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With the regular season now over, we turn our eyes toward the conference championships and try to figure out how many wrestlers each conference will send to nationals.
The NCAA uses a not-so-simple formula involving a ranking from coaches in each conference, the Rating Percentage Index (or RPI), and plain old winning percentage to determine the automatic qualifier allocations. To the best of our abilities, we tried to use those three criteria to determine how many spots are up for grabs at each conference tournament.
Remember, each weight is different for every conference, and each tournament will at least have its champion be an automatic qualifier. There are a minimum of four wild cards reserved for each weight, meaning 29 is the maximum number of allocations any one weight can have heading into the NCAA tournament.
The overwhelming majority of information for this article comes from page 13 of the "pre-championships manual," which is publicly available HERE.
On to our preliminary numbers, which you can and should double check when the NCAA releases the actual allocations on Thursday. We also posted last year's numbers.
Commentary: As you will see throughout all the weights, the departure of Northern Iowa from the Big 12 to the MAC played a big part in the shifting of allocations from 2017 to 2018. One of the "last men in" was Nathan Tomasello, who wrestled his eighth match on Sunday, meaning he had enough matches to qualify his winning percentage.
Commentary: How about the ACC? All-American Jack Mueller carries the torch, but the conference's depth is shown in Dom Forys, Tariq Wilson, Dennis Gustafson, and Zach Sherman. In the EIWA, Penn entering Gianni Ghione at 133 could mean that the conference gets a fourth wrestler into NCAAs, which could cost the EWL one of its spots.
Commentary: We've talked about the Big Ten being "down" this year at 141, but, like the rest of this weight, it's just evenly distributed.
Commentary: There is not a minimum number of automatic qualifiers, and 149 has the fewest of any weight in our projection. If our number of 24 holds, it will be the fewest for any weight since 125 had the same amount in 2015.
Commentary: Jason Nolf is the reason wild cards exist. If Penn State elects to go the "Suriano route" like last year at 125, Nolf has to weigh in, step on the mat for one second and injury default. At that time, he can medically forfeit out and receive a wild card. The key is weighing in and stepping on the mat, as we learned at this weight last year with the Jordan Kutler situation.
Commentary: There will be first-round matchups at Big Tens that will feature ranked guys. This is the deepest weight in any conference this year.
Commentary: The main thing coming out of this weekend is, who will get the #1 seed: Mark Hall or Zahid Valencia?
Commentary: The EIWA is sneaky good at 184, which means the seventh-place match is a must-watch.
Commentary: Kollin Moore lost again, and one of the guys who beat him might not even wrestle in the conference tournament. If you tell us you know what's going to happen at 197, we're going to assume you're lying.
Commentary: Once again, the ACC shows off its heavyweight depth.
So there you have it, the 283 automatic qualifier allocations, arranged by conference and weight class. Now we just need to figure out who the 47 wild-card spots will go to.
Automatic Qualifiers By Conference
- Big Ten: 81
- EIWA: 48
- Big 12: 40
- ACC: 35
- MAC: 25
- Pac-12: 21
- EWL: 21
- SoCon: 12