NCAA Wrestling Tournament seeding 'needs a little bit of common sense,' Rutgers coach says

Men’s basketball is not the only sport where there has been major discussion about seeding for the NCAA Tournament.

The criteria used to seed the NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Tournament has come under fire on social media over the last week after controversial seeding at several weights, especially 174 pounds.

Three-time national champion Carter Starocci of Penn State was seeded ninth because he medically forfeited his two bouts in the Big Ten Tournament due to an apparent leg injury sustained in Penn State’s final dual meet on Feb. 25.

The medical forfeits counted as losses on Starocci’s record. He has won 64 straight bouts on the mat.

The NCAA Tournament will take place Thursday-Saturday at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City

The NCAA Wrestling Committee used the following criteria to seed each of the 10 weights:

1. Head to head competition – 25 percent

2. Qualify wins – 20 percent.

3. Coaches Ranking – 15 percent.

4. Results against common opponents – 10 percent.

5. RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) – 10 percent.

6. Quallifying event placement  - 10 percent

7. Win percentage – 10 percent.

The seeding put Starocci in the same part of the bracket with past national champions Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech and Shane Griffith of Michigan. Lewis, the No. 1 seed, could meet Starocci in the quarterfinal.

More: NCAA 2024 Wrestling Tournament seed analysis for New Jersey

Rutgers University head wrestling coach Scott Goodale is shown during the Scarlet Knights' match against Indiana on Jan. 12.
Rutgers University head wrestling coach Scott Goodale is shown during the Scarlet Knights' match against Indiana on Jan. 12.

“I think they really hurt guys that medically forfeited out, and that’s because the coaches asked for that, through all our meetings and conventions and things like that,’’ Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale said Monday during a virtual press conference previewing the national tournament.

"At end of the day, I just think the committee needs to say, ‘OK, what does this 33-man bracket look like? Is it good? Or should we tweak this a little bit?’ I just think there needs to be a little bit of common sense. They say, last year and years prior don’t matter. I think they should a little bit.’’

Rutgers’ Jackson Turley, eighth in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, is in a tough spot in the 174-pound bracket. He is seeded 16th and in Lewis’ pre-quarterfinal bracket.

“I was a little bit shocked with Turley,’’ Goodale said. “I figured all year long, he was a probably a 12 or 13. He certainly didn’t hurt himself by taking fourth in the Big Ten championship.''

But, Rutgers may have also benefitted by the seeding at 197.

John Poznanski was seeded 14th even though he was seventh in the Big Ten Tournament, has lost four of his last seven bouts and was sidelined for the Scarlet Knights’ last three dual meets with what Goodale said was a concussion.

Poznanski, who was fourth at 184 in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, was seeded well ahead of two wrestlers he went a combined 0-3 against.

“Poznanski got a very favorable seed, considering his losses to Ohio State ( Luke Geog twice) and Minnesota (Garrett Joles). Seeds are seeds. I like where our guys are at. There’s no real complaint.’’

What are Rutgers' expectations?

Rutgers  coming of an impressive showing in the Big Ten Tournament, will try to validate that performance by having at least one All-American.

“I’m not going to put a number on the amount of All-Americans,’’ Goodale said when asked about his expectations for the tournament. “I think we’ve done a really good job at setting ourselves up through the Big Ten Tournament. I think we’re in a really, really good spot in a lot of cases to do well in this tournament.

“We all know what the end goal is here for our program and the expectations for our program. Maybe, not when I first started (17 seasons ago), but soon thereafter. After 4-5 years, the expectations are All-Americans and champs. We should be winning matches there and put ourselves in position to get on that podium.''

More: Rutgers wrestling eyes NCAA Tournament after Big Ten surge: 'Wrestled our tails off'

Rutgers will have eight wrestlers in the tournament. It is one of 17 programs that will have eight or more wrestlers.

Dylan Shawver (133) – the Big Ten Tournament champion – is seeded fourth and the only Scarlet Knight seeded in the top 12.

In addition to the aforementioned seeds for Turley and Poznanski, Yaraslau Slavikouski (285), Mitch Moore (141) and Dean Peterson (125) are seeded 13th, 15th and 16th respectively.

Brian Soldano (184) is seeded 21st and Michael Cetta (149), who was an at-large selection, is seeded 33rd..

“It would be great to stay on the front side (the championship portion of the brackets. That’s always your goal,’’ Goodale said. “But, I’m also a realist. We’re going to have win matches on the backside (in the wrestlebacks).''

Why Shawver has become a national championship contender

Shawver has always been a good wrestler. He went 2-2 at 125 pounds in the 2022 NCAA Tournament and was two wins away from being an All-American.

However, since early February, Shawver has taken it to the next level.

More: Dylan Shawver joins a special club in Rutgers wrestling history with Big Ten title

In the Big Ten final, he dominated No. 1 seed Dylan Ragusin of Michigan in a 23-8 technical fall win after Ragusin had defeated him twice during the season.

‘He’s in incredible wrestling shape,’’ Goodale said. He’s really confident in a lot of different positions – top, bottom, neutral. It’s more of a belief. I’ve seen it and I’ve listened to him and the way he talks.  He loves to compete, more so than anybody we have and anybody I’ve had for a long time. I think this is his time. He’s been waiting for this for a long, long time.''

Shawver, who has not lost since Jan. 27, is in a loaded weight class with No. 1 and three-time national runner-up Daton Fix of Oklahoma State; Unbeaten freshman and No. 2 Ryan Crookham of Lehigh nd No. 6 and defending national champion Vito Arujau of Cornell.

Shawver has a tough draw.

Tyler Wells of Minnesota is in his pre-quarterfinal draw; Virginia Tech’s Sam Latona and Ragusin are in the quarterfinal bracket and Fix is in the semifinal draw. Wells and Latona both have wins in sudden victory over Shawver, in addition to Ragusin’s two wins.

“The biggest thing for me from a staff standpoint is getting off that high (of winning the Big Ten). It’s one of the harder things we have to deal with - and getting right back in the mindset of ‘Let’s get ready for the national tournament’ ‘’ Goodale said. “He’s really trained well. I really think he wants this tournament. I truly believe he thinks he can win this tournament.

“It all starts over. In round 1 11 o’clock (noon Eastern Time) Thursday morning, he’s got a very difficult match (against No. 29 Jace Koelzer of Oklahoma).’’

Peterson needs to be aggressive

Peterson reached the semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament, wound up finishing fifth and outwrestled his seed by four spots by wrestling more aggressively than he did at times during the season.

“The more wrestling the better. The more he kept shooting the better,’’ Goodale said. “He didn’t sit back up 4-1 on Ramos (Purdue’s returning national runner-up Matt Ramos in a 7-1 win in the quarterfinal). He kept going and going, and that’s the difference.

“That’s the best version of Dean Peterson. He’s so athletic. He has to let his athleticism take over.  He has to just keep attacking. He’s so good when he’s doing that.’’

Peterson’s draw is also tough.

He will wrestle Cornell’s Brett Ungar in the first round. Ungar, the 2019 NJSIAA 106-pound champion when he was at Hunterdon Central, defeated Peterson 4-2 in the ultimate tiebreaker in the 2018 NJSIAA Region 5 final. That was one of two defeats Peterson sustained in his scholastic career at St. John Vianney. He won NJSIAA titles in 2019 and 2020 and was a finalist in 2018.

If Peterson defeats Ungar, he will likely wrestle No. 1 and Big Ten champion Braeden Davis of Penn State in the pre-quarterfinal. Davis defeated Peterson 4-1 in sudden victory on Feb. 12, when there was no video review of a possible Peterson takedown late in regulation.

The 125-pound weight class has been wild all season. It is not far-fetched to think Peterson can be a major contender despite his seed.

“I’m very pleased with the way he’s trained after Bloomsburg (Rutgers’ final regular season dual meet on Feb. 21) and prepared,’’ Goodale said. “It’s a much better Dean Peterson than we’ve seen since he’s been here. He’s so excited and has so much energy in the practice room. Mentally, he’s a lot stronger because he’s put the work in.

“I truly believe Dean can beat anybody in the bracket, but we’ve seen all year long in this bracket, anybody can beat anybody and anybody can lose to anybody.’’


This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: NCAA 2024 Wrestling Tourmament seeding: Rutgers coach among critics