Monday, February 27, 2023

Opinion Piece: The Pros & Cons of Fewer Qualifiers

 I've been doing a lot of thinking lately in regards to NCAA qualification in comparison to DIII & DII to that of DI.  I along with many other wrestling fans feel that 18 qualifiers for the national tournament isn't nearly enough. Especially in regards to NCAA Division III.  There are 121 (or there will be anyway as of the 2023-2024) season teams.  That means 121 varsity wrestlers per weight class (theoretically speaking. I realize not every school fills an entire roster.)  That means that for every weight class, 103 wrestlers don't make the national tournament.  18/121 is just under 15%.  Meaning that 85% of the varsity wrestlers in NCAA Division III won't see the national tournament. 

NCAA Division II isn't anywhere near as bad.  I'm not exactly sure with all of the additions and subtractions how many teams there are right now. I think it is 67.   18/67 is not quite 27%. NCAA DI, I believe at the start of next season will be 80 programs.  33 qualifiers in DI, meaning 33/80 at about 41%. 

I've gotten in some disagreements with others over the years about how many qualifiers a national tournament should have.  Britt "The Seton Hall Pirate" Malinsky & I have had our rounds concerning the topic. He thinks NCAA DI should drop to 24 qualifiers, giving 24/80, at 30%.  We've never really discussed why he wants to do this. I have to admit that I've made the assumption that he is one of many who simply wants the NCAA DI tournament to be nothing but the absolute best.  I never have been a fan of this "searching for Cael Sanderson" mindset.  I never will be a fan of it.  Yet, I began thinking about how few NCAA DIII qualifiers there are in comparison to the # of varsity wrestlers there are from a different perspective. 

It's also a matter of fact that overall season performance has absolutely zero effect on qualification. There are no bids. There are no at large births or wildcards. You either place top 3 within your regional or you don't go. Some regionals are certainly more loaded then others.  One guy who doesn't qualify at 4th place in one Regional, may have very well won a different regional.  

We see the cons in this.  Are there any pros? 

I would argue yes.  Look at the mentality of D3 & D2 Vs that of D1.  Look at the perspective and philosophy.  NCAA Division I has such a "the NCAA's is all that matters" mentality.  Too many don't celebrate or allow themselves to enjoy the CKLV placings or the Midlands placings. A guy wins a BIG 10 title & during the interview dismisses it as practically nothing because the national tournament is "all that matters."  You don't get that kind of response in NCAA DIII or DII.  You don't see a guy hang his head in shame for getting 4th at the Regional. You see him hold his head high, smile on his face, because he got 4th at the Regional. The Regional is treated exactly as it is! An incredibly tough tournament that took a tremendous amount of hard work, skill, talent & determination to place at.  You see this at the Regions in DII. You see it at the really super tough in-season tournaments like the Midwest Classic. 

So yes, I still want to see more qualifiers for the DIII tournament some day, as I would for the DII. However, with so few qualifiers & it being such a difficult task, it makes wrestlers as well as coaches appreciate the other achievements that happen throughout the season. I think that is a good thing. Something that DI could use more of. 

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