Some news broke out that the Big 12 wrestling conference will be merging with the Western Wrestling Conference (WWC) for next year to form a 10 team “conference” for NCAA qualifying purposes staring in the 2015-16 season – although now Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby expresses his doubts that the deal will get done for next season and may be an option for the 2016-17 season. Of course nothing is “officially official” yet, but all signs to point that this should be a done deal soon, just the when it goes into effect seems to be one of the last details being sorted out.

The current members of the Big 12, which consists of Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia were facing a problem that their conference was no longer an automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament. That meant that all of the wrestlers had to qualify for the NCAA tournament as wildcards.

The automatic bids vs the wildcards can be simply reduced to this, this year in the Big 10 the 133 weight class had 11 of the nation’s top 20 ranked wrestlers and based off of measuring factors such as the coaching panel rankings and RPI, the Big 10 was awarded with 12 spots for the NCAA tournament. That meant that out of the 14 wrestlers at the Big 10 tournament, a wrestler only needed to place in the top 12 to automatically earn a trip to the post season for their team, and the 13th and 14th man were technically viable to get in as well on a wildcard.

Contrast that with the Big 12, which had two top 20 ranked wrestlers, who had no guaranteed spots for winning the Big 12 conference tournament. Making it simple again, Both Earl Hall and Cody Brewer, two returning All-Americans, needed to qualify as a wildcard and “earn” their way into the tournament. To go even further three of the NCAA champions crowned in St. Louis had to qualify by wildcard.

So, the merger with the WWC will most likely be in a regional qualifier – this is opposed to a conference tournament. The main difference between a regional and conference is the dual season. As a conference you would have a dual schedule that required you to travel and compete against your conference opponents in duals, where as a regional doesn’t have an as strict rules regarding duals. Considering 25% of the Big 12 is located near the east coast, it’s easy to see why they don’t want to make the commitment to travel for duals as far west as say Wyoming for a dual. And of course that is not to say that out of this merger we won’t see duals between the traditional Big 12 and new WWC teams, that’s still a high possibility.

On to the teams; currently the WWC teams are: Air Force, Northern Colorado University, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Utah Valley University, and Wyoming.

The competition would be great for the WWC team getting to face traditional powers like Iowa State and Oklahoma State, and the Big 12 would see some good competition as well with North Dakota State and Wyoming both finishing in InterMat’s top 20 dual team rankings.  Having competitive teams in this regional would only increase the number of bids for all of the teams in attendance, which in turn would lead to more chances for a wrestler to pull an upset and steal an automatic bid.

This should be viewed as a win for the Cyclone program (and the Big 12 conference) getting an automatic qualifier back for NCAA’s and hopefully a nice few rivalries emerge from this new relationship being formed.

An overview of the proposed 10 team Regional from this year’s NCAA championships:

NCAA finish 2015 NCAA points Dual Records Final Dual rankings
7 Oklahoma St. (Big XII) 65 11-3 #6
14 Iowa St. (Big XII) 39 11-2 #9
18 Oklahoma (Big XII) 29.5 6-10
20 West Virginia (Big XII) 23.5 9-9
23 North Dakota St. (WWC) 19.5 9-4 #18
39 Wyoming (WWC) 6 11-4 #19
46 Northern Colorado (WWC) 3 5-6
52 Air Force (WWC) 2 1-6
53 South Dakota St. (WWC) 1.5 11-8
58 Utah Valley (WWC) 1 2-9

By Ross Bartachek (@rossbchek)

Lead Editor of IA Wrestle

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