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3/12/98

Numbers, referees and Whyte
by Joe Tuscano

Some final thoughts on this year's PIAA Wrestling Championships:

While the medal count was impressive -- three first-places and one second -- the number of area qualifiers in Class AAA was poor.

Only 11 Class AAA wrestlers from the Washington-Greene County area made it to the PIAA tournament, the fewest amount in this decade. This second-worst was last season's total of 13.

To be fair, the process of making it to the state tournament has gotten more difficult over the last three years in Class AAA but that shouldn't be that much of a factor if, as wrestling fans like to say, the best wrestling in the WPIAL is in this area.

Another disturbing fact: of those 11 Class AAA wrestlers, five were seniors, including state champions Andy Migyanko of Trinity and Brad Mockler of Canon-McMillan.

Class AA has had 14 qualifiers in each of the past two seasons with its best showing in 1995, when 21 wrestlers made it to Hershey. In the decade, 140 Class AA wrestlers have qualified for the state tournament, 116 in Class AAA.

Rotation doesn't work

This state tournament presented a strong argument for changing the way referees are selected.

The low point came in the Class AAA first round when referee Orvis Kline of District 1 ruled Shaler freshman Troy Letters bit Erie McDowell's Joe Little in the third period of their 135-pound bout. Letters, who was leading 8-0 at the time, was thrown out of the tournament.

Was it a bite, or was Little looking for a way to overcome a desperate situation by convincing Kline that Letters had bitten him? Many in Hersheypark Arena felt the latter was true and booed Little each time his named was announce during the final two days of the tournament.

The tournament was filled with an unusually high number of mistakes. At various times, referees lost track of the score, stalling calls and position choices to start a period.

In one first-round bout, the referee was about to declare Brookville's Jeff Shaffer the winner over Washington's Sean Thomas after a double-stalling call in overtime. The referee had forgotten that he warned Shaffer earlier in the bout, but the Wash High coaches didn't. The double stalling call left the bout tied and Thomas eventually won by rideout.

Officiating at the state tournament is an important responsibility and referees are chosen on a rotation system. But the PIAA should make sure the best referees are working, regardless of whose numbers come up.

Don't invite Whyte to the Waldron family reunion

This year's hard luck award goes to West Greene's Shawn Whyte, who might have won two state championships if Tom Waldron of Loyalsock had not been in his weight class.

Whyte lost only two bouts in the last two state tournaments, both times to Waldron. Whyte came back through the wrestlebacks to take third both times.

In his freshman season, Whyte was knocked into the losers' bracket by Tom's brother, Mike, in the quarterfinals. Whyte lost those three bouts by a combined four points.