Most Viewed Stories
New weight classes greeted with collective groan
For the first time in nearly a quarter century, major change has come to high school wrestling.
The National Federation of State High School Association Wrestling Rules Committee voted at its annual meetings in Indianapolis in April to make sweeping changes to the national weight class structure. Several classes were shifted, with the most significant change being the replacement of the 140-pound class with an additional classification at 195.
Gone also is the 103 class, which has been replaced by a 106 classification, and eight other classes were also changed. Only four classes — 145, 152, 160 and heavyweight (up to 285) — remained intact, with 112 going to 113, 119 to 120, 125 to 126, 130 to 132, 135 to 138, 171 to 170, 189 to 182 and 215 to 220.
The Federation made its ruling based on four years of study and data collection by the National Wrestling Coaches Association “in an effort to increase participation.” The Colorado High School Activities Association Wrestling Advisory Committee has implemented the changes for the state’s 77th season of high school wrestling.
It has not been a popular move in the minds of Colorado coaches.
“The coaches did not want it,” said Pine Creek coach Billy Gabel, who said he has two wrestlers good enough for varsity who are stuck on junior varsity because of a lack of room in the weight classes. “I didn’t want it. I think the national federation is trying to encourage football players to wrestle, but I think it waters down the upper weight classes. I really think they did an injustice to the majority of wrestling by eliminating one of the toughest weight classes across the country and adding one with a bunch of kids who just push each other around.”
The changes implemented for this season have had a ripple effect, with wrestlers being bumped up a weight class in order to make more room for their peers at the lower weights. With wrestlers growing and gaining weight each year, lineups are always a challenge for coaches to determine early in the season. The shift in classes has also added a bottleneck in the middle weights to coaches’ mental gymnastics.
The consensus is that the lower weights feature more students who wrestle on a year-round basis, while the upper weights consist largely of football players who have the extra pounds, but perhaps not as much skill. For years, coaches have been forced to scramble to fill the upper weight classes, and the majority of forfeits in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area have come in those higher weights.
“I don’t think it’s good for Colorado, because there are a lot more kids in the middle weights,” said Coronado coach Matt Brickell, who led the Cougars to the 2011 5A state title. “Our team is a perfect bell shape when you look at the weights. We have a few at the low weights and upper weights and a lot in the middle. You just have to deal with what comes, and it’s just something we’ve got to adapt to.”
Tim Yount, of On the Mat Rankings, said he has received considerable feedback about the changes.
“I speak to about 30 coaches a week, and only a handful said they have benefited from it,” Yount said. “Even those who were not hurt by the new weights still agree that it is not in our collective best interest currently and that the impact will be most noticeable at the end of the year when we get to regionals. I have been doing rankings for 18 years, and I have never seen so many weights with so little density.
“The 182 weight class is a prime example. I could only rank seven to eight kids in each of the classes to start largely because I didn’t see the number of ‘rankable’ kids in those weights.”
Yount said the situation could improve with time or a rule change reversal, but that remains to be seen.
“It would be ideal if they would repeal the decision, but I know, as a COO of a national organization myself, that there will be no changes any time soon,” said Yount, the chief operating officer of USA Triathlon. “In the meantime, we will have to get comfortable with the weights and hope that we can see a strengthening of the competition in the upper weights.”