Penn State won the dual meet last month, but Ohio State answered back by claiming its second consecutive Big Ten team title over the weekend. Bonus points figured in hugely in the dual and at Big Tens, and it's a safe bet that big a major factor in the NCAA team race next week in Cleveland.
To get a better idea how the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will fare in the NCAAs, at least as far as bonus points, we analyzed the Big Ten tournament and broke down every bonus point scored by each team.
Below are tables that show the bonus points earned per round: two points for a pinfall, 1 1/2 for a tech fall, one for a major, and zero for a regular decision. If a cell is blank it means that wrestler did not compete in that particular round.
Interestingly, no wrestler on either team wrestled more than one match in the consolation rounds before the placement matches, so even though there are multiple consolation rounds, here they are all compressed into one column in the tables.
When you have nine wrestlers in the semifinals, you're bound to pick up some bonus points along the way, and Ohio State scored as much in bonus at the Big Tens as a typical runner-up at the NCAAs. Most of the totals look replicable at the NCAAs, especially when every wrestler should end up with another match or two than the total he wrestled at the Big Tens.
Perhaps of some concern for the Buckeyes are the lack of bonus points from #3 Luke Pletcher and #5 Kollin Moore. Although the Big Tens are as brutal a conference tournament as they come, usually wrestlers ranked in the top five are good for a couple few bonus points at any tournament.
The best news for Ohio State fans is that there will be a full complement of 10 wrestlers in scarlet and gray singlets in Cleveland. The Buckeyes will need them all to fend off the returning champs, even with home-state advantage.
Besides just straight up winning all the time, Penn State's current squad is perhaps best known for winning via bonus points. Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Mark Hall, and Bo Nickal are all at or near the top of the NCAA's most dominant leaderboard as measured by average team points per match. That Zain and Bo earned a mere two bonus points at the Big Tens is mitigated by the fact that they should regress back up to their means for the NCAAs.
The Nittany Lions won't be able to count on Carson Kuhn to contribute to their NCAA championship efforts. Kuhn, who earned one bonus point at Big Tens, was the only wrestler on either team not to qualify for the NCAA tournament. The rest of the gang is headed to Cleveland, and besides Nickal's and Retherford's expected increase in bonus points, Shakur Rasheed and Nick Nevills are both likely to score more than a single bonus point at the NCAAs.
Assuming their Big Ten bonus points are a rough proxy for how both teams will fare at NCAAs, at least as far as bonus points, it's safe to say that although Penn State has a slight advantage, it's podium placements and, in particular, finals appearances that will make or break this championship tournament.
So not to belabor the blatantly obvious, but you're going to want to pay attention to the quarterfinals and semifinals at Cleveland this year.