Recently Tommy and I started the discussion of who was the better college wrestler, Ben Askren vs. Kyle Dake. It's very easy to get caught up on number of NCAA titles vs number of Hodge trophies vs quality of competition, and all sorts of variables. Let's face it, when we are talking about the best of the best, we need to take all things into account, and weigh them all equally. With that being said, I propose that we adopt a point system to finally find out who the greatest college wrestlers of all time truly are. Please feel free to suggest additional variables/tournaments to include in the point systems for the greatest of the great. For example, Midlands championships wouldn't be included, despite it being a mainstay in College Wrestling. Simply because not everyone wrestles in it, so it would be an uneven way to weigh the greats. Anyway, here's what I propose:
- NCAA Title - 10 points. There are going to be plenty of ways to earn points along the way, so we need this to be worth quite a bit. The people we are judging with this list are going to have multiple of these, as well as the other categories, so the larger the scale gets, the more variance it can have.
- Hodge Trophy - +7 points, if you are one of the lucky few to win the Hodge Trophy, then you deserve these extra points. Let's be clear, not all of the greatest wrestlers will have won them. Ed Ruth never won the Hodge, and he has three NCAA titles. David Taylor has only two titles, but he has two Hodge trophies. It is what it is, but when you can separate yourself from the competition, you deserve extra points. With that being said, this is worth less than an NCAA title because it is more subjective than the titles, and has a lot to do with timing and the landscape of college wrestling at the time. Again, Ed Ruth doesn't have one.
- NCAA Finalist - 5 points. You should get some credit for making the finals right? Should Gwiz be punished for losing to Kyle Snyder in the finals? Nope. Should Mocco be punished for losing to Rowlands or Konrad (both monsters)? Absolutely not! Losing in the finals sucks, but you still get some sort of recognition in this world. Ben Askren was a 4x finalist and 2x champ because he ran into Chris Pendleton, a 3x NCAA Champ. Let's hook the man up with some points huh? Also, this value is only eligible to those who lose in the finals, so you don't now get 5 points for showing up there and another 10 for winning.
Here is where we get into some of the weeds with this. There are other ways to earn points, all of which are point additions to the foundation points listed above. It varies based on the level of competition that they had to beat along the way. Most of the NCAA wrestling tournament brackets are available online, so I'm confident in including this as well. Also, it's not exactly fair to try to compare eras of wrestling, so we need to use the measurable data, AA's and NCAA Championships.
Quality Win Points
- Beating the previous year's NCAA Champ in tournament - +4 points. This is for people who knock off a former NCAA Champ along the way to the finals. Originally I was going to include points for beating a former Champ in the finals, but if you knock off an NCAA Champ in the semi's, quarters, round of 16, whenever, you should get some credit. However, similarly to the All American point below, some wrestlers have a "fall from grace" so to speak, and aren't able to get back to their previous quality, therefore this doesn't get you as many points for beating someone years after their peak. *If someone took a year off for a redshirt year after winning an NCAA Title, then came back, this still counts as "the previous year's" NCAA champ. That wrestlers previous year of competition is what matters.
- Beating a future NCAA Champ in the finals - +3 points. Beating the best of the best deserves a slight edge. I used the specific setup of beating them in the finals to attempt to indicate that this person was clearly a top two talent, and would eventually find their way to the top of the podium, but if we are measuring greatness, and level of competition is one of the ways to find that, then we need to get very specific with this. There is enough variance with the number of points you can score so this will be helpful to differentiate the best from the best. Dake beat Molinaro and
- Beating a multiple time NCAA Finalist in the finals - +1 point. Tyler Caldwell is a monster, as are Dylan Ness and Montell Marion. They happened to fall to the likes of Jordan Burroughs, David Taylor, Kyle Dake, Frank Molinaro, and Kellen Russell. These guys have established themselves as top level competition, so beating them should count for a little extra. *This point is added to the AA point, making beating these guys in the finals worth 2 points, unless of course they ended up winning an NCAA title down the road, in which case you would get 3 points added.
With these subsequently added points, it can get cloudy when to add them and when not to. Typically the larger point value is what is added, and these aren't combined to make for a crazy number. For example, beating iMar in the finals last year earned Vincenzo Joseph 10 points for the 'ship, and an additional 4 points for beating the previous year's NCAA Champ. He wouldn't get points for also beating a multiple time finalist and that years AA, along with he himself being an NCAA Finalist.
With this system in mind, let's see who was definitively better, Kyle Dake or Ben Askren.
Askren's career points;
- 2004, 7 points. Askren lost in the finals to Chris Pendleton, earning him 5 points, along with having beaten two AA's on his way to the finals.
- 2005, 6 points. Lost in the finals again, along with beating one AA en route to the finals.
- 2006, 22 points. Askren gets 10 for winning the title, 7 for the Hodge, beat two AA's, and 3 more points for beating eventual NCAA Champ Jake Herbert in the finals.
- 2007, 23 points. Askren gets 10 for the title, 7 for Hodge, 3 AA's, and 3 for beating eventual champ Keith Gavin.
- Total = 58 points!
Kyle Dake's career points;
- 2010, 13 points. Dake wins the title, 10 points. Beat 2 AA's en route and one of them was a Marion was a multiple time finalist, +1. To clarify, winning in the finals earns 10 points. You do not get an additional point for that win also being against an AA. There is a bonus point for Marion being a multiple time finalist though, earning a total of 11 for that win.
- 2011, 15 points. Champ +10, 3 AA's one of those being eventual champ = +1, +1, +3.
- 2012, 16 Points. Champ +10, beat last years champion, +4. Beat one additional AA, +1.
- 2013, 24 Points. Champ +10, +1 for AA, +2 for multiple time finalist (Tyler Caldwell), +4 for beating previous years champ (David Taylor), +7 for Hodge Trophy.
- Total = 68 points!!!
As it turns out, Dake wins this battle of all time greats. Winning four NCAA championships seems to help out quite a bit. Let me hear your thoughts though. I want to make sure I'm not leaving out any other options to give points to our greatest wrestlers of all time.