On our Sunday night Olympic Sports Podcast while recapping UB Wrestling's weekend at the MAC Tournament I touted Jake Gunning as more than likely in line for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
I was reasonably confident given that Gunning had a solid record at the conclusion of the tournament (18-12), he had #18 Blaize Cabell on his heels in the title match, and he had head-to-head wins over the 3rd place and 4th place finishers during the regular season. Gunning was also ranked in the top 33 several times during the regular season and had head-to-head victories over wrestlers ranked in the top 33.
Seems pretty cut and dry that Gunning would get the at-large, right?
Scanning through the list of at-large bids, most make sense, but there are two names that stand out to me: Gage Hutchison of EMU and Mauro Correnti of Rider. For reference, the committee that decides the at-large bids consider several criteria: conference championship placement, RPI, win percentage, and head-to-head records, among others.
|Name||Qualifying Tournament Place||RPI||Win Percentage||Head-to-Head Records|
Looking at each wrestler side by side you can see that there isn't much difference between the three, but Gunning has the clear advantage when looking at the qualifying tournament placement and the quality of matches that he had in the placement tournament.
Correnti didn't face either Gunning or Hutchison in the regular season and he competes in a conference that is weaker than the MAC in terms of overall competition. The only advantage that Correnti had over either Hutchison or Gunning was that he was ranked in the top 33, squeaking in at the #33 spot. However, Gunning has the clear advantage in the criteria that the NCAA committee uses to determine the at-large spots: he placed higher in a conference that is higher quality, has more wins, and has a higher win percentage.
Gunning and Hutchison split their season series against one another, with Gunning winning the first matchup in UB's dual meet against EMU and Hutchison winning the second bout at the Midlands Championships. However, what separates the two immensely is their performances at the MAC Championships. Gunning breezed his way to the finals, pinning Arthur Bunce of Nothern Illinois, then beating Kent State's Devin Nye in the semifinals 9-4 before ultimately losing the championship to Cabell 6-5 in a closely contested match.
Hutchison on the other hand, was pinned in the quarterfinals by Devin Nye, before wrestling his way in to the 3rd place match, where he was yet again pinned by Nye.
Comparing Gunning and Hutchison head-to-head would lead me to believe that Gunning would deserve the at-large bid: the head-to-head record was even, their winning percentages were nearly even, and neither were in the RPI rankings, but Gunning outperformed Hutchison in the conference championships by a sizeable margin. Thus giving the edge to Gunning in the criteria that the NCAA committee says they use to determine the at-large bids.
Based on the evidence, Gunning was a snub to the NCAA tournament and should have been chosen over either Hutchison or Correnti.