The Big Ten will have a bigger pool of NCAA automatic qualifying spots on the line this year at the conference wrestling meet.
The NCAA released its qualifier allocations Wednesday and the Big Ten is receiving 64 automatic tickets to the national tournament, eight more than the league earned a year ago.
The NCAA qualifying system is in its third season. It uses current-year data and measures wrestlers on Division I winning percentage, rating percentage index and the coaches’ panel rankings to determine how many qualifying spots each conference receives per weight.
The Big Ten received 61 automatic qualifying spots in 2009 and 56 last season. The automatic tickets to the NCAA Championships will be handed out March 5-6 at the Big Ten Championships at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.
The top eight wrestlers at the Big Ten meet at 133, 149 and 174 pounds will qualify for the March 17-19 NCAA Championships in Philadelphia. The Big Ten received six qualifying spots at 141, 157, 184, 197 and heavyweight and five at 125 and 165.
The Big Ten gained more qualifying spots than any other league over the past year. The Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association gained four spots and will have the second-most qualifiers with 45. The Pac-10 dropped seven tickets to 26 and the Big 12 lost four and will hand out 33.
The NCAA will hand out an additional 48 at-large qualifying spots on March 9 after all of the NCAA qualifying events have concluded.
The NCAA also unveiled its RPI and coaches’ panel rankings Wednesday. Iowa 125-pounder Matt McDonough and 197-pounder Luke Lofthouse earned No. 1 RPI rankings. McDonough was ranked second in the coaches’ rankings. Tony Ramos (No. 6 at 133), Montell Marion (No. 2 at 141), Derek St. John (No. 7 at 157), Lofthouse (No. 5 at 197) and Blake Rasing (No. 10 at heavyweight) were the other Hawkeyes who appeared in the top 10 of their weight classes.