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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | February 23, 2023

What the college wrestling allocations mean for the NCAA championships

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Every year, the NCAA wrestling conference allocations release generates a new flurry of excitement for fans. How hard will it be to qualify in a given weight? Who is most likely to secure an NCAA tournament bid? Who is at risk of just missing a ticket to the Big Show? These allocations determine how many placewinners at each respective conference tournament automatically earn a spot at the national tournament in each weight and how high a wrestler needs to finish in order to secure his spot at the NCAA championship.

The allocations are determined by the following criteria: regular season results through February 19, winning percentage, coaches rankings and RPI. Here are the allocations for this year:

Conference 125 133 141 149 157 165 174 184 197 285 Total
Atlantic Coast Conference 2 3 4 3 3 3 3 5 4 3 34
Big 12 Conference 6 5 7 7 7 8 6 4 6 8 64
Big Ten Conference 9 9 9 9 10 8 7 9 9 9 88
Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association 6 5 5 2 3 5 4 4 5 6 45
Mid-American Conference 2 1 2 5 4 1 4 2 1 1 23
Pacific-12 Conference 3 3 1 2 1 2 2 1 3 1 18
Southern Conference 1 2 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 12
Pre-Allocations 29 28 29 29 29 28 28 26 29 29 284
At-Large 4 5 4 4 4 5 5 7 4 4 46

Here's what they mean:

SoCon wrestlers have to win a conference title to qualify in eight of 10 weights

The Southern Conference earned the fewest automatic qualifier bids again this year, securing just 12 spots for placewinners. At 125, 141, 149, 157, 165, 184, 197 and 285 pounds, only the winner has a guaranteed spot in the NCAA tournament. Runners-up automatically earn bids at 133 and 174 pounds. The rest of the field will have to hope for an at-large bid.

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Last year, three SoCon wrestlers earned at-large bids, including Caleb Smith and Will Formato from Appalachian State and Domenic Zaccone from Campbell. Smith and Formato are currently ranked No. 1 in their conference at 125 and 165 pounds, respectively, and they sit at No. 14 and No. 29 nationally. Zaccone is ranked second in the SoCon and No. 23 nationally at 133 pounds. All three will earn automatic bids to the NCAA tournament if they wrestle to their ranking.

The growing depth of the SoCon has been a fun storyline over the last several years, particularly as the rivalry between Campbell and Appalachian State intensifies. While the conference actually earned three fewer allocation spots this year than last year, the competition between the two powerhouse programs in the conference — App State and Campbell — makes this conference tournament particularly exciting. App State won the dual meet against the Camels this year, but Campbell has won the conference tournament title for the last four years.

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In a previous interview with NCAA.com, App State head coach JohnMark Bentley said that he takes particular pride in how well his athletes compete on the national stage. Two-time All-American Jon Jon Millner is App State's top performer, but the Mountaineers will look to at least match their five qualifiers from last year next weekend, even if the bar to qualify in the SoCon is higher, given the lack of automatic qualifier spots.

The Pac-12 is the only other conference with fewer than 20 automatic qualifying spots, coming in at 18. Last year, this conference earned 23 automatic qualifying spots. Pac-12 athletes will have to win their conference at 141, 157 184 and 285 pounds to earn an automatic bid, and this is a particularly interesting scenario at 149 pounds, where the conference has three All-Americans in the Top 33 of InterMat's rankings but just two automatic qualifying spots.

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The top-ranked Pac-12 wrestler at this weight, Kyle Parco, comes into the postseason with a 21-4 record, his best win coming against All-American Brock Mauller of Missouri. Parco also has a major decision against another All-American, Jaden Abas, a Stanford third-year starter who finished seventh in 2021 and has a 21-4 record this year as well. Abas is also set to earn an autobid, even if he finishes second behind Parco, but Cal Poly's Dom Demas could make this a weight to watch. Demas has finished as high as fourth in previous NCAA tournaments, but he currently comes into the postseason with an 8-6 record. Ranked No. 24 nationally, Demas may not be on the radar for All-American contention, but he has a tricky inside trip that could make him a bracket buster.

Typically, most top 33-ranked wrestlers are in a good position to wrestle to their seed and qualify for the tournament. The 149-pound weight class in the Pac-12 is an exception with just two spots. This one could be fun.

Much like the Pac-12 and the Southern Conference, the MAC also has several weights with just one automatic qualifying spot. In four weights — 133, 165, 197 and 285 — only the winners of the conference tournament are guaranteed a ticket to the national championship. This could leave wrestlers like No. 33 Blake West, No. 32 Avery Bassett, and No. 32 Isaac Reid on the outside looking in at 133, 165 and 285 pounds unless they outperform their seed.

157 pounds in the Big Ten is the deepest weight in the country

While some conferences only offer one automatic qualifying spot per weight, other conferences, like the Big Ten, offer nearly a dozen slots. The weight with the greatest number of automatic qualifiers is 157 pounds in the Big Ten, not a weight that many would have necessarily considered the deepest in the country, but the one that will award the most tournament bids next weekend. Leading the way at this weight is Nebraska's Peyton Robb, a 2022 All-American and one of just four undefeated wrestlers in the weight. Robb's the clear No. 1 in the Big Ten, but Penn State's Levi Haines could be dangerous. Purdue's Kendall Coleman also wrestles tough, and Iowa's Cobe Siebrecht is a wildcard.

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Robb will be expected to push past all of these contenders and compete for his first Big Ten title, and this weight is absolutely worth watching, given the depth. All-American Will Lewan currently ranks seventh in the conference at No. 15 in the country at 157 pounds, while All-American Brayton Lee is ninth in the conference and No. 18 nationally. Wisconsin's Garrett Model, a 2022 national qualifier, is currently ranked 10th and will be last Big Ten wrestler to earn an auto bid if he wrestles to his ranking, but Indiana's Derek Gilcher, Ohio State's Paddy Gallagher and Rutgers' Andrew Clark are also ranked in the top 33. Could a former All-American get left behind at this weight next weekend? Ten automatic qualifying spots makes that unlikely, but there's more talent in this weight class than there is automatic bids, creating added intensity for these athletes.

184 pounds has the greatest number of at-larges. Here's who could be in the mix.

The NCAA typically reserves between 40 and 50 at-large bids for wrestlers who did not earn a conference allocation spot but have a record demonstrating their skill and justification for a national tournament bid. Last year, the conference allocations resulted in 287 automatic qualifier spots and 43 wild card opportunities, spread across all 10 weights. This year, 284 of the 330 NCAA tournament spots have been allocated, leaving 46 wild card slots, seven of which have been reserved for 184 pounds. This number is unusually high.

The 133, 165 and 174 pound weight classes each have five wild card spots, while the remaining six weight classes have four wild card spots. So what does this mean for 184 pounds?

For the Pac-12 and the SoCon, it might mean there's some room to relax, maybe. Both of these conferences have just one auto spot at 184 pounds with Trey Munoz and Matthew Waddell holding down those top spots right now respectively, from a rankings perspective. Arizona State's Anthony Montalvo and Campbell's Caleb Hopkins are both the second-highest ranked guys in their conference at this weight, and both have top 33 rankings on InterMat. If these guys wrestle to their ranking and finish second, they'll be looking for two of those seven wild card spots.

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The MAC also has three guys ranked in the Top 33 at this weight but has been allocated just two spots. Will Feldkamp of Clarion leads the conference with a 20-4 record while Giuseppe Hoose of Buffalo and Zayne Lehman of Ohio will also be fighting for an auto bid.

While wrestlers in the MAC and the Pac-12 in particular will be battling each other for limited auto bids, the ACC is in an ideal spot at this weight, given that five of the six wrestlers in the conference will automatically qualify for the tournament. The top-five wrestlers in this conference at 184 pounds on paper right now are as follows: No. 3 Trent Hidlay, No. 7 Hunter Bolen, No. 12 Gavin Kane, No. 16 Neil Antrassian and No. 17 Reece Heller. Despite only having six teams in the conference, the ACC has the second-largest number of auto bids at this weight in the country, outpaced only by the Big Ten, which was awarded nine spots at 184 pounds. The Big 12 and the EIWA each have four spots at 184 pounds, respectively.

The release of the wild card bids is always exciting because anybody who enters the tournament, whether through an auto bid or a wild card, has a chance to score team points and compete for All-American honors. Oklahoma State's Wyatt Sheets famously qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2021 as an alternate, lost his opening bout to Ryan Deakin as the No. 33 seed and wrestled back for eighth after wins over Justin McCoy, Cade DeVos and Johnny Lovett and a medical forfeit over Brady Berge.

North Carolina's Kizhan Clarke also needed a wildcard spot to qualify for the national tournament last year before he went on a run all the way to the NCAA finals to finish second and earn All-American honors for the first time in his career. This time of the season is wild, and while analyzing the auto bids is fun, nothing is more fun than watching crazy upsets happen in March.


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