2023 NCAA Championships Watch Party

This Year's NCAA Team Title Was Always Penn State's To Lose

This Year's NCAA Team Title Was Always Penn State's To Lose

A look back at a season's worth of individual rankings shows that Penn State winning the 2023 NCAA Wrestling Team Title was never in doubt.

Mar 25, 2023 by Andrew Spey
This Year's NCAA Team Title Was Always Penn State's To Lose

This will be a short blog. The title says it all and there's one simple graph that explains why. 

More NCAA Championship Coverage: By the Numbers

But the topic and graph still warranted a blog post in my humble estimation. After all, this web page is not going to view itself. Not without fresh content anyway!

You're probably thinking, "Penn State was the favorite to win an NCAA title this year? Wow, big revelation here, Spey. How long did you spend figuring that out? You should win a Noble Prize for all your hard work." 

And you may have a point (although there's no reason to be so rude about it). But I still find it interesting, if not useful, to dig into some numbers to help illustrate what may otherwise be undisputed common knowledge. 

So as I was saying, Penn State started the year as the favorite to repeat, and the did not relinquish the title of favorite throughout the entire year. We can demonstrate that by looking at their projected team points based on individual rankings, which we keep track of in our D1 rankings

We keep records of those weekly rankings, which you can peruse at your leisure, all for the low low price of zero. 

Graphing those totals over time, along with the scores of the other top four trophy teams (Iowa, Cornell & Ohio State), yeilds the following. 

That graph is supposed to be interactive, at least if the good people at Google are to be believed. But if it's not working for you I've embedded an un-interactive copy of the graph below. 

As the blue line in the graph indicates, Penn State was always projected to score 20 or more points than the nearest rival all season long. Indeed, the gap between Penn State and Iowa, the closest challenger throughout the season, only grew as the season progressed. 

Penn State was projected to score over 100 (not counting bonus) by the third set of in-season rankings and never looked back. Staying healthy played no small roll in the success the Lions enjoyed in 2023. Besides Robbie Howard, who finished in the round of 12 in 2021 at 125 but then missed the last two seasons due to injury, Penn State rolled into the postseason with a healthy lineup loaded for bear. 

Which is not to say that every PSU wrestler was 100% in Tulsa. Few collegiate competitors escape an entire season without a couple of dings, just that whatever ailed the Nittany Lions in March didn't slow their march to an 11th team title in program history and the tenth of the Cael Sanderson era. 

So there you go, Penn State goes wire-to-wire in first place throughout the 2022-23 NCAA D1 college wrestling season. Now the question is can they do it again in 2023-24? Watch this space in 12 months' time and we'll tell you!