In response to concerns about a growing number of forfeits in dual meets caused by teams unable to fill out a complete lineup, the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association recently released a proposal to cut the number of weight classes from 14 to 12.
The proposal came after the association’s advisory committee surveyed coaches last fall asking for feedback on a potential reduction in weight classes. A majority of the 162 coaches who responded favored a cut. In all, 144 of the coaches who responded indicated they would be in favor of cutting at least one weight classand 61 said they would prefer two fewer classes.
“Wrestling has to look long and hard at what we’re doing,” said Simley coach Will Short, a proponent of the cuts. “The No. 1 thing that drives kids out of wrestling is weight. We try to start 14 different kids all at different weights. Many teams can’t support 14 weights.”
The proposal recommended a two-year trial period in which teams could take double-forfeits at 106 and 195 pounds, in essence creating a 12-weight dual meet. Large school teams could still wrestle 14 weights if agreed upon beforehand.
The MWCA is concerned that there are too many non-competitive duals because so many teams do not have a complete lineup. The idea has circulated in previous years as well.
Minneapolis North, a program struggling to build a wrestling foundation, had to forfeit at least two matches in every dual meet this season. “At times, it was tough,” coach Brandon McAfee said. “We had a couple of spots where we had consistent forfeits. On average, we would fill out 10 to 12 weights.”
McAfee believes fewer weights will boost the sport’s overall health. “I think it would be beneficial, especially to the small schools. It might help some schools stay out of co-ops and remain independent,” he said.
Wrestling is rife with schools that band into co-ops to drum up enough support to field a team. The wrestling state meet had co-op programs as Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Browerville, Tracy-Milroy-Balataon/Westbrook-Walnut Grove, Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson and Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie. The reduction in weights is aimed at such cooperatives.
“I feel for the Class A schools that are having to struggle,” St. Michael-Albertville coach Dan LeFebvre said. “Wrestling needs competitive dual meets. We need to have a game – hockey has a gamer, basketball has a game. I don’t want us to go to just individual tournaments because no one wants to watch those.”
LeFebvre, whose team won the Class 3A championship Thursday, heads up a program that doesn’t have the problem of filling weights. He’s concerned that a reduction in weight classes means few opportunities for kids.
“When you reduce weights, you reduce opportunities for someone, somewhere,” he said.
To that, Short has a reply.
“Every time we have two programs that join together, we lose 14 opportunities,” he said. “I don’t know how many more co-ops we’re going to have because teams can’t support 14 weights.”