I'm starting to realize, and come to terms with, that the National Duals aren't going to happen. This is okay I guess, but we had so much fucking fun in Iowa this February!
The top teams in the land aren't in agreement on the National Duals being a thing and how to accomplish them. The college wrestling schedule is a weird thing as it is, and squeezing in one weekend of duals sounds a lot easier than what it turns out to be. Teams like Penn State find it disadvantageous to grind out a Big Ten dual schedule and then squeeze in a dual tournament with the other top 7 teams in the country before heading in to the 14-team conference tournament. It's hard for me to argue Cael Sanderson doesn't know what he's doing when it comes to coaching college wrestling.
Another factor is the weekend(s) this would fit in are basically the state championship weekends of high school wrestling. It's taken its toll on attendance in Iowa and Ohio State the last two years. It's really hard to build an event when your target audience is tied up (myself included).
One more complication is the whole "What does a national dual championship mean anyway?" argument. College Wrestling has always determined its champion by individual scoring at the NCAA tournament. While I favor duals over tournament scoring to determine who is a better team, it's really tough to throw away the history of the NCAA tournament for something that may not work. I've never been a fan of awarding an arbitrary amount of points for winning an event weeks prior either. It'd just be a weird and very controversial thing to start one season.
There is a "BCS" type idea which will probably be the method that emerges from the coaches' meetings this week. It'll basically take the best Big Ten team and have them face the best team not in the conference. This....kind of sucks. It's better than nothing I guess. It would be silly to sell an event as the National Dual Championship of the "top teams" if Penn State & Oklahoma State are #1 & #2 this year and not participating. So I suppose it's a wrestling match that I wouldn't otherwise get to see, but I do wish for more. One of the major reasons was the upsets and the impressive run Missouri had at the National Duals when everyone thought Iowa was invincible.
I wish what happened this year happened every year. Sure the crowd was light because of Iowa's high school state championships going on, but it was a lot of fun. We had the top five dual teams in the country there (of course it was weird when Lehigh beat eventual National Champion Ohio State). I'm coming to terms with what happened this year where we actually had a fun National Duals was really a happy accident. There will be years where the National Dual championship will kind of make sense and years where it won't or it'll be rather "ho hum". After all, we will probably have years where a team is running away with things (would we have really needed to see 2012 Penn State beat up on everybody again?). It was kind of a strange year this season where 5 teams had a good shot at winning the NCAA tournament and it (not surprisingly) made for a great National Duals.
So sometimes it will be good, sometimes not. I also expect the format to change several times in the next decade. I am relegating my optimism towards that sometimes the right mix of circumstances will make for a "dual champion" but there will be years it won't.
Editor's note: Some of the information for this article was inspired by Jim Carlson's 5-part series this week on Penn State. Unlike other wrestling sources, I like to give credit where credit is due.
And of course, the worst call this year reffing wise and some of the most fun did come from the 2015 National Duals.