Wrestling Rankings Round-Up for the Week of 2/26

PHILADELPHIA - While every wrestler that takes the mats at the EIWA Championships next weekend is hoping to end the tournament standing atop the podium as champion, there is another stated goal - to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

While winning a weight at EIWAs ensures a chance to compete in the national tournament, reaching a set place at the conference meet also will automatically qualify a wrestler for NCAAs. However, the wrench in the whole process is that every wrestler in the country has to wait until the end of February to know what place is the cut-off for automatic qualification.

That wait ended on Thursday when the NCAA released the final NCAA Coaches' Panel and RPI Index. Those two barometers, along with a minimum winning percentage of .725 determined how many wrestlers at each weight a conference will qualify. For each wrestler that had the requisite Division I winning percentage and was in the top 28 of both the Coaches' Panel and the RPI Index, his conference will receive an automatic berth.

The final total for Penn's conference, the EIWA? 41 automatic qualifying spots. That number is second among the 11 conferences behind the Big Ten's 56. The breakdown by weight is as follows:

125 pounds - Four AQs
133 pounds - Five AQs
141 pounds - Three AQs
149 pounds - Four AQs
157 pounds - Four AQs
165 pounds - Six AQs
174 pounds - Four AQs
184 pounds - Four AQs
197 pounds - Four AQs
285 pounds - Three AQs

So now, each Penn wrestler knows exactly what the minimum finish required is at the EIWA meet to move on to the NCAA Championships in Omaha, Neb. March 18-20.

The five Penn wrestlers who earned automatic berths for the conference are Bryan Ortenzio, Cesar Grajales, Gabriel Burak, Scott Giffin and Micah Burak.

The three Penn wrestlers closes to earning an AQ for the conference were Mark Rappo, Zack Kemmerer and Matt Dragon. The closest was Kemmerer who comes in ranked 30th in the Coaches' Panel and 29th in the RPI to go with a winning percentage of .705. Rappo came in at No. 32 in the Coaches' Panel and was not found in the top 33 of the RPI Index despite recent wins over two wrestlers in the Index and a third over a grappler who was in the previous release. Dragon was the 28th ranked wrestler in the Coaches' Panel, but has not wrestled enough matches this season to earn an RPI Index. However, since he hit at least one of the three thresholds, he is in line for an at-large bid if he doesn't qualify at EIWAs.

One thing to remember, just because a wrestler earned an AQ for the conference doesn't mean he will receive it. He still has to wrestle to that place at the conference meet. The inverse is true as well in that a wrestler like Rappo can eliminate any worry for an at-large berth by finishing fourth or higher next weekend.

Let's take a look at the rankings around the country heading into the off weekend before the EIWA Championships.

NCAA Coaches' Panel (Released 2/25)
Rankings go to 33 in each weight

125 - No. 32 Mark Rappo (Last ranking - Not Ranked)
133 - No. 23 Bryan Ortenzio (Last ranking - No. 24)
141 - No. 30 Zack Kemmerer (Last ranking - No. 31)
149 - No. 17 Cesar Grajales (Last ranking - No. 11)
157 - No. 28 Matt Dragon (Last ranking - No. 27)
165 - No. 25 Gabriel Burak (Last ranking - No. 19)
174 - No. 15 Scott Giffin (Last ranking - No. 18)
197 - No. 21 Micah Burak (Last ranking - No. 22)

Did You Know?
Of Penn's seven wrestlers featured in this release, five moved up since the most recent ranking on Feb. 12. Rappo made his first appearance in the Coaches' Panel of the season after impressive wins over Columbia and Princeton. Giffin made the biggest jump of anyone in the poll after a dominating win over Lehigh's No. 18 Robert Hamlin.

NCAA RPI Index (Released 2/25)
Rankings go to 33 in each weight

133 - No. 18 Bryan Ortenzio (Last ranking - No. 18)
141 - No. 29 Zack Kemmerer (Last ranking - No. 22)
165 - No. 19 Gabriel Burak (Last ranking - No. 15)
174 - No. 22 Scott Giffin (Last ranking - No. 26)
197 - No. 20 Micah Burak (Last ranking - No. 11)

Did You Know
Hard to figure out what happened here, with Mark Rappo dropping out from the Feb 12 release and Micah Burak falling down nine spots. Rappo went 2-2 since that last release, with both wins against wrestlers ahead of him. Burak went 3-1 with a win over No. 21 Joe Kennedy of Lehigh and his loss coming to No. 6 Cam Simaz. Still, the RPI Index is all about math, so you have to trust the numbers. Also have to wonder how Zack Kemmerer can lose twice to the No. 1 and No. 16 wrestlers and fall as far as he did. The consistent forfeits by opponents at his weight shouldn't be held against him.

EIWA Rankings (Released 2/22)
Rankings go to six in each weight

133 - No. 5 Bryan Ortenzio (Last ranking - No. 5)
141 - No. 4 Zack Kemmerer (Last ranking - No. 4)
157 - No. 5 Matt Dragon (Last ranking - No. 6)
165 - No. 5 Gabriel Burak (Last ranking - No. 2)
174 - No. 2 Scott Giffin (Last ranking - No. 3)
197 - No. 3 Micah Burak (Last ranking - No. 4)

Did You Know?
Besides the NCAA rankings that determined the automatic qualifiers at each weight, these were perhaps the most important rankings to come out this week. These coaches' ranking inside the conference will go a long way towards the seeding at EIWAs next weekend. The biggest news is Scott Giffin moving up to No. 2 at 174. He had been slotted No. 3, but his impressive wins since the last ranking moved him up a spot. Back at 125, Mark Rappo appeared to have an inside track at moving up with wins over two wrestlers ahead of him since the last ranking, however a loss to current No. 6 Joey McDonald of Lehigh probably kept him out. Gabe' Burak's slip at 165 is easy to understand as he was defeated by the three wrestlers now ahead of him. An interesting seed to watch out for is Cesar Grajales at 149. He is not currently in the top six based on injuries, but he is a former EIWA champ at the weight and is a consensus top-10 wrestler when healthy.

One other note on Giffin, his win over Hamlin this weekend caught the eyes of pollsters around the country. He moved up from No. 19 to No. 14 in the InterMat rankings and from No. 12 to No. 11 in the A.W.N. poll while staying still at No. 8 in the W.I.N. rankings.

This will be the last Rankings Round-Up of the season until after the NCAA Championships unless there are any major changes next week. Instead, look forward to extensive previews of the 2010 EIWA Championships as the Red and Blue continue their march to the NCAAs.