The PIAA has yet another change in the works, this time on the wrestling mat.
A proposal by the Wrestling Steering Committee was passed by the PIAA in late May to reduce the number of weight classes for high school wrestling from 14 to 12.
The proposal has seen mixed emotions in the wrestling community, but some local coaches have expressed their doubts about the radical change.
“Anything that cuts down the amount of kids that can participate in the sport is a bad thing,” Seneca Valley coach Kevin Wildrick said. “I couldn’t disagree with the theory or the motive more.”
The current weight classes are as follows: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220, 285.
The new weight classes under the proposal would be: 110, 118, 125, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 190, 215, 285.
“Every one of these kids are working their tails off,” Butler coach Scott Stoner said. “And this would eliminate kids who would otherwise take home a medal at states.”
The board voted 13-1 in favor of the proposal, and now the PIAA will petition the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHSA) to put the reduction in motion for the 2020-21 season.
However, the PIAA plans to unfold a three-year pilot reduction program no matter what, even if the NFSHSA doesn’t act or approve.
The NFSHSA doesn’t plan to vote on the matter until April 2020.
“I see both pros and cons to it,” former Slippery Rock varsity coach Shamus Carr said. “Obviously by narrowing it down to 12, it’s going to be a bit more deeper, with quality backups and manage lineups better. But at the same time you’re taking two starting spots from kids who could potentially participate in a sport.
“If you’re trying to grow a sport, you need to give kids as many opportunities as you can.”
In addition, the PIAA’s proposal would allow varsity teams to enter a second wrestler in each weight class at tournaments with nine or more teams participating.
Some coaches are in favor of some type of change, while others see no need for a tweak to the system at all.
“Honestly, I’m happy with the way the system is,” Carr said. “That’s the system I grew up in.”
“I think they need to keep the 14 class system,” Stoner said. “I would support them spreading some of the middle classes out.”
An increased number of forfeits at duel meets is cited as just one of the PIAA’s motives behind the change.
“For the purpose of the duel meet, I would hate to see individually them to eliminate weight classes for the individual tournament qualifiers,” Wildrick said. “Growing up in New York, we had two more weight classes for tournaments compared to duel meets.”
Western Pa. has been known to produce some top tier wrestlers from the WPIAL all the way to District 9 and so forth, so why fix something that isn’t broken?
“It’s no doubt Pennsylvania is one of if not the best state for high school wrestling in the country,” Stoner said.