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Old 01-23-2008
Rob Sherrill Rob Sherrill is offline
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Please...let's think before acting

The talk of expanding from two to three classes seems to be gaining momentum, on the Illinois Matmen message boards and elsewhere, faster than a speeding locomotive.

In the past week, about 70 per cent of Illinois High School Association (IHSA) member school representatives responding to an IHSA survey voted in favor of expanding wrestling from two to three classes, which would appear to provide some official endorsement of the idea.

But let’s remember that only 414 schools – about 54 per cent of the IHSA’s overall membership of 765 – responded to the survey to begin with. That puts the percentage of schools from the total membership that have actually endorsed the idea at just about 18 per cent. Doesn't look like such an overwhelming mandate now, does it?

I’ve made a couple of posts in the past week on this issue. The more I look at the way three classes would be constructed under the format the IHSA has set forth, the more I’m opposed to the idea.

Before we consider such a drastic revision to our wrestling way of life – and it would be as drastic as it gets – we need to ask ourselves three questions: First, is the two-class wrestling system in Illinois broken to begin with? If so, how? And if so, is a third class the solution?

I don’t think the two-class system is broken. In fact, I think it’s just about perfect – the best setup that any state in the nation has.

The IHSA already has laid out a blueprint for a three-class system. It would put the bottom half of the membership, in terms of “official” enrollment, in Class A, with the next quarter in Class AA and the top quarter in Class AAA.

That would leave us with between 160 and 165 schools in each of the top two classes, AAA and AA, with about 90 schools in Class A.

So what we’ve essentially done is split the current Class AA in half. The Class A ceiling would drop from its current 724 to 603, leaving Byron as the largest Class A school under the new format.

And make no mistake…this is the format we’d be stuck with. No exceptions. The IHSA is a one-size-fits-all organization when it comes to adminstering sports. We think we’re different, but the IHSA doesn’t share that view. Wrestling is just one of the 30-odd sports over which the association has oversight. I know. I’ve been on the front lines helping to fight some of those battles on behalf of wrestling in the past.

Since the number of schools isn’t increasing significantly, the IHSA could simply dictate, instead of the current 24-man bracket for Class AA, two 12-man brackets for Classes AAA and AA. The travel and scheduling hassles this would create would be devastating, particularly for the downstate Class AAA schools.

Two 12-man brackets also would be likely because, from a wrestling standpoint, the Assembly Hall is at capacity. Any additional wrestling – meaning more than 36 wrestlers at a weight qualifying for the state tournament – would require a three-day state tournament. Good luck selling that to your friendly neighborhood administrator…or to the University of Illinois.

No additional wrestlers…but up to 84 additional medals, which would increase by perhaps one-third the length of the finals for awards presentation. That’s why Michigan’s state finals are more than four hours long…wrestling and awards presentation for wrestlers in four classes.

All this likely won’t solve the question we should be asking: How do we increase interest in high school wrestling in Illinois?

The answer, folks, is to bring more schools into the sport. And three classes…not these three classes, at least...won’t do it.

Here’s why.

Class AAA includes a total of 191 schools. Of those that are not all-girls schools, only six don’t already have wrestling programs. Of those six, four are in the Chicago Public League and a fifth is a Chicago charter school. The other: Benet Academy, located in Lisle.

Of the 191 Class AA schools that are not all-girls schools, only 21 don’t already have wrestling programs – and 11 of those are Chicago charter or specialty schools that are unlikely program candidates, with another two in the Chicago Public League.

That means that, in terms of new programs, Classes AAA and AA are virtually tapped out. The fans of programs in those classes already are attending the state meet in the same numbers they’ll be attending this year, five years from now, or 20 years from now.

The growth potential, folks, is at the other end of the spectrum.

There are 218 high schools in Illinois with enrollments of 300 or less. Only 14 – less than 10 per cent – host wrestling programs. Another 18 are secondary schools to co-op programs that bring the combined enrollment of the host schools, in most cases, to 500 or more.

Specifically:

300 or less – 218 total schools, 32 involved in wrestling
301-400 – 53 schools, 18 involved in wrestling
401-500 – 47 schools, 21 involved in wrestling
501-600 – 53 schools, 35 involved in wrestling
601-724 – 47 schools, 29 involved in wrestling

Go to any state tournament in any sport. It’s the small schools that shut down the town and bring the fans to the games.

Those are the fans we need to bring to our sport. Will a Class A that’s essentially been ignored by the new format - reduced from a limit of a little over 700 to a little over 600 - accomplish that?

Not going to happen.

The 35,000 folks who have come to the Assembly Hall every year since the institution of the two-class system are going to come whether we have one class, two classes, three classes or 10. Where’s the new blood going to come from? How do we get those thousands of potential new fans interested and involved – first in their own communities, then at a state level?

I don’t know the answer. But it took us 34 years to get to where we stand now. We can certainly afford to take a step back and consider some real solutions…instead of engaging in a knee-jerk reaction that could ruin the nation’s best state tournament.

I hope that’s how we proceed.

Last edited by Rob Sherrill; 01-23-2008 at 11:39 PM.
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  #2  
Old 01-24-2008
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Paul89 Paul89 is offline
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1. it's time for those administrators who did not respond to the survey to let their voice be heard - one way or another - the percentages don't support the change, but if schools are unwilling to take the time to get involved then they brought this one by their inaction.

2. never once did i believe the move to 3 classes was about growing the sport and increasing participation. that would be nice, but anyone could see that this new plan wasn't about that.

3. three classes work in some states - that's fine for them. the 2 class system works fine in Illinois. just leave it alone.
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Last edited by Paul89; 01-19-2011 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 01-24-2008
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agdfan agdfan is offline
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Mr. Sherrill,

As always, I respect your vast knowledge of our sport and truly value your opinion. While I am happy with the 2 class system, the argument on these boards seems to resort back to diluted competition and a "real" state champion more often than not and I am absolutely not in favor of a 1 class system as described by many. I appreciate your acknowledgment of the problems facing small school wrestling programs. It is not "medals for everyone" (as some have suggested) that we strive for, but simply the survival of these programs. The conference Aledo is in does not even acknowledge wrestling as a sport as Aledo is the only conference school that offers it. We are not alone in this and although the number of programs in Class AA is at an all time high, they are at an all time low in the Class A schools, with more very small schools dropping their programs every year. The solution? I don't have one either, and quite frankly, IHSA won't care what we, the wrestling community, have to say or recommend. The small school programs will continue to struggle until eventually they dissolve and the 1 class supporters will prevail as there won't be enough wrestling programs to support 2 classes. Good in the long run for Illinois wrestling? I don't think so.
Sincerely,
Gail Rush
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Old 01-24-2008
wrestle42 wrestle42 is offline
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How about 50/50 split

Each year before the wrestling season starts we know how many schools we will have wrestling. Take that number and devide it in half. 50/50 split by number of students attending school. 2 class system and a 50/50 split. 2008 Series: Total @ 407, Class A @ 113, Class AA 294. Make it 203 in class A and 204 in class AA.
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Old 01-24-2008
3D'S 3D'S is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrestle42 View Post
Each year before the wrestling season starts we know how many schools we will have wrestling. Take that number and devide it in half. 50/50 split by number of students attending school. 2 class system and a 50/50 split. 2008 Series: Total @ 407, Class A @ 113, Class AA 294. Make it 203 in class A and 204 in class AA.
I have always though the same as you 42. Why can't it be an even amount of schools for a two class sytem?

Rob said that 414 schools responded to the IHSA survey. If there are only 407 schools that have a wrestling program (which 42 mentioned), maybe the schools that don't have wrestling chose not to respond at all because it "does not apply". So it may be possible that it is a 70% endorsemnet of the 3 class system by the schools that matter. Therefore I dont think that Rob can assume that only 18% endorse the idea.
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Old 01-24-2008
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In spite of all my arguments in favor of a three class system, I do not support the system that is being proposed by the IHSA. Although I could live with splitting the current Class AA in half, none of it makes sense to me if the number of wrestlers who qualify for state remains the same, even with the increase in classes. That plan counters the benefits I see that a three class system might provide. It ultimately is not about the number of medals that are given out in my opinion; it is about the exposure of more wrestlers, parents and fans to the post season festivities and about the opportunity for more of Illinois' talent to have an opportunity to shine. That will not happen with the proposed plan. However, I do see Gail's point about the smallest class of schools. Gail, do you think that lowering the threshold for the smallest class would spur on the creation of new programs in that class?
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Old 01-24-2008
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agdfan agdfan is offline
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I don't know..

You know, Jag, I don't know. I do know that splitting it in half will only mask the problem rather than fix it. I think you will continue to see small schools dropping their programs, maybe even at a faster rate since, and Illinois ending up with 2 classes of the original Class AA. Maybe the solution lies with the kids clubs, but it is hard to create a kids club in a school district that offers no jr. high or high school program. I also think the declining programs are in part due to consolidation of schools, and maybe when all is said and done with that, the enrollment of the newly created school districts will be higher and thus evening things out. But how long will that take and will any of these programs survive? I hate to say it, but the only solution I see right now is making the Class A a little less competitive, Maybe more schools will see some success, and as I said before, success breeds participation. I just don't know. Another point, it is very costly for a small school to start a wrestling program...investments of not only coaches saleries, but mats, possibly space remodeling for practice, etc...while a new basketball program needs a gym. Put that on the agenda of an already financially troubled small school district and the answer will be no. Again...I don't know...I wish I did...
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Old 01-24-2008
eagle eagle is offline
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radical suggestion

If you want more small schools to have wrestling they have to be able to field a full team. For class A change to 10 weight classes.

No other sport needs 14 guys to fill a team. Even football can compete with less. I know it sounds like we would be losing opportunities but more schools would be willing to compete if they could field a full line-up.

How many class A teams currently fill a line-up?

How many class AA teams consistenly have a full line-up?
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Old 01-24-2008
abelincolnwrestler abelincolnwrestler is offline
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Let's talk

I think the 3 class system would be great. It does not help class A but it would help the Dixon's, Bloomington's, Lincoln's, etc of the world and give them a chance to build on some success... The sad fact is 80% of the people in our town do not know how good or bad our team is but they do read the headlines and know we have success in wrestling and they have a positive image of the sport because of that. Success/positive headlines equals more kids that want to be apart of the program...
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Old 01-24-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eagle View Post
If you want more small schools to have wrestling they have to be able to field a full team. For class A change to 10 weight classes.

No other sport needs 14 guys to fill a team. Even football can compete with less. I know it sounds like we would be losing opportunities but more schools would be willing to compete if they could field a full line-up.

How many class A teams currently fill a line-up?

How many class AA teams consistenly have a full line-up?
Now that makes some sense. I have heard people advocate dropping weights across the board, which I do not support. But, maybe it makes sense for the smaller schools. The only problem with that is that the wieghts that are dropped will likely be weights that some schools have kids at that want to wrestle. 103 is often a weight that is on the "chopping block" in these discussion. But, if a school has 103 pounder, then a kid looses out. There are no easy answers.
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