INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will introduce a different finals match order for this year’s event; a change the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee believes will create the best possible live and broadcast event for the wrestling community, as well as enhancing the championship experience for the student-athletes.
The order of matches for the final session on March 23, beginning at 8 p.m. ET, will start with the 174-pound weight class, followed in order by 184, 197, heavyweights, 125, 133, 141, 149, 157 and ending with the 165-pound match.
“The committee actively seeks ways to continue evolving the championship and keep fans engaged for the complete three-hour window of the Finals,” said Dave Martin, chair of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee and deputy director of athletics at Oklahoma State University. “After discussions with our broadcast partner on how best to elevate an already great championship, we agreed a change to the format was exactly what our event needed.”
The committee discussed the potential change with ESPN, the NCAA’s broadcast partner for the wrestling championships, and both determined the move would enhance the presentation of the championships and be positive for the sport of wrestling overall. Coaches and student-athletes have often raised the point that the higher weight classes don’t get to wrestle in the same amplified atmosphere that the earlier weight classes do because of the initial excitement at the start of the finals. The college wrestling community is also familiar with the switching up of the weight class order as it is a common practice in the dual meet season. In addition, the NCAA’s broadcast partners routinely work with the championships staff in other sports (i.e. volleyball championships, men’s and women’s College World Series) to adjust game schedules in order to maximize the potential viewership of the championship and its story lines throughout the event.
This year’s championships also has the backdrop of a potential historic collegiate wrestling milestone being reached, a student-athlete attempting to be the first to win a title in four different weight classes. The committee viewed this as an opportune time to alter the format and capitalize on the potential positive buzz around the championship, but they do not plan on this being a one-year decision. The intent is for this to be something that would be looked at each year moving forward in an effort to create the best event possible.
“While this format may be new for the final session of the championships, it is not a new concept within the sport,” said Martin. “Schools commonly elect to switch up the starting weight class for their dual meets to create the most exciting atmosphere for the event. The committee felt by doing the same thing with the final session, we would not only give all participating student-athletes the best environment in which to compete, but also give the fans the most entertaining and engaging event possible.”