WEIGHT CLASS CHANGE
Weight classes have changed for high school wrestling this year, and the change isn't being greeted with open arms by most area coaches.
"I liked the old weight classes better," McCallie coach Mike Newman said. "We don't have many big guys, so the added weight class [in the upper weights] will be much harder to fill."
The National Federation of High Schools, on advice from and data supplied by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, kept 14 weight classes but deleted one of the middle classes and added one in the upper weights.
In announcing the change, Dale Pleimann, head of the NFHS wrestling rules committee, said his committee was able to analyze data from almost 200,000 wrestlers across the country and added that the committee's goal was to create classes that each had about seven percent of the wrestlers.
"Throughout the process, each state association was kept completely informed and was provided multiple opportunities for input," Pleimann said. "The results of the last survey of each state association indicated that the majority of states favored a change, and the committee listened and acted accordingly."
That statement has been challenged in Tennessee.
"[TSSAA assistant executive director] Mark Reeves didn't know it was coming, and I have gotten emails from coaches in other states who disagree with the change," Soddy-Daisy coach Steve Henry said. "[The change] kind of got railroaded through at the national federation, and at the time it caught Mark completely by surprise. He'd had no indication this was going to take place."
Reeves said the TSSAA voted to keep weight classes as they had been.
"In back and forth between the federation and the state associations, we were given the opportunity to vote twice," he said, "and one of the options was to stay the same, which is what we voted for."
The TSSAA made its decision after polling coaches.
"They see where most of the kids fall [in weight classes]," Reeves said. "It's my theory that if we pulled Tennessee numbers we would find more kids in the middle weights. I believe other states must have larger participation numbers from football players."
Said East Ridge coach Brad Laxton: "I will never believe there are more 182-pound guys wanting to wrestle than 140-pounders. We are being forced to recruit a guy out of the halls to fill a varsity spot and sit kids on the bench that have been wrestling for years.
"As a fan of wrestling, I don't want to see football players out there pushing on each other. I want to see wrestlers getting after it for six minutes, and that happens in the middle weights. Wrestling is one of the few sports in high school left for 'little guys.'"
Reeves also said its current bylaws prohibit the TSSAA from waiving NFHS rules and guidelines.
That doesn't make the change any easier for coaches to accept, especially for those who have seen the 2008 national health statistics from the Center for Disease Control that list the average weights from 131.8 pounds for 14-year-old males to 160.3 for 18-year-olds.
"I have no idea where the logic behind adding a weight to the upper end came from when the vast majority of kids who wrestle weigh between 120 and 160 pounds," said McCallie coach (emeritus) Gordon Connell. "It was poor insight. All one has to do is look at the national tournaments and the number [of entrants] there validate what I'm saying."
Ooltewah coach Wendell Weathers was the only one of the coaches surveyed by the Times Free Press who liked the weight class shift.
"I think we're in the minority, but we are happy with it and wish it had taken place about three years ago," he said. "Our team has, and has had, more talent in the heavier weights. We have had good varsity wrestlers who wrestled junior varsity in the upper weights because they could not crack the varsity lineup. We average 40-50 wrestlers with less than three that weigh less than 120 pounds, while we'll be very deep in the upper weight classes. We welcome the change, for we continue to pursue the football wrestlers."