Reduction In Days Causes Controversy At Minnesota State Wrestling Tourney
When a decision is made on any controversial topic, invariably there are some people that are pleased and some that are unhappy. The same holds true with the Minnesota State High School League and the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association’s re-cent decision to lop off a day from the state wrestling tournament, making the team tournament one-day only and the individual portion over two days.Although the MSHSL will save $20,000-$25,000 by having the tournament cut to three days, MWCA president and former BOLD head coach Tom Gruhlke said that money wasn’t the lone factor in the decision.
“There will be a day less out of school for the students,” he said. “Plus, Saturday’s individual tournament will be packed with excitement with both the semifinals and finals on the same day. Wrestlers (that qualified to compete in both the team and individual tournament) can concentrate on team and not worry about individuals until the team is done.”
Another factor was when a team has been knocked out of the tournament early, there are several wrestlers sitting around idle that didn’t qualify individually.
“That becomes a supervision issue. Do you just send the kids home?” Gruhlke asked rhetorically.
Because wrestlers will have one weigh-in for the team tournament, coaches won’t be able to move wrestlers around based on where they needed them for their next opponent like they did previously when there were multiple weigh-ins.
All of these reasons are not sitting well with several of the coaches in the area.
“I don’t think (the recent format) takes the wrestling fan into consideration,” remarked Minnewaska coach Wes Tessman. “It seems to be all about money. There also seems to be little consideration for wrestlers – who will now have to compete in a 16-man bracket, two-day individual tournament, likely starting earlier in the day and finishing later as well, when compared to last year.”
Tessman also favors the individual portion being the first two days and the team tournament being held on the final day (Saturday).
“Other than the immediate communities involved in the team tournament, there won’t be too many outstate fans traveling to St. Paul to watch some of the best teams in the state compete against one another on a Thursday … and that’s too bad.”
Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City coach Dan Rouser agrees that the team tournament should be on Saturday.
“I’m in favor (of the new three-day format) if they can keep the three classes with it in the future,” he said. “I wish they could find a way to do the medal round for team on Saturday. But there’s a lot of politics that would come into play with that. On the plus side, it will save families money in these tough times, but I think the attendance will suffer, though.”
New London-Spicer head coach Jair Toedter is passing on judgment until he gets a chance to see how the new format plays out.
“I think it is important to be flexible and be willing to work with the MSHSL in order to keep giving the wrestlers a chance for a great experience at the culmination of their season,” Toedter said. “I will wait until after I experience it once before I judge whether I like it or not. I think both Thursday and Saturday have the potential to have huge crowds and a great atmosphere. But I guess we will have to wait and see.”
Gruhlke said one thing people should remember is that when the MSHSL decided to go from a two-class tournament in 2006 to three in 2007, attendance has not increased.
“That’s been a concern,” said Gruhlke. “Because (the MSHSL) had to staff people for tickets, concessions, janitorial duty and others, they actually weren’t bringing in more money to offset the cost for that extra day because attendance was the same as it was for a three-day tournament.”
Administrators and coaches would also like to find a way to improve wrestling for the fans by finding ways to reduce the numerous forfeits that have been popping up in recent years during the regular season. This is due to reduced enrollments at many schools, forcing them to share the sports with a neighboring school district like Dawson-Boyd and Lac qui Parle Valley did three years ago, and Morris/Hancock did this season with Chokio-Alberta. MACCRAY and Renville County West also are sharing the sport this winter.
In a recent area eight-team tournament that included six area teams, there were 26 open weights among the possible 112 for 14 weight classes, or 23 percent. Of all the dual matches this season involving area teams, 18 percent have been decisions based on forfeits. While some have been because of illness, injury, suspension or a wrestler not making weight, the majority are because there just aren’t enough bodies to fill out a lineup.
“The number of weight classes for high school wrestling should be 10,” insists Tessman. “Ten weight classes would be similar to college and international competition. It would allow small schools to remain competitive with each other, as well as with larger schools. Several of the current weight classes are only five pounds different from one another. That encourages wrestlers to cut weight down to the next weight class, especially after the first of the year when wrestlers get a growth allowance. Having 10 weight classes would discourage the cutting of weight. And if there’s a bad rap the sport of wrestling often gets, it would be the cutting of weight.”
Back to two?
There is ongoing discussions to put wrestling back to two classes instead of the current three. The main reason is because there are fewer teams because of sharing programs due to reduced enrollments.
Gruhlke wants to keep three classes because of the dominance of one of the Class AAA teams.
“It’s no surprise who is going to win the Class AAA title each year,” said Gruhlke. “The high school league can’t publically admit it, but Apple Valley is Apple Valley. They are a superior team; almost untouchable. They are one of the top teams in the nation. Everyone knows who will win the big class title. But no one knows who will win the other two team titles each year. If you cut the classes to two, everyone will know who is going to win the big class and attendance will probably go down.”