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PIAA's team tourney plan is filled with flaws
by Joe Tuscano

I bet you didn't realize wrestling is a team sport.

It is, or at least that must be the way the PIAA views it.

How else can one explain the format for next season's PIAA team tournament? Establishing a team tournament is not a bad idea, but the way it will be scheduled next season makes one wonder if the idea came from the basketball steering committee.

The basic flaw in the tournament schedule is that it falls between the three individual postseason tournaments. The team tournament will be held on the last four Wednesdays of the season, ending with the team finals on the day before the state individual tournament.

There is a distinct difference in strategies for the team and individual portions of the season. Lineups are different, with wrestlers shuffling up or down the order to give the team its strongest chance at winning. The PIAA must not understand this or it would not have scheduled the finals on the day before the state tournament, when wrestlers lock themselves into weight classes.

Who, for example, would consider putting on weight the night before the state tournament so he can get into a weight class that would make their team stronger? The closer a squad gets to the team finals, the more restrictive the lineups become. In the three rounds leading to the finals, there are two days off before the rounds of the individual tournaments. There are about 14 hours between the team finals and the beginning of the PIAA Championships.

Another problem with the team format is the matchups it may create. Suppose the state team tournament was being held this year and McGuffey and Northampton battle to the Class AAA finals.

One of the matchups would be Christian Luciano of Northampton against Nick Richmond of McGuffey, the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked wrestlers in the state at 171 pounds. A match like that would make for great drama and would certainly fill all the seats at Hersheypark Arena. But it would not be fair to either wrestler to have to return the next day and start the grind again against competitors who have had days, not hours, to rest and prepare.

Also, opposing coaches and wrestlers would have the advantage of scouting the wrestlers on the teams that make the finals.

If the PIAA wants to have a team tournament, then it should consider a different format.

One suggestion was to hold the tournament during the third week of February, when Presidents' Day is celebrated. Schools are closed for that holiday. But that would bunch the dual meets too close together.

A better idea would be to contest dual meets on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday during that week, pairing the field to two teams in each classification. The finals could be held on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week.

A state team tournament would generate a lot of money for the PIAA; that's why it's so desirable. But in the rush to create one, the PIAA has lost sight of what wrestling really is: an individual quest to become a champion.