Scheduling blunder costs wrestling team title shot

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Wednesday, February 4, 1998

Scheduling blunder costs wrestling team title shot


The Section 3-AAA championship was supposed to be decided tonight when North Allegheny traveled to Shaler in a battle of unbeatens.

But Tuesday afternoon, Shaler won the wrestling title.

By forfeit.

Because of a clerical error at North Allegheny, the Tigers had scheduled one more match than the PIAA permits in a season. The error was not discovered until this past weekend and the only remaining dual meet was the section showdown against Shaler.

"It's hard. Our kids busted their butts and we screwed up,'' said Tim O'Malley, athletic director at North Allegheny. "I told them if they want to blame someone, blame me. The responsibility rests on my shoulders. It was an unintentional mistake.''

Both teams sported 10-0 records heading into the match and both had already qualified for the WPIAL Team Tournament, which gets under way this weekend. Shaler will enter the tournament as the section champion and could receive one of the top four seeds while North Allegheny will enter as the section runnerup.

Only the team record will be affected by the forfeit. None of North Allegheny's wrestlers will be charged with a loss.

"It was the right decision and a courageous decision,'' said Larry Hanley, executive secretary of the WPIAL. "There were three things discussed. No. 1, play and accept the consequence. No. 2, talk Shaler into calling it a no-contest, but I don't think Shaler was real big on that. And No. 3, forfeit.''

The PIAA uses a point system to determine how many matches and tournaments a team may schedule during a season. One point is assigned for each dual meet and as many as three may be accumulated by competing in a tournament.

In North Allegheny's case, the wrestling team competed in four tournaments that were worth three points apiece and 12 dual meets. The match with Shaler would have been the 13th dual meet of the season.

Ironically, Trinity High School's wrestling team ran into the same problem earlier this season. Last year, the Hillers agreed to compete in the Mid West Classic. But at its summer workshop, the PIAA clarified what is an acceptable format for a tournament and the Mid West's format did not meet the PIAA's guidelines. Trinity was forced to cancel a number of non-section dual meets, including Washington and North Allegheny.

If officials at North Allegheny had caught the mistake earlier in the schedule, it may have been able to eliminate a non-section match. Hanley said if the mistake had been found after the Shaler match, North Allegheny would have had 21 days to file a report. Hanley preferred not to speculate on what may have happened then.

"The WPIAL would look to see if a school would report itself,'' he said, "and that would mean a lot. We would look to see if it was an honest mistake.''

While Shaler did win the section championship, it also came out on the short end of one aspect. The athletic department lost the gate for a match that would have drawn about 1,000 fans




Copyright ©1998 Observer Publishing Co. Last updated 2-4-98