Which State Is The Best At Producing NCAA All-Americans?

John Sachs Cory Clark

Many states lay claim to being the best at wrestling, using a variety of criteria and reasoning to back up their assertions. 

One popular method is to look up the home state of the NCAA champions and All-Americans and add up the count. We've got the raw numbers from the last four NCAA Championships if you want to go that route. 

More recently, we've taken a closer look at the stats and found that, when adjusted for relative population sizes, no one does better than Iowa at producing NCAA All-Americans. 

But that last analysis only considered the most recent NCAA tournament in St. Louis. A longitudinal study would provide greater insight with regard to the question, as one good tournament from a wrestler in a state with a small population is enough to skew the per capita results. 

With that mind, we've taken All-Americans from the past five years and assigned them points based on their NCAA finishes and then sorted them by their home states. A graph of the results can be found below.

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Iowa edges out South Dakota, its closest challenger, to maintain its position in the front of the state wrestling pecking order. 

The slim margin of victory for Iowa is also slightly misleading, as 95 percent of the points scored by South Dakotans in the last five years came from just two wrestlers, Minnesota Golden Gopher Logan Storley and Nebraska Cornhusker Robert Kokesh, who earned six All-American honors in that time period combined. 

A staggering 40 different Pennsylvanians made it onto the podium in the last five years, but that number is tempered by being the sixth most populous state in the Union. 

Wyoming is another small state that punches above its weight; however, as with South Dakota, it only takes a couple wrestlers to skew the results. In this case, Bryce Meredith alone accounted for 88 percent of the points scored by Wyomingites over the last five years. 

Ohio is the second-most productive big state after Pennsylvania. Twenty-eight different Ohioans have climbed the All-American steps since 2013.

Since we're still seeing one or two wrestlers accounting for big swings in the results, we can try expanding the data range out to the last 10 years. The result from that analysis can be found in the graph below.

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A 10-year time frame only solidifies Iowa's grip of the top spot, while South Dakota slips to No. 3. 

Iowa can boast of 26 different All-Americans making a total of 50 trips to the NCAA podium in the last decade. While states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois may have more total All-Americans, Iowa does it with one-quarter of the number of inhabitants and nearly laps the field in per capita NCAA performance. 

New Jersey makes an appearance in the top five on the strength of current and recent world team members such as Jordan Burroughs, James Green, Frank Molinaro, and Zach Rey. 

Vermont sneaks into the sixth slot based solely on the career of the original Green Mountain Hawk, Lehigh's Bob "The Vermonster" Hamlin. 

Since we are still getting some sample size outlier states popping up in our rankings, and because we have the data, we'll expand our analysis another five years and go all the way back to 2003. That graph is below. 

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Putting to rest any doubts, Iowa again stands alone among states in NCAA output efficiency. No state has more success per inhabitant at the NCAAs, and frankly, it isn't even close. 

Oklahoma also shows off its bona fides, producing 24 wrestlers who earned All-American honors 44 total times in the last 15 years, all from a population of under 4 million.

South Dakota manages to hang in the top five on the strength of their five All-Americans from a population of just 850,000.

Of the states ranked in the top 25 in the United States by population, only Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, and Minnesota make the top 10 in NCAA wrestling production, with Michigan coming in at No. 11. 

For one final look at the data, we looked at consecutive five-year periods for the 10 states (and there are only 10) that produced an All-American in each of the last 15 years. 

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Iowa and Pennsylvania have stayed consistently productive over the years. Oklahoma had its "golden years" from 2003-2007. New Jersey had its best performances in the middle five years, and Ohio has been the best most recently. 

Perhaps most interestingly, Minnesota has increased its production at the NCAAs nearly three-fold, improving its NCAA points per million inhabitant from 11.4 in 2003-2007 to 27.2 in 2013-2017. 

Unfortunately for New York, it is going in the opposite direction, from over two NCAA points per year per million inhabitants to barely over a point per year per million.

We freely admit that there is no end to the number of different ways you can slice and dice the NCAA results. And while we would never presume to have ended all discussions about which state is the best at wrestling, it appears that we can at least close the book on per capita production. 

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