Ranking system angers head coach
Only two grapplers were able to earn points Saturday in the Rutgers wrestling team’s 27-9 loss to No. 23 Lehigh.
Those Scarlet Knights were sophomores Billy Smith and Ken Theobold.
While heavyweight Smith’s win comes after being a national qualifier last season, and is currently ranked NR/15/19, according to AWN/InterMat/W.I.N., it is perhaps more surprising that the 149-pounder Theobold was able to gain his first decision over a ranked opponent.
Theobold not only got a regular decision, but also gained the win by fall over No. 13/10/11 Mitch Minnoti, 4:38 minutes into the match.
The pin over a ranked opponent could be the final win that pushes Theobold over the hump to make him ranked, at least according to redshirt freshman 174-pounder Phil Bakuckus.
“That a great pin for him and I’m sure he’s going to be ranked after that. That’s a top quality kid to be getting that on,” Bakuckus said. “When you get that on a top kid in the nation, you are doing something pretty good. I think Theobold is getting into a good groove right now and I think he is going to do some serious damage.”
It was the Toms River, N.J., native’s sixth pin of the season, tied for the team lead.
Pins come easier for Theobold than any other Knight. His extra training is beneficial.
“It’s just kind of my thing. [Director of Wrestling Operations] Billy Ashnault has been coaching me on different positions in the cradle,” Theobold said. “He helps me every day. We do 10 cradles after practice so the repetition helps.”
What might be most surprising this season is the politics behind the ranking system offered for Division I wrestling. The current system does not reward grapplers like Theobold and Smith for their impressive seasons.
While Smith is recognized as a top-20 wrestler by InterMat, W.I.N. and in the first NCAA Division I Coaches Panel, he has yet to make it into the AWN rankings.
AWN deems some grapplers worthy of being ranked in their top-20 list over Smith, despite his 20-5 overall record and 11 wins in Rutgers’ six EIWA dual-meet victories.
The recognition is not given where it is due for head coach Scott Goodale.
“I think Billy [Smith] should get a little bit more respect. He’s won a lot of matches and beaten a lot of good kids,” Goodale said. “That will all work out in the end, though.”
The ranking system also rewards the program rankings based on individual performances. Even if a team has a poor record in dual meets but has wrestlers ranked, they will find themselves in the top 25.
That predicament is not up to par for Goodale.
“I’m not satisfied one bit. [The current ranking system] is the biggest joke. People wonder why the regular season doesn’t matter and when they are trying to make dual meets matter when they don’t matter,” Goodale said. “From a team standpoint, you can lose a match and still move up in rank just because your individuals moved up.”
While the current system rewards teams for their individuals, it also makes unwarranted predictions based on possibilities and scenarios that may not actually happen, according to Goodale.
“It’s hard to explain to an average fan that we have beaten 10 teams ranked ahead of us, but they have an individual who might score points at the National Tournament,” Goodale said. “We killed American, but they have three guys ranked in the top 20, so they are ranked way ahead of us. It’s hard not to get worked up about the system, but it’s important because being in the top 25 matters.”
For updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.