HS Wrestling to Name Individual and Team Champions

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The Buffalo News (New York)


The needs of the many may outweigh the needs of the few in the Star Trek universe, but for years, the opposite mentality has been in place in New York State wrestling circles.

Still, coaches have done their best to create team-first cultures, even though only individuals have had opportunities to compete for state championships.

That's about to change, and Section VI is trying to get a jump on its future competition.

The section will crown team champions at Division I (large school) and Division II (small school) for the first time during a tournament Jan. 28 at Starpoint High School. Officially called the Section VI Dual Team Championships, a points system will determine the eight-team fields in each division. The field will be announced Sunday.

While there will be no dispute as to which teams finish as No. 1 in Section VI this year, starting in 2018 the section's champions will participate in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Team Dual Championships against other section champions to see who is tops in the state at Divisions I and II.

"Our team champion determined up to this point was whoever won the class or had the most points at the class tournament was the sectional champion," Lancaster coach Ron Lorenz said. "It's not always the fairest representation because you can rack up a ton a tournament points (based on kids placing top four)."

"A team can win the class tournament with five kids. You can't win a dual match with just five kids," Section VI co-chairman Israel Martinez said. "We will finally get a true indicator of our best teams."

The state announced during the fall it would start to crown team champions in wrestling in 2018 at the Division I and II levels. That made a great number of coaches across the state happy since they have been trying to get that added to the NYSPHSAA roster since the early 2000s. It stalled around 2008 due to the state budget crisis.

At least one other section in the state holds a team dual championship meet. Section IV has done so for more than a decade, but will tweak its tournament to conform to the future state one, according to an October report in the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin. It will now crown Division I and II champions instead of just one team regardless of school size.

The team dual championships will be separate from the tournament that crowns individual state champions. It's likely the two tournaments will be on different weekends.

The addition of team championships should make the job of coaches like Falconer's Drew Wilcox a little easier.

The fifth-year Falcons pilot has promoted a team-first attitude with his program for a simple reason. Wrestlers, like other scholastic athletes, can use the lessons learned through being a part of a team as a way of preparing for life after sports.

"Getting these guys to buy into the team mentality and not letting their teammates down is preparing them for future employment," said Wilcox, who grew up wrestling in Pennsylvania - where they have crowned team and individual state champions for years.

"Having a dual team state championship, that's a great thing. As a coach you always have a kid who doesn't have the physical talent to be a state placer or qualifier, but having the chance to be on a state-caliber team is big for those kids. You take a kid who can't get to a state tournament but he's on a state-caliber team and might be one of your hardest workers in the room, he deserves a chance to be in that pressure situation."

The state has been exploring options to improve the sport, according to Martinez. The hope is that, by adding more of an emphasis on the team aspect, interest and participation numbers could increase.

"We have seen the number of forfeits in dual matches increasing from year to year," Martinez said. "It will give programs a little more incentive to emphasize their team, as opposed to just focusing on their individual studs."

"It gets more kids potentially involved in postseason wrestling than there are now," Lorenz said.

"You can have kids with good records who are eliminated in the first round and do not qualify for postseason but can still be part of it if their team qualifies. ... They want more kids to be more involved in the championship stage."

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January 18, 2017


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