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The wrestling singlet has new competition as uniform choices will double this coming season.
The National Federation of State High School Associations approved in May adding an alternate two-piece uniform "consisting of compression shorts or shorts designed for wrestling and a form-fitted compression shirt."
Officials hope the addition will help grow a sport that's losing participation. Wrestling lost 7,555 participants from the 2014-15 school year to 2015-16 according to the most recent NFHS report.
South Hampton Roads coaches have struggled in recent years to increase turnout, especially in the upper weights.
Besides the grueling routine of cutting weight, eating right and mental taxation, some athletes don't find a singlet appealing to slide into.
A two-piece may help.
"I think it's a move in the right direction," Nansemond River coach Tripp Seed said. "I think it will help keep the heavyweights involved and get the kids out who don't want to wear a singlet."
Landstown 120-pound state champion Gavin Corbe plans to mix a two-piece into his routine.
"Landstown ordered some already," said Corbe, a rising senior. "Some guys are gonna be wearing them. I think it's something different to bring to the sport of wrestling."
Other coaches are hesitant about a change. Salem coach Robert Toran thinks breaking tradition would be a mistake.
"I'm an old-school guy," Toran said. "We are not marketing swimwear. It's a singlet and it should stay as is. I know things tend to be modified through time but I don't think it needs to take place in wrestling.
"The singlet is what defines the sport."
Fiscal feasibility may play a part in why the alternate uniform might not take off, Ocean Lakes coach Chris Barnhart added.
"It may help recruitment in the long run but the expenditure and risk related to it will take many years for programs to adopt it," Barnhart said.
Great Bridge coach Matt Small already stated his program will not use them.
Still, the NFHS believes its testing results can be extrapolated to the country.
"The (wrestling rules) committee approved use of the alternate two-piece uniform in the hopes of increasing boys and girls participation in the sport after receiving favorable results from experimentation and positive comments from schools, students, coaches and officials," the NFHS said in a release.
Wilson coach Tony Reynolds certainly had a favorable reaction.
Informed about the new uniform, Reynolds said, "That just made my decade."
Reynolds recounts many times recruiting students to join the team only to be shot down by the singlet.
"They'll tell you quick," Reynolds said. "Coach I wanna wrestle but I don't wanna wear that little uniform."
But Reynolds did foresee issues with the two-piece.
"That compression shirt would have to be tight enough and long enough to where it doesn't pop up and come up past the navel," Reynolds said.
An exposed abdomen could get rubbed and ground by headgear, Reynolds explained.
Small thinks the uniform addition is a band-aid to a much larger infection.
"I think kids don't wrestle because of the fear of being out there by themselves in front of everyone and competing with someone in a 1-on-1 situation," said Small, whose Great Bridge team won a Group 4A state title in February.
"If you're insecure about that you're gonna be insecure with what you're wearing."
Corbe expressed a similar thought.
"Wrestlers are a proud group of athletes," he said. "If you don't feel comfortable wearing a singlet this might not be the sport for you."
In six years with the Wildcats, Small has had only two heavyweights compete. N either complained about singlets.
"The participation problem is deeper rooted than the uniform," Small said.
But he appreciates the NFHS trying to solve a problem.
"We'll take whatever options we can get that will help us and if it's uniform-based, great.
But, Small added, "Great Bridge High is going to wear a singlet."
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