2015 NCAA D1 Championships

Who Peaks Best?

Who Peaks Best?

Mar 14, 2015 by Willie Saylor
Who Peaks Best?
By Ben Askren

Peaking at the right time has been something that my life has focused around for the last 15 or so years. It is a very interesting concept and there are lots of theories on how to peak an athlete correctly. My general thought is to have a well thought out training plan combined with a competition schedule that will have an athlete battle tested. So going into NCAAs I wanted to do a statistical analysis of which team peaks the best. Here is how I did it:

I picked 6 teams to test- Penn St, Iowa, Minnesota, Cornell, Oklahoma St and my alma mater Mizzou. I looked at the last 5 years of NCAA brackets and scored each athlete how they placed according to their seed. Since many athletes are not seeded I counted all non seeded athletes as 16, meaning if there were unseeded and placed 7th that was +9. If they finished in the round of 12 I counted that as 12 and DNP was also counted as 16. I know this isn’t perfect, but I do not have a PHD in statistics. So without further ado, here are the results:



Penn St.



OK State


























































Minnesota and Penn State have wrestled about to their seed. Everyone remembers the Dardanes not placing last year, but Ness, Zilverberg, and Schiller all had big tourneys.

Ok. St and Iowa were the underperformers, on average wrestling 1.2 and 1.6 places below their seed over the past 5 years. Mizzou was right in the middle at about half a place under their seed. Cornell teetered on about 1 full seed.

Looking at the above numbers, it appears everyone wrestled bad. But the truth is, with these being the best teams, they are likely to have a bunch of highly seeded wrestlers. A wrestler who is seeded 1, and wins, scores on average 23 points for his team, but in this formula is counted as a wash. I would venture to guess using this formula anywhere close to zero is good.

Iowa’s worst year, 2009, they finished on average 4.2 places below their seed and still won nationals, although they only edged Ohio St. by 4 points.

The year in which this mattered the most was 2011 when Penn St won their first national. They beat Cornell by 14 points and Iowa by 21. Iowa wrestled 1.2 places below their seed and Cornell 1.8 places below. Penn St was at -0.1 so essentially wrestled to it’s seeds. It is safe to say that if Cornell wrestled to it’s seeds as well they would have been national champions.

With all the talk about who performs the best at crunch time I thought it would be good to have some data to back it up. What are your thoughts? I would love to hear some feedback.