Klingman: Margin of victory should have a bigger team impact

Updated: October 2, 2018

By Kyle Klingman

Photo: In addition to winning both a third NCAA title and second Hodge Trophy, Penn State’s Zain Retherford dominated foes with a 17.2 point differential, a new index WIN columnist Kyle Klingman and TrackWrestling’s Andy Hamilton came up with to statistically measure margin of victory.

(This column appeared in the Sept. 18, 2018 issue of Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine. The next issue will be mailed after the Oct. 20-28 UWW World Championships. To subscribe to WIN, go to WIN-Magazine.com or call 888-305-0606.)


In a sport that values domination, high school and college wrestling seems out of touch with its own standard.

We call it a blowout if a football team beats another team, 70-0. If a basketball team wins 100-50, we call it improbable. If a wrestler wins, 1-0, 10-5, 11-4, 14-7, 3-2 or 8-1 we call it a regular decision.

Regardless of how competitive a wrestling match is, one team gets all the points and the other team gets nothing.

The above sports comparisons are a bit skewed, of course. A 7-6 win in wrestling equates to a 70-60 win in football, and basketball allows its participants to score more points throughout the course of a 48-minute game.

Regardless, there is no denying this: A 1-0 win in college wrestling is worth as many points as a 14-7 win (3 team points), and a 14-0 win is worth as much as a 16-8 win (4 team points).

Although dual and tournament scoring is antiquated and amiss, there is a solution to add more excitement to our sport and to add a meaningful statistic to a sport that values a win-loss record above all else.

The NCAA currently awards the most dominant wrestler of the year. The highest possible score is a 6, which means a wrestler went undefeated and pinned everyone he faced. Every decision is worth 3, a major decision is 4, a technical fall is worth 5 and a fall is worth 6, while the opposite is true if you lose by the predetermined amounts.

Penn State’s Zain Retherford ended the 2018 season with a domination index of 5.19 — a staggering number to be sure.

There is likely a better way to track the efficiency and effectiveness of a wrestler during the course of a season and a career that does not include arbitrary standards.

Through conversations with Andy Hamilton of Trackwrestling.com — a baseball fanatic who is in tune with the statistical side of America’s pastime — we created a statistic that can enhance the value of the sport at the college and high school level.

We are both concerned that wrestling does not have a statistical narrative that keeps fans engaged. Our new wrestling statistic is a point differential index (PDI) that rewards a wrestler for winning by large margins and, the ultimate, securing falls.

PDI is less about wins and losses and more about scoring points.

If a wrestler wins by 10 points, he gets 10 points. If a wrestler loses by five points, he loses five points.

Simply, a wrestler’s margin of victory or margin of loss determines the numerical value that is tabulated into the overall PDI.

A fall is given a value of 22 points since a technical fall can be worth up to 21 points. If a wrestler is leading by 14 points and secures a six-point move (two for the takedown and four for the nearfall), then he would win by 20 points. A wrestler could also pick up a riding time point, which is a 21-point technical fall.

No points are awarded if a wrestler receives a forfeit. PDI is about matches that actually take place.

Remember, this is about assigning a numerical value to a wrestler as a way to show domination. That’s why scoring as many points as possible helps a wrestler’s PDI — even if he loses.

Retherford’s PDI for the 2018 season was a jaw-dropping 17.2. That means lots of falls and some technical falls that were higher than a 15-point differential. Despite two losses on the season, Iowa’s true freshman Spencer Lee had a PDI of 14.5.

There are two complications with a PDI:

1.) PDI does work to make historical comparisons. Dan Gable, Wade Schalles, and Gene Mills would have a very high PDI, but there weren’t technical falls during their eras so a value can’t be given to a fall. There was only a five-point near fall when Cael Sanderson wrestled, which makes a more reasonable comparison.

2.) PDI does not factor in strength of opponents. A wrestler who faces tough competition throughout the season might have a lower PDI than a wrestler who is injured or who doesn’t face anyone in the top 10.

PDI is designed to show the overall effectiveness of a wrestler. It also allows fans to make comparisons, which is healthy for any sport.

Quality statistics force us to consider a better way of tracking our sport. The current way isn’t as effective as it should be.