02/21/05 — NCHSAA aproves wrestling 50-percent rule

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NCHSAA aproves wrestling 50-percent rule

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 21, 2005 1:56 PM

WINSTON-SALEM -- A change in the dual-team wrestling playoff format four years ago prompted coaches in the Class 1-A and 2-A ranks to begin asking for separate individual championships.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association listened to their pleas, but cited the 50-percent rule which meant at least half the schools in the 87-member 1-A classification needed to add a wrestling program. When 1-A schools submitted their information for the association's directory last fall, NCHSAA officials recognized they had met the criteria.

The NCHSAA Board of Directors, at their December meeting, approved a separate 1-A individual championship beginning in 2006.

"There are times we have classified a sport for a particular class knowing that maybe one class would be slightly under the 50-percent rule," said Que Tucker, deputy executive director of the NCHSAA. "How long do you continue and not make the 2As stand alone? Any time you can offer your schools the opportunity to have a legitimate shot at winning a state championship, I think it's a great decision."

Tucker admitted that some schools, once those initial forms had been submitted, dropped wrestling this season due to a lack of partcipation. However, she quickly added that the Board of Directors will not rescind their decision. The challenge is working out the logistics for 1-A schools that are heavily concentrated in the eastern and western portions of the state.

The current format for 4-A, 3-A and 1-A/2-A involves four regionals -- East, Mideast, Midwest and West. Coaches had originally proposed a 1-A East and West regional, but the NCHSAA felt that would create two issues -- missed classroom time and travel distance. A possibility is having three regions -- East, Central and West.

The association remains indecisive on the number of regions needed. Tucker felt the NCHSAA will have a clearer idea of geographic regions once the new realignment takes effect in June.

"We know in this state our 1A schools are sort of spread apart," Tucker said. "There is not much in the middle."

Once that task is completed, the next challenge involves the number of qualifying wrestlers.

The current system has 16-man brackets for regional and state competition. Tucker said the ideological scheme for 1-A would be the same as its current dual-team format. Eight teams from the east and west earn spots for the week-long tournament, but wrestle one less round than 4-A and 3-A -- which have 16 qualifiers each.

"We'll have to be created in how we set it up," Tucker said. "We might be looking at a small bracket to begin with and as we grow, we'll add more. Those are the things we need to consider and figure out."

The dynamics of the current state championship tournament also change. Nearly 700 wrestlers in three classifications battle during the two-day event to crown 42 individual champions. The addition of a 1-A class increases the number of state titles to 56 and undoubtedly adds nearly 400 matches to the 1,170 already scheduled.

Rosewood coach Bill Edmundson welcomes the new classification.

Wrestlers from 34 schools vied for 16 regional berths this season based on win percentage. Edmundson noted a number of talented 1-A wrestlers didn't get seeded in the regional despite having strong above .500 records. Another classification increases the chances of those young men wrestling for a spot in the state tournament.

The addition of programs at Princeton, North Johnston and Louisburg helped the region move closer to achieving the 50-percent rule. All three teams joined Rosewood in the Carolina/Tar-Roanoke Athletic Conference.

"We've been waiting for that for a long time," said Edmundson. "The dual-team change was a good turning point and gave us a little hope. It's all about competing on a level playing field. When you've got regions with 30 or more teams, it's just not a fair playing field."

Edmundson's program, in its 12th season, sent 14 wrestlers to the regional last weekend at North Pitt. The team finished second overall and qualified five wrestlers for the state tournament. Had there been a separate regional, the number could have conceivably been higher.

Tucker is thrilled the coaches are watching the state's growth in 1-A programs and bouncing around ideas regarding regional and state competition. She attended the 1-A dual-team finals at Chatham Central two weeks ago and walked away impressed with the atmosphere -- the excitement generated from the different communities attending the four-team meet.

"It's a fantastic experience for those communities, not to even mention what it does for those young people who are involved," Tucker said. "We feel this will be a plus for the 1A schools. "