Every Progressland wrestling team forfeited weight classes last season, some much more than others.
It’s been an ongoing issue for smaller schools, as well as some larger ones as well.
That problem was a big reason the PIAA voted to reduce the number of weight classes from 14 to 13, starting with the 2020-21 season, earlier this month.
The reduction has been an ongoing discussion for the past several years and cutting the weights to just 12 was even floated around.
“This topic has been talked about for a little while now because of teams not being able to fill all the spots in their lineups,” Curwensville wrestling head coach Dean Swatsworth said. “I would have to say this move helps us, from my perspective, because we are a small school and we struggle to fill a lineup. So this is a good thing for all smaller schools that can’t fill a lineup.
“However, for those bigger schools that can fill a lineup and have solid kids throughout this would be negative for their program because now they have to sit one of their wrestlers.”
Mo Valley, which has been way down in numbers in its program, forfeited about half the weight classes this past season and has been struggling to fill its lineup for a few years.
‘I think the weight class cut is a great thing, especially for the AA schools,” Black Knight head coach Thad Walstrom said. “I was actually in support of the 12 weight class proposal that was initially made.
“For the smaller schools it was hard to fill 14 weight classes and made some weaker weights in state competition. I think with 13 weight classes you are going to see better competition, especially at the heavier weights.”
Another positive several coaches mentioned was the ease in which a winner can be decided if a dual ends in a draw.
“I am glad they reduced the weight classes,” West Branch head coach Jason Bainey said. “They now are almost the same as when I wrestled for Coach Caslow (at Philipsburg-Osceola) in the late 90’s.
“Having 13 weights makes the tiebreaker very easy, 7-6 matches won. It seemed so many matches that were tied ended up taking forever to decide a winner as they usually went clear down the criteria list. One year our district finals meet verse Huntingdon came down to criteria H or something like that, Most first-period points scored.”
One problem that some area coaches see with the reduction is that it was one of the heavier weights that was removed. The first eight classes (106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160) remain unchanged. But now there will only be four classes from 172 to heavyweight (172, 189, 215, 285).
“There are pros and cons,” Glendale head coach Bill Dubler said. “For Glendale the cut hurts us this season because of our roster construction, but I do like having 13 weight classes, especially for tie breaker purposes.”
Clearfield is another team that had a roster geared toward the upper weights and now will likely have some battles for starting positions.
“It will definitely make things interesting in the upper weights due to us having some really good wrestlers 170 and above,” Bison head coach Jeff Aveni said. “I guess now we hope they don’t grow too much.”
“Wrestling is a very tough sport. As a sport, wrestling has been asked to find 14 athletes to compete, but not just any athlete they must fit 14 predetermined weight classes.
“There are no limitations comparable in other sports as a 240-pound kid can play QB or tackle for the football team, or any position on the basketball or baseball team. Baseball needs nine athletes to field a team, basketball five, football and soccer 11. Wrestling not only needs 14, they must fit the predetermined weight classes. So by reducing the number of weights I feel that teams and coaches have a better chance of filling a full lineup.”
Bainey feels taking a higher weight away was the right move.
“I was not in favor of so many upper weights,” he said. “I understand they added the extra weight a few years back to encourage football players to wrestle, but that didn’t appear to happen.
“It is tough to find big guys that wrestle. I have realized this a lot in the last 10 years traveling around the country for dual tournaments. All of the teams with good upper weights were always in the gold pool so you learned quick to snag up good upper weights if you wanted to have a successful dual team.”
While the loss of the heavier weight could present challenges for some teams this season, the fact that the PIAA chose to keep 106, which was on the chopping block as well, was pleasing to several area coaches.
“I am glad they kept the 106-pound weight class,” Bainey said. “Many wrestling fans signed a petition and sent it to the PIAA to keep 106 for many reasons, but one being it gives the little guy a fair chance to compete in a sport with others his size.
“Most times these lightweight athletes are bullied in school by others but having a weight class they can compete in with others their size does a lot for their morale and self-esteem until they mature and grow a bit. It was amazing to see the statistics on how many of your NCAA national champs wrestled in the 106 weight class in high school.”
“It sounded like the PIAA had their mind set that they were going to cut a weight and initially was going to cut 2 weights including the 106 pound weight class,” he said. “I’m glad we didn’t lose the 106-pound class. Wrestling is one of the few sports where you can be successful no matter what your size, so at least the PIAA got it right and didn’t cut out the little guys or girls.”
But while most of the area coaches are in agreement that the weight class cut will help their respective teams in the short term and should make for better competition and more compelling dual meets, the overall reason for the cuts and the impact on the sport are problematic.
“All in all the biggest negative I see with this is it’s showing that wrestling is not as big as it once was and we, as a wrestling family, need to figure out how we can get our numbers up so we aren’t taking away weight classes, but are instead adding them,” Swatsworth said.
“Overall it’s a bad decision because bigger schools don’t have the issues filling the weight like some smaller schools do,” Dubler said. “I understand wanting to have less forfeits but the problem isn’t weight classes it’s our culture.
“Kids would rather play video games or scroll on social media than put in the hard work that’s necessary to be an elite athlete, so I blame today’s culture. Parents need to set limits with electronics and get kids off their butts. It’s important for kids to exercise, set goals, and have a healthy structured outlet in their life.”
Bainey definitely sees the same issues as Dubler does when it comes to the reason for the numbers crunch.
“Reducing the weight classes will help out teams with smaller numbers, he said. “Being at a small school like West Branch, you have smaller class sizes which limits your number of athletes.
“It is hard to get kids out for sports anymore with the distractions of video games, cell phones, both parents working which makes it tough to get to practice…etc. I am glad they went the route they did and am excited to see what the upcoming season brings.”