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2/2/98

Eliminating one weight would be best move
by Joe Tuscano

Whenever wrestling coaches gather, you can bet one of the topics of conversation will be what's wrong with the sport.

And that usually translates into what's wrong with their team.

Sometimes, coaches can't differentiate between the two.

Take the issue of the PIAA dropping a weight class for the 1998-99 season. Just one year ago, the idea drew raves from many coaches who were having a difficult time getting wrestlers out for the team.

Since that time, the PIAA has tabled the idea because the board of control is confused about where the coaches association now stands on the issue.

It seems the problem, which has frustrated fans because of the high number of forfeits at some schools, suddenly is no longer a problem.

Why?

Because many coaches got a look at the number of wrestlers in the junior high program and saw they would probably be able to fill the 13 weight classes, at least for the next two or three seasons. Imagine the advantage when wrestling an opponent that is forfeiting two or three weight classes.

"The (wrestling) coaches association membership was pushing this but when we went through the readings, we weren't getting that kind of feedback,'' said Elliot Hopkins, assistant executive director of the PIAA. "They were very clear about that last summer, but now things seemed to have changed."

Hopkins said there are pockets of the state that are requesting the weight classes be increased to 14. Not sure what the coaches favor, the PIAA won't address the issue again until the summer.

In the meantime, the board will try to figure out what way to go with this problem. And it is a problem, no matter how many teams might be able to fill the weight classes next season.

The advanatge of fielding 13 weight classes is obvious. Teams that regularly forfeit one or two weight classes are probably not going to win a section or team title. Overcoming a 12-point deficit is very difficult, especially when opposing coaches can place weaker wrestlers into those weights. Hey, they're not stupid.

It's also not unusual to have a wrestler "hide" in the lineup by slipping up or down a weight to avoid a strong opponent. It's especially easy for middleweights, where the difference between weights is minimal.

That's not a healthy situation for the sport.

Fewer weight classes would do wonders for the postseason tournaments. Hersheypark Arena will eventually lose the PIAA Championships simply because it is not large enough. The schedule is so tight now that wrestling must begin 8:30 a.m. to get all the sessions completed.

It's not unusual for fans of one session to be waiting outside the arena doors while the earlier one is taking place. Many times, those fans have had to stand in inclement weather.

When the PIAA reconsiders the matter, the coaches associaton should solidly back the reduction of one weight class. It will lower the number of forfeits, make it more difficult to maneuver wrestlers and give fans more matches to watch.

And that will be beneficial to all teams.