Last weekend’s Apodaca Duals signified that the junior college wrestling season is drawing to a close. Grapplers from Northwest College, like their counterparts across the nation, will soon be taking part in regional competition with a spot on the national championship tournament bracket at stake.
Which is why it is extremely odd that the National Junior College Athletics Association has yet to update its national rankings for the sport in the year 2013. As I sit here typing these words, the national junior college wrestling rankings have sat unchanged since Dec. 21 of last year. In the time since, nearly half of the wrestling calendar has flown past. Wrestlers have moved up or down weight classes. Injuries have occurred. Lower ranked teams have walked in and taken down higher-ranked opponents, including Northwest’s takeout of third-ranked Clackamas last Saturday.
Through all of it, the rankings have remained unchanged, sitting idle for more than one month. To place that in perspective, the men’s and women’s national basketball rankings have been revised four times since the last — and only — change to the wrestling rankings took place this season.
Does that strike anyone else as odd?
Now, I’ll be the first to admit as I sit here playing keyboard jockey, that I don’t know the amount of work that it takes to compile and track the results of the dozens of junior college duals and tournaments that take place across the nation. I don’t know how painstaking it is to compare those results in an effort to come up with the top 12 kids from across the nation in each of 10 weight classes or to keep tabs on who is 141 pounds this week as opposed to 149 pounds.
What I do know, though, is that in previous years I would have seen one, possibly two, sets of ranking changes by now. I know that letting an entire month in the mid-to-late portion of your season pass without once adjusting the hierarchy shortchanges not only fans who are trying to figure out where their local junior college program fits in to the national fabric. It kills the buildup of any postseason buzz as fans watch their program climb the ladder over the course of the year.
Sure, wrestling is a sport where the athletes and schools are fortunate enough to be able to settle things on a mat. That means in less than one month everyone will gather in Des Moines and we can put all the speculation of which team is best to rest.
But rankings are more than just a way for fans to pass the time and wonder aloud. Student-athletes would love to be able to say they were ranked at some point in their career. Coaches making contact with high school athletes would love to be able to refer to them as an additional recruiting hook.
A sport frequently targeted by the budget axe on campuses across the nation shouldn’t make the bulls-eye larger by sticking its neck out by failing to promote itself.
Maybe between now and when the Trappers compete at the Northwest Regional meet in nine days a new set of rankings will come out. Or, maybe, we’ll just have to wait and see what the national championship brackets look like before we get an idea of where Trapper wrestlers possibly fit in to the national picture.
Regardless, it seems unfathomable that a major winter sport would allow basically its entire regular season to roll past while updating its rankings just one time from the preseason. The sport of wrestling, its student-athletes and its fans deserve more.