great job because when we rank them, we put it up so everyone knows how we rank them. I think the NCAA committee and those who do (the seedings) owe us an explanation to why it’s done. I don’t understand how Gadson is seeded No. 5.
“I think there is an explanation owed to the coaches and the people to see if it’s really valid. If it is validated, then I’d be one to say it makes sense. But not to know it, that’s the question that I would have.”
“When the seedings came out, I had people come up say, ‘You guys got hammered with the seedings,’ ” said Oklahoma coach Mark Cody. “But the way we look at it is that you get the seed that you get and then you prepare. I didn’t notice one way or the other. But at the same time with the new formula, I think they are tweaking things. I don’t think anything was intentional, but it would be nice to know what the process is.”
Iowa coach Tom Brands believes all the weight classes are more talented.
“The qualifying rules have changed and there is no question that the brackets are deeper,” Brands said. “I don’t look at it like (the NCAA committee) did anything wrong. I think they put some weight in some areas like returning champions carried a lot of weight. They are the committee and I think they did the best job they could do. It’s tough. Those brackets are even. Are there any clear-cut No. 1s out there? There are some, but there are always arguments for the No. 2 guys.”
Avoiding Gopher holes
At this year’s Big Ten tournament, it appeared that Minnesota was in the driver’s seat with nine wrestlers advancing the semifinals in Madison, Wisc. Unfortunately for the Gophers, only one of those wrestlers advanced to the finals and Minnesota finished third behind Penn State and Iowa. A similar thing happened at this year’s Southern Scuffle, Jan. 1-2 in Chattanooga, where the Gophers led after the first day, but finished third.
“When we came back after the Scuffle, we looked at it one way,” Robinson said. “Sometimes you think it’s an anomaly, that things just happen some time. But when it happened twice, we went back and looked at some things and made some changes we think will make a difference. One of the things is that we lost our focus a little bit after the (Big Ten quarterfinals).”
What is the main event?
For the second straight NCAA national tournament, the final match may not be the heavyweight final, which had been the tradition of the NCAAs prior to last year when the 165-pound final between Cornell’s Kyle Dake and Penn State’s David Taylor was the last match that took place in Des Moines last March.
This year, the NCAA will determine which will be the final match after Friday semifinals. All the coaches present for the pre-NCAA press conference liked the idea.
“They are following models that are happening in other combat sports,” said Sanderson. “They had a lot of success last year with it.”
“In the arts, the best artist performs last,” said Robinson. “That’s what we want.”
The one weight class that is getting most of the attention is 174 pounds, where seven All-Americans return, including two former NCAA champions: Oklahoma’s Andrew Howe, who won the 165-pound title in 2010 for Wisconsin, and Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry, last year’s national champion at 174 pounds.
Their Big 12 final, where Perry avenged an earlier-season loss to Howe, was showcased as the main event.
“After that match, it was electric in the gym,” said Cody. “It was awesome.”
“It’s good but you can’t make a matchup that is not a match,” said Perry. “Everyone might want to see it but you can’t just make it. You have to take one match at a time and get ready. If we meet up again, so be it. I’ll be excited.”
“I think it’s good for wrestling if you have exciting matches throughout the finals,” said Taylor, who lost 4-3 to Dake in last year’s final match. “It’s pretty exciting and something that you won’t forget.”
The last of a long line?
When Chris Perry completes this year’s NCAA tournament, it will end a long line of uncles and nephews from a well-known family that have made major contributions to the national tournament.
Before Perry — a two-time All-American — or his older brother Mark — who won two NCAA championships for Iowa in 2007 and ’08, their uncles — LeRoy, John, Pat and Mark Smith — all earned at least All-American honors for the Cowboys.
“We actually have another one coming up,” said Chris Perry about his coach’s son, Joe Smith, a two-time Oklahoma state champion who will be a senior next fall and is expected to compete in college at OSU.
The last time the nationals were held in Oklahoma City, the Cowboys completed a fourth straight NCAA championship while Chris’ brother finished third.
“It’s good to have it in OKC,” Chris said. “It’s good but it’s another tournament and that’s how we look at it. We don’t make it out to be more than it is.”