A look inside on whether the Mizzou Wrestling Team has what it takes to push itself inside the top three on college wrestling’s biggest stage.
When talking about Mizzou and NCAA wrestling, the discussion of whether they have the what it takes to make a title run or top-three finish comes to question. Dating back a decade, since 2012, Mizzou has finished inside the top five at the NCAAs just two times, fourth in 2015 and fifth in 2017.
Over those past ten years, with the exception of 2020 (Covid year), the average team score taking home the title at the NCAA Championship was 128.6. The highest total in that span came in 2017 when Penn State finished with 146.5, running away with the title and topping the next best team (Ohio State) by 36.5 points. The lowest team score in that ten-year span was in 2015. Ohio State finished on top with a total team score of 102. The closest Mizzou has come to surpassing 100 team points was during their fifth-place finish in 2017 when they came out with 86.5 team points.
Going back year after year, I looked at how each team scored their points and what it took to become the top team or a top three team in the NCAA Championships when all the dust settled.
The first category I took a look at was how many qualifiers each team had. This is a number that Mizzou has kept consistent over the years. Since 2012, Mizzou has taken no less than eight guys to the NCAA Championship, averaging just a little over nine. Believe it or not, Mizzou has averaged more qualifiers over that span than the average yearly third-place team which sits at 8.9. This number maybe be skewed a little due to the 2015 finish by Edinboro who managed a third-place title with just six qualifiers.
Our next category leads us to an array that in certain ways correlates with one another, starting with tournament wins and losses. Over the past ten years, it is actually the second-place team that leads in average wins per tournament (34.4) by just .1 more than the average of the first-place finishing teams (34.3). During this timeframe, Mizzou has surpassed 30 wins just twice with 30 in 2021 and 33 in 2015, the year in which the Tigers finished fourth as a team.
Leading us to the opposite of wins, the average loss count of the team finsihing in first place sits at 11.3, whereas the second and third-place teams sit tied at 14.80 each. The Tigers on the other hand sit at an average of 17.40, with their lowest loss total coming in 2017 (13) when they took home a fifth-place team finish.
Bouncing back to the wins column, I looked into which point category gave each team the biggest boost and what causes each team to pull away from anyone chasing them. Starting from the smallest gap to the largest, the first category gives us advancement points.
“4.4.2 Advancement Points. One team point shall be scored for each match won in the championship bracket and ½ point in the wrestle-back bracket, except for the final first-, third-, fifth- and seventh-place matches. One point in the championship bracket and ½ point in the wrestle-back bracket shall be awarded for a bye if the wrestler receiving the bye wins in the next round.” (Per NCAA Wrestling Scoring Rules)
Over the past decade, Mizzou has averaged just 16.85 advancement points surpassing 20 or more points just twice (2013, 2015). Since 2012, the first-place team has finished with no less than 26 advancement points averaging around 27.4 yearly. The second and third place teams currently sit at 26.3 and a 23.5 yearly average. The 30-point threshold has been broken or tied just twice over the past ten years, once in 2012 by Penn State with 35.5 and in 2021 by Iowa with 30 even.
The next two categories go hand in hand with one another, activity points and bonus wins. NCAA Wrestling Scoring Rules define and determine the following as bonus points:
“4.4.3 Additional Points. Two additional points shall be scored for each match won by fall, default, forfeit, or disqualification throughout the tournament. A total of 1½ points shall be awarded for each match won by a technical fall if the winning wrestler was awarded a near fall during the match. One point shall be awarded for each match won by a major decision or technical fall if the winning wrestler failed to score a near fall during the match.”
Being able to capitalize on bonus points throughout the tournament can add up quickly and jolt you into a better position. How important can activity points be? Since 2012, only one time has the overall NCAA team champion been outscored in either category. In 2018, Ohio State (24) and Iowa (30.5) finished just ahead of Penn State’s (23.5) in the activity points column, as to total overall bonus wins, OSU and PSU finished tied at 17 a piece and Iowa at 19.
Over that span, the first-place team finished on average with 24.5 activity points and 16.6 bonus wins. In not-so-good results from the Mizzou side, these averages nearly double those of the Tiger’s final numbers. Their best finish in the past decade in either category was most recent in 2021 with 20.5 activity points on 15 bonus victories. They have averaged 12.3 activity and 8.4 wins in that timeframe. During that span, the Tigers have progressively improved their numbers. If you wipe out the years 2012 – 2014, the average jumps nearly three points and two wins.
Inching closer to the final categories, we now jump to the main groups starting with the medal count. Staying in our time frame (2012 – Present) the second-place team actually averages .1 higher than the first-place team but has not out medaled the champions since 2015. The first-place finisher has walked out of the championships with no less than 5 individual medals in the past ten years. Mizzou on the other hand has yet to surpass the 5 medal mark, hitting that line just three times in the years 2013, 2015, and 2017.
This in turn brings us to our final two categories, placement points, and individual champions. Perhaps may be one of the most crucial and important parts of your final team score. NCAA Wrestling Scoring Rules define the following for placement points:
“4.4.1 Places. In individual advancement tournaments, individual placement points should be awarded as soon as earned. Placement points already earned shall be deducted in case of disqualification for flagrant misconduct.”
“In events scoring eight places, the winner of each championship quarterfinal should be awarded six place points, the winner of each championship semifinal should be awarded six additional place points and the winner of each championship final should be awarded four additional place points.”
“The winner of the wrestle-back semifinals receives three points. In the previous wrestle-back round, the winner receives three points, and before that, three points.”
“The winner of third place, the winner of fifth place, and the winner of seventh place should receive one additional place point.”
Finishing on the podium is the goal for any individual going into the championship tournament but finishing on the top podium is the ultimate goal. Over the past years, there has been one constant with the team finishing on top, individual champions. Since 2012, only one time has the top team walked out with less than two champions (2021). The team finishing on top has averaged nearly three champions on a per-year basis at 2.9, which more than doubles the final average for second place teams at 1.20.
Getting your individual wrestlers into the finals or medal rounds at the Championships can bode very well for your team score and it has definitely shown. Averaged out, the first-place team sits at 77.1 placement points which is 13.5 more than the second-place average (63.6). Mizzou has averaged just 29.5 placement points per year with its highest total coming in 2017. They finished with 53 points, 5 medalists, and a fifth-place team trophy.
So, does Mizzou have what it takes to win a team title or make a top-three finish? Maybe the real question is if Mizzou can catch Penn State, as they have built a dynasty in the college wrestling world. Over the past ten years, the Nittany Lions have taken home the team title eight times!
From a statistical standpoint, the Tiger Style wrestling team will have to put up the best numbers historically that they have ever seen, which makes sense having not placed inside the top three. It is a very tall mountain to climb but this is a very young and talented team. The future is bright for this squad and with a national champ already in-house, they will need others to step up and push beyond what they are capable of. Bonus points, outwrestle your seed, survive and advance. It all starts inside the wrestling room and carries over onto the big stage. There is no task unreachable for the Tigers.