A new wrinkle to the Oregon State wrestling team’s schedule this season is taking part in a national duals tournament right before the conference tournament.
OSU is in a six-team tournament Sunday with Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin in Ames, Iowa. Seeding will come out today.
Sunday’s competition is part of a bigger 24-team tournament separated into four regionals. The winner of each of the four regionals will meet the following week to crown a national champion.
Sounds logical, and similar to what is done in most other NCAA sports.
However, this is new to wrestling. In the past, the team national championship has been determined by how individuals do at the individual national tournament.
“That’s a really cool concept,” OSU sophomore Scott Sakaguchi said of a dual national title. “The tournament style is different than a dual. One team won’t have a chance to make it through nationals because you might not be a team that can make it through a tournament with enough tough guys to do it, but you might be a really good dual team.”
Most teams know going into the NCAA Championships that they have no shot at the national title since they didn’t qualify anyone in at least one weight class.
And maybe they have good wrestlers for one match at a time, but they can’t win five bouts in three days.
Teams are awarded points for each individual match. So not having enough wrestlers or losing early eliminates teams quickly.
Teams such as the Beavers may have had a stellar, or even undefeated dual meet season, only to finish outside the top 20 at the end.
“I always thought it was odd that there was no dual championship,” Sakaguchi said. “But I also like wrestling that it’s an individual sport. It’s what sets the sport apart. You do things individually to help your team.”
The teams invited to the national dual meet this year were ones organizers felt deserved to be involved. Possibly as soon as next year, qualifying will take place.
A qualifying standard for the national duals will come from success in dual meets and put meaning to all these events that wasn’t there before.
There has been a national dual event in previous years that came early in the season, but it wasn’t a national championship. Teams then went on through the dual meet season and into the usual postseason.
“In the past we had a national dual tournament midseason, but now we want some finality to it,” OSU coach Jim Zalesky said. “Now it’s four regionals, win it to move for a final four the following weekend. They are hoping to make that the national championships for dual meet teams.”
One adjustment expected to be made by the NCAA for next season is to end the dual season at the end of January and have a regional dual tournament the first week of February.
The winner and some wild-cards go to the national duals, and then a final four. That would lead into regional individual qualifying tournaments and the nationals.
“It could spark some interest in the sport,” Zalesky said. “A dual meet is different from a tournament. It might be who doesn’t get pinned. There are so many things that can be affected in a tournament. A dual meet can be about momentum or someone getting upset. We could be down by five going into the last match, so you have to pin the guy to win.”
The national duals and their placement are just other ideas to help streamline and create consistency for wrestlers and fans.
The schedule will have warmup duals early in the winter, holiday tournaments, more duals to qualify for the national duals and then the focus shifts to the individual postseason tournaments the sport is based around.
“It’s a good idea for the dual meets and tournaments to be lined up,” Zalesky said. “We just have to do what’s best for wrestling.”