The 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships finals will begin with the 174-pound match, and conclude with the 165 finals, the NCAA announced via Twitter Saturday afternoon.
At 2:50 p.m., @NCAAwrestling posted: "We will be starting with Perry & Howe at 174 and ending with Taylor & Caldwell at..." accompanied by a photo of Penn State's David Taylor, arms raised, with "165" as part of the photo featured with this article.
The ESPN broadcast will start with the 174 title match which features defending champ Chris Perry of Oklahoma, facing off against cross-state rival Andrew Howe of Oklahoma, and conclude with Taylor taking on Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell at 165. Matches will be wrestled in this order: 174, 184, 197, heavyweight, 125, 133, 141, 149, 157, 165.
This is the second straight year, the NCAA has abandoned the tradition of conducting finals matches from lightest weight up through heavyweight that goes back to the first NCAA wrestling championships in 1928. At the 2013 NCAAs, the 165-pound match was wrestled last, because Cornell's Kyle Dake was going for his fourth NCAA title, seeking to become only the third four-time Division I wrestling champ. In that much-anticipated, much-hyped match, Dake defeated David Taylor, 5-4.
Last year's change-up was announced a couple days in advance, in the interests of promoting it as a "main event" which helped ESPN earned its highest ratings for NCAA finals coverage in about a decade. This year, the announcement was made about five hours before the finals, limiting its promotion value.
That said, the idea of having a marquee event in college wrestling is a wise move. It's inspired by mixed martial arts promotions, which typically save the marquee match-up for the conclusion of the event.
Shaking up the order of matches also is in keeping with the NCAA bringing more flash and visual appeal to the ultimate event in Division I college wrestling. Last year's finals featured flashy elements such as dramatic lighting and music as finalists entered the arena, and smoke columns shot off at the end of matches. What's more, in its title cards introducing upcoming matches, ESPN showed some of the wrestlers in fight shorts, bare-chested, instead of in traditional singlets or school warmups, a further linkage to MMA.
The finals will be televised in a traditional presentation on ESPN Networks’ flagship ESPN channel, while ESPN3 will offer a new Inside the Mat presentation which promises behind-the-scenes perspective and expert analysis from wresting legends. Both broadcasts are at 8 p.m. Eastern Saturday.
Want to know more? For more detailed coverage of Friday's semifinals, check out InterMat and TheMat.com. And, take a look at T.R. Foley's preview/predictions for the finals at InterMat Platinum (requires a paid subscription).
March Matness -- the most exciting time of the college wrestling season. Subscribe today! Keep up with the biggest on-the-mat developments (including conference and national championships), as well coach hirings, firings and retirings, new programs, new events, new ways to promote wrestling, and other stories you won't find elsewhere... by clicking the "subscribe" button at the top of the page to make sure you don't miss a single article from College Wrestling Examiner, winner of Amateur Wrestling News' Dellinger Award as wrestling writer of 2011. It's absolutely FREE!