All it took was one look around Charleroi High School's gymnasium last
week to know there was something wrong.
The WPIAL's Class AA Wrestling Championships were moments away from the start and only half the seats were occupied.
Hopefully, the WPIAL took notice.
This event is the only Class AA postseason tournament in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and this year it was dominated by the four schools that have a large fan following: Washington, West Greene, Southmoreland and Burrell. Wrestlers from each of the 28 Class AA schools in the WPIAL were at this tournament but more fans showed up for the team tournament finals.
There are more than enough people to point a finger at but what's needed now is a coordinated effort to rejuvenate it. The three major problems that exist with the tournament, in no specific order, are 1. Cost; 2. Organization; 3. Confusion.
The most frequent complaint about the tournament is that it is too costly. Tickets run $5 for adults and $3 for students and a new ticket is required for each of the sessions. An adult wishing to attend the three sessions would have to pay $15, a family of four $48.
Once inside, though, it's apparent that there is not much bang for the buck. This tournament, like many others in Class AA, was punctuated by too many scratches. Nearly three dozen marked the first round, which forced the reworking of one bracket and sent some athletes into the quarterfinals without having to wrestle in either of Friday's two rounds. Wrestlers should be more honest about their intentions to compete and coaches should try to hold each wrestler to that commitment.
Withdrawals also made the programs, at $2 a pop, outdated before the first bout was held. As usual, the programs were awful. Some of the things you couldn't find in it: times for each of the sessions, last year's WPIAL champions, a list of previous Class AA champions, the names of the 28 high schools and their team colors so fans could at least guess who was wrestling at any given time, and dates and times of the upcoming regional and state events.
What makes this such an unacceptable situation is that there are many individuals who can easily provide the WPIAL with this information.
The new matside scoreboards were impressive but there was no way to tell which match was being wrestled there because the bouts were not numbered in the program.
There were also problems expediting the bouts. The semifinals and consolation semifinals dragged on until late Saturday afternoon, ending just one hour before the doors opened for the evening session. The organizers and staff at Charleroi work hard, but that is not translating into a smoothly run event.
Fortunately, the WPIAL can solve many of these problems by asking Trinity athletic director Jerry Chambers, who is also head of the WPIAL's wrestling steering committee, for a little advice.
Each year, Trinity hosts the Powerade Christmas Tournament, one of the best-run events in the state. Using it as a model for the WPIAL's individual tournaments would be a strong first step in getting people back into those seats at Charleroi.