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South Fayette to drop wrestling

By Jennifer McGinnis

Pat Conroy may move his family out of the South Fayette Township School District if school directors dismantle the high school wrestling program because of dwindling numbers.

His son's wrestling coaches said he has potential to go to the PIAA championships if he continues to improve; Conroy wants to ensure that his son will have not only that chance, but a future shot at college scholarships.

More than a dozen parents attended a school board meeting Tuesday to find out if there was truth to rumors that the district would eliminate its wrestling program if more students did not participate. They also asked school officials to help promote wrestling at the elementary level so more junior high students would become involved in the program.

"We have no track and no cross country teams and you're thinking of cutting wrestling?" Conroy asked. "This is a growing community and people moving here look at what is offered at the school. I would consider moving out of South Fayette if my son had a chance at a scholarship."

Superintendent Linda Hippert said administrators had discussed eliminating the wrestling program after the 1998-99 school year if fewer than 16 students register for the junior high team. There were only eight athletes on the varsity team this season. Hippert added the administration believes that if less than 16 participate at the junior high level next year, the district would not be able to field a competitive varsity team in the future.

Director Suzette Collins said the district had to re-evaluate the wrestling program because it is hard for the board to justify spending $12,000 on a sport involving so few students. "It's really a bottom line thing," Collins said. "The board represents taxpayers and if a program with low participation costs relatively high ... it's our responsibility to look at it."

Debbie Cardillo disagreed, arguing that $12,000 was not too much to give her son and others who have devoted years to wrestling the chance to try to place in the PIAA championships before they graduate. "Getting to the states are like the Olympics for my kid and I'd hate to take those dreams from my child," she said.

Hippert said she, the athletic director and the high school principal would meet with a committee of parents to draft a list of goals for the wrestling program and consider ways to boost participation.

Hippert said the athletic director has contacted nearby school districts to propose a cooperative wrestling program with other high schools if South Fayette does not have enough wrestlers to operate its program after next year.

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