Why Do We Seed, Or Should We?

By | July 17, 2023

The answer is no, we shouldn’t.

At least in the way it’s currently being handled. I understand the importance of seeding, and the need to separate the best athletes in each weight class, but using the NCAA Championships as an example, seeding down to 33 in a field of 33 is absolutely absurd.

I can understand separating athletes, and then placing the Top 4 in each quarter bracket. But after that, it’s unnecessary, and nothing but insensitive folly.

I’m saying this for our fans. The people who purchase tickets with the hopes of witnessing some amazing competition . . . in all six rounds.

But I don’t understand the rules committee. Yea, I get it, they singularly focus on the athlete and then turn around and ignore having any interest in marketing the sport. But in this case, they’re neglecting both the athletes and the fans.

Why in the world would we want to save all the best bouts for the later rounds? And because we’ve always done it that way isn’t a reasonable response. Especially when the sport might have 6 great matches going at the same time in the quarter finals with spectators who only have one set of eyes? That’s like trying to watch 6 television sets, with six different shows going at the same time. Good luck trying to follow the action.

This is especially important to remember when the NCAA decided years ago that they were only going to sell three-day, six-session tickets. That’s the equivalent of forcing spectators to buy a seat in a high-end restaurant and then serve them an average salad Thursday morning, and so-so appetizers Thursday night. Then overdosing them with action on Friday so they miss most of everything because it’s too overwhelming.

Sure, there’s always a couple of donnybrooks on Thursday, but not that many for the cost of travel, housing, food and entry fee. This is why Thursdays always have gaping holes of empty seats in the arena.

Let me ask, what’s the purpose of seeding? Isn’t it to separate the best wrestlers for as long as possible?

Yep, that’s it. But is it the best way of handling entertainment? No, not really. Our leadership has gone overboard with the whole concept of seeding of late. And our fans, the ones we’re losing, simply aren’t interested in throwing the sport a lifeline anymore.

Should we separate the top four athletes in each weight class into their own quarter bracket; absolutely, no question about it.

But that’s where it should end.

We owe it to our fans to do better. Wrestling’s leadership has a major responsibility here if we want those who are paying the freight to return every year. They need to help deliver a product that’s worth consuming. And at the NCAA’s, the product is there. It’s just being served incorrectly.

So, what’s the answer?

Simple, we continue to identify the top four athletes in each weight just like they do today. Then place each of them in one of the four quarter brackets. Now, here’s the huge however . . . don’t put a number next to the athlete’s name. It’s not important for anyone to know who the top seed is; or the second seed, or the third, or the fourth. Just place the four you’ve identified randomly in each quarter bracket.

Then draw the rest of the field, and have at it.

“But that’s not fair,” why not? Every athlete is still given the opportunity to wrestle, and the opportunity to wrestle back. That hasn’t changed. The only difference might be the timing of when each athlete gets thrown into the consolation bracket?

But the cream still rises; and doing it this way gives the paying public another exciting reason to attend the event . . . and, are present for the earlier sessions.

Next, who’s the genius that came up with up with the idea that every athlete needs to have a number placed next to his name? It doesn’t appear that they stopped to think how the bottom seeded wrestler feels about being designated as the worst wrestler in the tournament.

Who thinks of these things? Or, better yet, who doesn’t think? How demeaning. Doesn’t that classify as cruel and unusual punishment.

Seeding the entire weight class serves no earthly purpose.

Actually, the same can be said for anyone who’s seeded below 16th. “Wow, I get to go home and tell my friends that I was expected to finish somewhere in the bottom half of my class.”

Should we keep the top 4 apart in the earlier rounds, of course. But you don’t have to have a seeding meeting, or seeding criteria for that to happen.

Who doesn’t already know the names of the top four wrestlers in each weight class before the tournament begins? Just separate them. And you don’t have to indicate who’s #1, or who’s #2 etc. Just keep the best apart for as long as you can because it really doesn’t matter.

At least this way, the top four athletes in each weight can still say they were one of the top seeded wrestlers. Or, if they wanted to, they could lie and say they were the top seed. So what if they do? They can’t be proven wrong.

And given that there are around 80 D-I teams trying to get their athletes to the big dance, being one of the top 32 already makes them someone special. Why are we making someone say he was chosen as the 24th best wrestler out of 32 in his weight bracket?

We owe each athlete our respect. Why not allow them to be able to say they were one of the best in the country and leave it at that?

On the other side of the coin, by letting our customers figure out who the top seeds are; wouldn’t that be fun? Remember, they’re the individuals who have written the checks to be entertained. Why spoon feed them information? Why don’t we want them to discuss, debate, agree, and argue over that which isn’t obvious? We shouldn’t take any form of entertainment away from our customer base.

Then, after you have separated the top four, draw the rest of the field out of a hat. “But that’s not fair,” I can hear it now. Really? Why not? If you’re not one of the top four, chances are you’re going to be wrestling back through the consolation bracket anyway. How is that much different that the current system other than you might lose in the second round instead of the third? Or third round instead of the second?

The point I’m trying to make is the athletes are currently pawns on the Rules Committee’s chess board. Once the coaches finally understood the specific set of criteria for seeding, with the NCAA tournament being the Crème de la Crème event of the year, they began to figure out work arounds, as they always do.

What we saw as an outcome was an uptick in medical defaults throughout the season, and an inordinately large number of them took place at the national qualifiers. In both instances it was due to the fact that medical defaults don’t count again the metric for seeding.

And, on other occasions, because of that metric, athletes would either move up a weight to get away from someone they perceived as being a little better than they were or they didn’t even weight in for some meets when they were capable of wrestling. It was all a matter of protecting their positioning at nationals based on todays’ seeding criteria. If they could miss a few matches and end up an All American as a result, that seems like a reasonable trade off.

And I bet the fans who came to see those specific match-ups were really pleased about that.

No one wins when you purposely cheat paying customers out of some great matches. You can’t keep your doors open for long when you advertise a six-course meal, charge your patrons for six courses, and then serve them three.

Please remember, the fans are the life blood of all sports! For without them, and the revenue they generate, wrestling is not a business, and then it becomes not much of a sport.

One thought on “Why Do We Seed, Or Should We?

  1. Rick S.

    It’s too quiet. Let me add some gasoline to the fire.

    Seeding is for the coaches, not the paying public. The coaches want to delay having their better wrestlers knocked into the consolation rounds too early. As such, seeding will happen irrespective of the paying public.

    Note, I said, “paying public.” I didn’t say “fans.” I contend the sport has NO fans.
    The “fans” are there to watch specific competitors, friends and family.
    The “fans” are not there for the sport. When the competitors stop competing, the “fans” stop going.

    You’ve attended wrestling matches. So have I. what do those so-called “fans” ask each other?
    “Which one is your friend or child in the competition?” That’s right. Which competitor are you a fan of.

    What do these so-called fans remember? They remember what happens to their children or their friends.
    They don’t remember the “exciting” moves the coaches love. They remember how the match ends.
    When I was young, I remember a friend getting squashed. I don’t remember how he got in those predicaments.
    I remember him squirming for a while, gradually weakening, and finally relaxing as the referee slapped the mat.

    The coaches remember the “exciting” moves. I remember the “exciting” struggle. They are NOT the same.
    If it’s all “exciting” moves, count me out. I guess I am not a fan.


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