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Little Rock moves into NWCA Div. I Poll for first time, the fastest Top 25 start-up in DI men’s history

by Jason Bryant, National Wrestling Coaches Association

NWCA Div. I Coaches Poll graphic for January 23, 2024

Manheim, Pennsylvania – Growing pains have been apparent for Little Rock’s five-year-old wrestling program. With just one NCAA qualifier in school history and nine total dual wins coming into this season, Coach Neil Erisman’s path to success has been a slow one.

But it’s also apparently pretty steady.

Little Rock’s first ranked win in school history last week against then-No. 24 Arizona State vaulted the Trojans (10-4) into the NWCA Division I Men’s Wrestling Coaches Poll for the first time in program history, coming in at No. 25 in the most recent poll released on Tuesday. It’s also the quickest a Division I men’s start-up program has hit the Coaches Poll since the poll was first published by Amateur Wrestling News in 1960. The NCAA’s divisional structure began in 1973-74.

The Top 10 remained unchanged with Penn State remaining the unanimous No. 1 after a pair of weekend wins over Michigan State 35-0 and No. 11 Michigan 27-9. The Nittany Lions improved to 6-0 on the season and won their 50th dual in a row, which ranks 13th all-time. Penn State’s previous dual win streak was 60, which ran from 2015-2019.

Third-ranked Iowa (8-0) beat Purdue 34-6, while fifth-ranked Oklahoma State (8-0) also stayed unbeaten after topping No. 16 Oregon State 27-6. No. 6 Nebraska won a back-and-forth affair with No. 9 Minnesota 19-14. The Cornhuskers (7-1) also beat Purdue 27-14 over the weekend. Ohio State improved to 11-1, topping then-No. 22 Wisconsin 27-15 and Maryland 38-4.

No. 10 South Dakota State won a pair of home matches, beating California Baptist 39-3 and Northern Colorado 26-16. Arizona State, despite dropping an 18-15 match to Little Rock, did rebound to pick up an unusual 21-20 criteria win over then-No. 15 Pittsburgh. The Sun Devils ended up getting the deciding criteria from an injury default win from heavyweight Cohlton Schultz in the dual’s final bout. The win tied the dual at 20, but after the teams were split in the first criteria (bouts won), the default carried the weight for the second criteria.

Lehigh moved up two spots after beating then-No. 18 Navy 24-15 and Penn 24-12. Navy fell five spots to No. 23 after also falling to unranked Binghamton 18-17. Oregon State split matches, falling to Oklahoma State, but beating then-No. 25 Cal Poly. The Beavers stayed put at No. 16.

Methodology: The NWCA Division I Men’s Wrestling Coaches Poll is voted on by two coaches from each Division I wrestling conference. Each first-place vote is worth 25 points, 24 points for a second-place vote, 23 for a third-place vote and so on through to one point for a 25th-place vote. The poll is based on dual meet results. Teams who are not competing this season are not included in the voting process.

NWCA Division I Men's Wrestling Coaches Poll

January 23, 2024

Rank/Team (First)/Record/Points/Conf./Previous

1 Penn State (14) (6-0) 350 Big Ten 1

2 Missouri (7-0) 335 Big 12 2

3 Iowa (8-0) 323 Big Ten 3

4 Iowa State (9-1) 303 Big 12 4

5 Oklahoma State (8-0) 295 Big 12 5

6 Nebraska (7-1) 277 Big Ten 6

7 Ohio State (11-1) 267 Big Ten 7

8 NC State (10-2) 251 ACC 8

9 Minnesota (5-2) 232 Big Ten 9

10 South Dakota State (8-2) 220 Big 12 10

11 Michigan (5-2) 210 Big Ten 11

12 Virginia Tech (4-3) 189 ACC 12

13 Rutgers (10-2) 179 Big Ten 13

14 Cornell (4-3) 176 EIWA 14

15 Lehigh (4-3) 153 EIWA 17

16 Oregon State (5-3) 134 Pac-12 16

17 Stanford (7-2) 108 Pac-12 20

18 Oklahoma (5-3) 93 Big 12 19

19 Pittsburgh (7-5) 91 ACC 15

20 West Virginia (8-2) 88 Big 12 21

21 Wisconsin (6-2) 64 Big Ten 22

22 Northern Iowa (3-4) 49 Big 12 23

23 Navy (6-4) 33 EIWA 18

24 Cal Poly (5-2) 31 Pac-12 25

25 Little Rock (10-4) 27 Pac-12 NR

Others Receiving Votes: Arizona State 24, Appalachian State 17, Indiana 17, Campbell 6, Michigan State 3, Penn 3, Illinois 2.

Dropped out: No. 24 Arizona State (3-4).

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