Putting on a few extra pounds : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Putting on a few extra pounds|
|Biggest changes in 23 years to arrive on the wrestling mat |
|by Kristin Sharp|
Editor's Note: Record Newspapers has five wrestling teams in its coverage area, spanning all three classifications: Plano (Class 1A), Yorkville (Class 2A), Sandwich (Class 2A), Oswego (Class 3A) and Oswego East (Class 3A).
The 2011-12 high school wrestling season will bring the biggest changes to the sport in 23 years.
And the changes are being met with mixed reviews and plenty of opinions from area wrestling coaches.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) announced on April 26 that 10 of the 14 weight classes will change for the upcoming season, shifting all but four upward beginning with the 103-pound weight class. The lightest weight class is now 106.
The NFHS Board of Directors gave the final approval - along with 17 other rule revisions.
"I think we were told at the end of the season at regionals that it pretty much was going to happen," Oswego East head wrestling coach Mike Jezioro said. "For me, it was a surprise then because I didn't know anything was going on. It wasn't a surprise that they actually changed them."
The Illinois High School Association state wrestling finals will now be comprised of the following 14 weight classes: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285. Three middle weight classes - 145, 152 and 160 - still remain, but move up in the lineup as the 7-8-9 bouts, and the 285-pound weight class will also be unchanged.
"I like the changes," Plano head coach Adam West said. "I think it benefits a team like ours where we have a lot of upper weights so I'm excited about it. It'll definitely be damaging to those teams that can constantly fill the lower weight classes, but that's never been our problem here at Plano so I'm kind of in favor of it. I'm looking forward to the change."
The last change in weight classes came in 1988 when the lightest weight class was increased from 98 to 103 pounds. The only other change made since then was the addition of the 215-pound weight class in 2002, bringing the total number of weight classes to 14. In 2006, the 275-pound weight class was increased to 285.
"There are still 14 and you still have to fill them all, so we're going to find the best wrestlers we can for each of them whether it's 103 pounds or 106 pounds," Jezioro said. "Talking to some guys the other day, I looked back last year on our schedule and we only had to make scratch weight five times out of 22 weigh-ins we had. After Jan. 1, you get two pounds anyway, so 103 is 105."
And although West and Jezioro may not foresee too many issues in filling the new weight classes, teams like Sandwich - which has struggled to fill 215 and 285 in past seasons and have success - aren't looking forward to the addition of an extra heavyweight class.
"I'm not so sure I'm happy with it," Sandwich head coach Josh McCarty said. "We think it's geared toward those bigger schools, and football kids. You get football coaches saying 'You need to lift. You need to get bigger.' And that hurts the sport of wrestling because the kids don't want to cut weight. They took some of the smaller weights out, and that'll hurt us.
"We felt like we were finally starting to fill those big weights with some good, strong kids. We went a couple years where we weren't sure who was going to be there. Now we're looking at doing that with three weight classes."
The weight class shift also means a big change for Sandwich's two-time Class 2A state medalist, junior Alphonse Vruno. After winning a 2010 state title at 112 and finishing second at 119 this past winter,
Vruno will need to find a new weight class to compete in as both will now be defunct.
"We've been lifting a lot, me and him, and looking at not cutting weight and he was looking at 140," McCarty said. "Now there's no 140 and there's no 135. He's got to go down to 132 or up to 145. He was at 119. That's a situation where we're looking at 132 because we've been putting on size and strength, but I don't think he's going to put on enough to go 145."
Yorkville also returns two Class 2A state qualifiers in juniors Connor Bass and Clayton Bass, and both will also have to fit into new weight classes after Connor Bass placed second at 135 and Clayton Bass qualified for state at 140.
"I thought it might be another year away, but they're going to do what they're going to do," Yorkville head coach Shane Darnell said."They'd been asking coaches for a few years now about weight class changes and this year seemed to have a feel that it was more likely to occur this year. I don't really see it as a positive for the sport. I think the teams will struggle to fill one of those extra upper weights just as much as teams struggled to fill the lower weights. I don't know if it's a problem-solver."
But with Nov. 7 start date for the 2011-12 season still six months away, there's no telling what the returning wrestlers will look like when the new season gets underway. Coaches will have to wait until next fall before they worry about which athletes will fill the new 14-man lineup.
"High school kids, we expect then to grow quite a bit from their freshman year to their senior year," Oswego head coach Jeff Charlebois said. "No one knows when they'll have a growth spurt. It shouldn't be that big of an issue to what weight class the kids come back at. Last year we had a bottleneck at some of those lower weights. We had too many good kids for that area. Now we're potentially making it much more difficult to get them all in the lineup next year. It's new headaches, but it is what it is."
And in the meantime, coaches like McCarty will have to revise their plan of attack on the mats.
"We're going to have to make some changes with how we do things to gear ourselves toward those new weight classes," McCarty said. "I feel like we're having to shift our focus and aim some things in a different direction and see if that works out for us.
"What we do during the season with weight lifting is now going to have to change. What we were doing before was more maintenance. Now it's going to be putting on muscle."
The NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee also approved 17 other revisions to existing rules - the biggest one with the boundary line. Starting with the 2011-12 season, the two-inch boundary line is now inbounds, expanding the wrestling area. (Previously, a wrestler was out of bounds if he or she was touching any part of the line.)
"I think what they're doing is like college," Darnell said. "I think it helps keeping guys wrestling the whole time. Watching this year in college, there are guys who go out of bounds and the match is still going on because the other guy is inbounds. I think it's a good rule. It'll force guys to wrestle until they're completely out of bounds. It'll eliminate some of the judgment calls."
McCarty agrees, to some extent.
"I watched it at the college level. I think it's great because the kids get to keep wrestling," McCarty said. "You have an opportunity to be defensive and stop the points. However, knowing the size of a high school mat and gym space, it might create more danger for injury. I'm interested to see how that'll all shake out because I think it'll lead to more injury."
Other revisions include a change in wrestling holds - the Figure 4 around the head is now an illegal maneuver - as well as choice regarding second injury timeout at the end of the second period and referee's flexibility to determine best position on the mat.
The NFHS press release also noted points of emphasis adopted by the committee for 2011-12 including communicable diseases, injury time-outs, coach/referee conference, and concussion recognition and management.