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After the FRL crew ranked the top five Penn State wrestlers of all-time, many, many people from all over were asking for the one, true, correct ranking. Rader's ranking. Ask no more wrestling fans, here it is.
I used four main criteria. Bonus rate is the % of total matches, including losses and defaults, that bonus points were scored in. In the pin + tech rate, I tossed out any match that was not completely wrestled because, per the ranker’s oath, I shall not predict the outcome of any match. Dominance score is the average number of team points the wrestler scored per match, including losses and defaults. And NCAA Team points is the number of team points the wrestler scored at the National Championships.
Although harder to quantify, I also took into account the quality of wins and losses when necessary. Please note that I am splitting hairs here. However, that is the entire point of this article. You have to split hairs if you want to correctly rank five of the greatest NCAA wrestlers of all-time.
One more thing to keep in ming - David Taylor and Ed Ruth went all four years with the three back point scoring system. Would be interesting to see if they could have scored even more bonus points and/or if Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, and Bo Nickal would have scored less bonus points only being able to score three back points at a time.
#5) Ed Ruth
Bonus Rate: 74.82% (#5)
Pin + Tech Rate: 52.21% (#5)
Dominance Score: 4.55 (#5)
NCAA Team Points: 94 (#4)
Losses: Mike Letts (9-4), Nick Amuchastegi (injury), Gabe Dean (7-4)
If you would have asked me who would be #5 on this list prior to doing my research, I would not have picked Ed. And if I was using a “aesthetically pleasing to watch” criteria, ala CP, Ed wouldn’t be #5 either. He was so smooth. Easy Ed really did make it look so easy. Compared to the rest however, just too many majors and regular decisions.
Watch Ed Ruth beat Gabe Dean in the 2014 NCAA semifinals below.
#4) Zain Retherford
Bonus Rate: 75.97% (#4)
Pin + Tech Rate: 58.14% (#4)
Dominance Score: 4.66 (#4)
NCAA Team Points: 93.5 (#5)
Losses: Logan Stieber (7-3), Mitchell Port (3-2), Logan Stieber (7-3).
Zain was severely hurt by his freshman year stats. If you exclude his freshman year, his stats look like this: 89.25 % bonus rate (#2), 75.28% pen + tech rate (#1), 5.22 dominance score (#1), and he only scored 12 points at NCAAs his freshman year. His next lowest NCAA score was 25. Once again however, I cannot assume what would have happened if Zain had redshirted a year, and I have to take it into account. And to be fair, all five of these wrestler’s freshmen years were their worst statistically. Zain’s just to a more severe degree.
Zain’s trump card is beating Logan Stieber and having three undefeated national championship seasons. That is probably the best win out of anyone and he is the only one with three undefeated seasons.
Watch Zain Retherford tech fall Lavion Mayes in the 2017 NCAA finals below.
#3) Bo Nickal
Bonus Rate: 77.24% (#3)
Pin + Tech Rate: 66.39% (#4)
Dominance Score: 4.80 (#3)
NCAA Team Points: 95.5 (#3)
Losses: Nate Jackson (7-6), Myles Martin (11-9), Myles Martin (6-4)
On Bo Nickal’s two losses - he avenged the Nate Jackson one, and went 7-2 against Myles including two pins and a major, so he for sure got the better of that rivalry. In addition to Myles, Bo has a major over champ Drew Foster, 3 wins (including a pin) over basically champ Kollin Moore, and a win over 2X champ Gabe Dean.
Watch Bo Nickal pin Myles Martin in the NCAA finals below.
#2) Jason Nolf
Bonus Rate: 85.78% (#2)
Pin + Tech Rate: 74.36% (#1)
Dominance Score: 5.07 (#1)
NCAA Team Points: 98 (#2)
Losses: Isaiah Martinez (3-3), Isaiah Martinez (6-5), John Van Brill (injury)
Deciding between Jason Nolf and David Taylor was the hardest decision to make here. Jason Nolf has a career dominance score over 5 points. Do you realize how absurd that is? At the Div I level, Jason Nolf averaged more than a tech fall a match. If you want Nolf #1, there is a very good argument. He beat Isaiah Martinez once and tech falled John Van Brill twice. However, two matches swayed it for me: the Hayden Hidlay 2019 NCAA semi, and the Alec Pantaleo 2018 dual. Both of those matches were close (Hidlay one SUPER close). Outside of the losses, David Taylor didn’t have two matches within 2 points like those. Like I said at the beginning of this article, splitting hairs.
Watch Jason Nolf major Tyler Berger for his 3rd NCAA title below.
#1) David Taylor
Bonus Rate: 91.24% (#1)
Pin + Tech Rate: 69.34% (#2)
Dominance Score: 4.97 (#2)
NCAA Team Points: 99 (#1)
Losses: Bubba Jenkins (fall), Kyle Dake (3-2), Kyle Dake (5-4)
The Magic Man. It really is unfortunate for David Taylor that he managed to overlap and be at the same weight as arguably the 2nd greatest college wrestler of all-time, Kyle Dake. If it wasn’t for Dake, Taylor goes 136-1, wins 3 national titles, probably 3 Hodge Trophies, scores over 100 team points at the NCAA Championships, and has a career dominance score of over 5.
As I said before, David Taylor didn’t even have close matches outside of his losses. He had a total of 9 decision victories in his career. None of them were within 2 points. The two 3 point wins came his freshman year to champ and 4X AA Derek St. John and sophomore year to NCAA finalist Brandon Hatchett. Every person who DT only won by decision over, who he also wrestled more than once, he also bonus pointed. That includes: majoring Derek St. John, twice majoring Tyler Caldwell, tech falling Brandon Hatchett, majoring Mike Evans, and pinning and twice majoring Conrad Polz. David Taylor really is one of the best to ever do it in NCAA wrestling.
Watch David Taylor beat Tyler Caldwell in the 2014 NCAA finals below.