Pleasant Valley (Iowa) Wrestling Coach Jacob Larsen :
“Dual meets are what grow the sport, getting a packed house and getting after it. What people don’t want to see at those dual meets are forfeits.”
(1-27-17) Wednesday night in the OHSAA Team (Duals) Tournament Bluffton beat Parkway 43-30. The final score indicates a close match, but the results show that only five of the fourteen matches actually wrestled, the other nine were forfeits, one was a double forfeit. The result of these forfeits, eight wrestlers did not get to compete in the meet (five from Parkway, three from Bluffton).
Is it a problem? Eliminate weight classes? Have kids lost interest? To many other options available for students? Is there a solution?
OHSAA Team Tournament – Division III – Region 24-B
Quarterfinals – Versailles – January 25, 2017
Semifinal 1 – Bluffton 43 – Parkway 30
106 Tristen McKee 11 (Parkway) forfeit (Bluffton) Forfeit 6
113 Abe Meyer 09 (Parkway) forfeit (Bluffton) Forfeit 6
120 Ryder Romick 11 (Bluffton) dec. Titus Meyer 11 (Parkway) Dec 10-6 3
126 Preston Browning 09 (Parkway) forfeit (Bluffton) Forfeit 6
132 Reid Etzcorn 11 (Parkway) forfeit (Bluffton) Forfeit 6
138 James Badial-Luna 11 (Bluffton) pin Ethan Meyer 10 (Parkway) 3:40 6
145 Reese Fokine 11 (Parkway) forfeit (Bluffton) Forfeit 6
152 Nathanial Staley 11 (Bluffton) pin Kaine Younker 09 (Parkway) 3:11 6
160 Austin Mault 12 (Bluffton) dec. Cody Kuhn 12 (Parkway) md14-2 4
170 Cole Wilson 12 (Bluffton) forfeit (Parkway) Forfeit 6
182 Landen Luginbuhl 9 (Bluffton) forfeit (Parkway) Forfeit 6
195 Deandre Nasser 10 (Bluffton) pin Joshua Puthoff 12 (Parkway) 3:49 6
220 Brett Basinger 10 (Bluffton) forfeit (Parkway) Forfeit 6
285 Double Forfeit
Parkway and Coldwater both wrestle as independents, since the MAC does not sponsor wrestling as a conference sport. Parkway is one of the newest programs in the state, while Coldwater has had a program for many years.
Kevin A. Browning, Parkway Head Wrestling Coach
It is my opinion that we have the right number of weight classes as the 14 make for good competitive balance. I think the issue is that the sport is lacking in popularity for a couple of reasons, one being that there is no professional level (WWE does not count), and the stigma that goes with the sport.
The forfeits will take care of themselves if we can fix the attitude with the sport. There are schools that are not promoting and media is only covering the sport when there is an issue or a way to make it look negative. For example, an article on the growing number of skin diseases or serious injuries in the sport.
If we can find a way to promote the sport we will find a way to make the sport grow. The lack of a professional level to the sport hinders the growth of the sport. When a young kid comes home and tells their parents they want to join the wrestling team, the first thing that a parent thinks is that their child will be the next Hulk Hogan or Macho Man, and there is nothing farther from the truth. When a child comes home and says they want to join the football team or basketball team the parent is sure their child is the next NFL or NBA star. The promotion of the sport becomes very important.
Solutions to the problem are as complicated as they are necessary. School in the area such as Columbus Grove have modeled an event similar to schools in Cincinnati where there is a full school assembly the last half hour of the day and a team dual is conducted. The dual continues on beyond the school day, but the students get a chance to see the team in action. This helps a younger generation see the excitement and physicality of the sport. Currently Parkway is looking to schedule this event with a school in the area next season.
The National Federation has discussed options that extend from change in uniform to change in rules to fix the problem, but the real problem is that student athletes are becoming more focused on a single sport. I have asked football players if they would join the wrestling team and the number one reason to not join is that they are “lifting for football” all winter long. These same students are dropping baseball and track in the spring as they are trying to be ready for the highly competitive MAC football season.
One barrier that we have had to overcome at Parkway was the newness of the sport. We are only in the 5th season of competition and have seen our numbers grow. I think that good coaching and great parent involvement have helped us grow as a sport.
Rob Schmidt, Coldwater Head Wrestling Coach
No I firmly believe 14 is a good number of weight classes.
There are a few issues that are causing low numbers.
1. Club wrestling for youth at a intense level drives kids away before they get to Jr. high. If you think you need youth wrestling make it fun or do not even have it. Kids need to be kids.
2.Parents need to encourage their kids to try wrestling at the Jr. high level.
Both parents and kids would be surprised from all the benefits from wrestling.
3. Wrestling is a tough sport and a lot of kids do not to work that hard today.
Again ,kids need to be encouraged to try wrestling and work hard it . They will be very surprised at all the benefits.
No concerns and the solution is simple.We just need to make things fun and get some encourage from parents.
Celina, the largest school system in Mercer County, is the only County school to be competing in a conference, the Western Buckeye League.
James Miracle, Celina Head Wrestling Coach
I do agree with those that say forfeits are a problem for our sport. I love dual matches, but with most teams forfeiting 2 or more weight classes, it takes away from the match. Imagine being the kid who practices everyday and eats healthy and runs extra to make weight and then on match night you go out and get your hand raised without ever getting to earn the win. Hours of work for 3 seconds on the mat. I don’t think the number of weight classes are a problem, I could go for 13 to do away with all the tie breakers in dual meet wins, what I think needs done is a redistribution of the weight classes that mirror the kids we have. A few years back they redistributed the weight classes and essentially removed a middle weight class and added an upper weight class. We have plenty of kids that can be moved around to fill the middle weight classes, what most teams don’t have are enough small guys (106/113) or big guys (220/285).
I know personally that we do not get football players to wrestle anymore. There are many reasons for this, but I think state wide many coaches want their kids in lifting and spending time with their sport than they want to share their kids with another coach to teach them something different.
Some people think we should make forfeits count less than pins. I think this is the worst idea ever. If I have a kid that I know can’t beat a kid and is likely to give up 6 points, why would I send him out to cost the team more points when I could just void every weight unless I thought we could win. I think if forfeits counted for more points then coaches might actively get out there and recruit or get kids to recruit to help the team, in this case each kid would be more valuable to the team than having a forfeit.
We are fortunate at Celina, our numbers are the highest they have been at the high school level in 4 years (32). Now over half of these are freshmen that might decide not to return as high school is completely different from middle school. Our middle school numbers are larger than most at 26 and our youth numbers are some of the highest I have heard about (90), but I am concerned because many of the teams we wrestle against in MS have 2, 8, 5, 1 and Bath even cancelled their team. Long term is we have to travel for matches to locations like Taeys Valley where they have established club teams that compete year round. This is another problem with the sport. The top teams keep getting better and the divide seems to get worse every year.
It is hard enough to go out and wrestle all alone but to go out there and compete against a kid that has wrestled since 5 when you started at 13 or 15 is difficult. As smaller teams give up on the sport the middle teams move to the bottom and the top teams continue to feed on them creating more turnover for teams trying to establish themselves.
I would love to see a system set up that changes divisions of schools based on returning qualifiers or incoming freshmen credentials so that teams are competing with teams that they are competitive with. Graham beat us 84-0 in the state duals tournament (round 2) but won the state finals (round 6) vs Wauseon 62-4.
I like a proposal to allow kids to wrestle in MMA shorts and compression tops and I wish they would change the prohibitive hair cut rules or wear a hair cover. I also wish they would shorten the season. After next week (WBLs) we have two weekends off before sectionals on the 3rd Saturday, essentially we go 21 days until we wrestle again. When I wrestled in high school is was the next week, then they added another week, now we have added an additional week. This is a long time to keep your body at the same weight and compete in a grueling sport.
It’s not just an issue in Ohio, but other states are keeping an eye on the situation. On the west side of the Stateline in Indiana, programs like Jay County and Bellmont have some of the best programs in the Hoosier state.
Eric Myers, Jay County Head Wrestling Coach
I believe that there is reason for some concern as it pertains to the number of forfeits in high school wrestling. There are a variety of issues that a play a part. I don’t necessarily believe that we have too many weight classes.
Wrestling is a difficult sport. Practice is a grind, every day. We need to have more fun in wrestling. Let kids celebrate their wins, .bring out the spotlight for the finals, showcase the sport.
I believe that numbers are down at times because of lack of recruitment, and sometimes lack of support at home.
We have been fortunate to have solid numbers. Our kids enjoy being part of the wrestling team. Hopefully we can continue to have these numbers.
Bobby Cox, Commissioner, Indiana High School Athletic Association
Initially, weight classes are established to insure that like athletes are paired together in competition. This is a health and safety consideration and great thought has been invested in the establishment of weight classes. Secondly, a reduction of weight classes reduces opportunities for participation at all levels which I’m not a proponent.
Wrestling is a very demanding sport from a physical, mental and emotional perspective. It takes a great deal of sacrifice and dedication for young athletes to participate in this sport. Couple those factors with an increased variety of activities students may choose from and those could be contributing aspects if numbers of participants are truly decreasing.