North/South/East/West Xtra: Coaches weigh in on high school wrestling

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sends a questionnaire to WPIAL wrestling coaches before every season. One question posed to the coaches was what would you change to make high school wrestling better?

The responses varied from rules changes, length of the season, the number of weight classes, the way the sport is governed and the number of competitions.

Hampton coach Joe Bursick and Upper St. Clair coach Sean O’Rourke would like to see a change to the injury timeout rule.

“If a wrestler was on his back when he called injury time, I would allow the offensive wrestler his choice of a pinning combination at the restart of the match,” Bursick said.

“I would like to see some type of rule created to prevent wrestlers from using injury time as an opportunity to catch their wind,” O’Rourke said. “This happens too often, especially in high-profile matches. It slows down matches and gives the wrestler an advantage he shouldn’t get.”

Latrobe coach Tad Harbert is one of several coaches who believes the out-of-bounds rule should be changed.

“I would like to see the PIAA adopt the out-of-bounds rule the NCAA uses,” Harbert said. “It allows a wrestler to start a takedown inbounds and extend it out of bounds, as long as he has one part of his body inbounds. It promotes more scoring, and that’s what the fans want to see, more scoring.”

Chartiers Valley coach Bill Evans agrees.

“I like the out-of-bounds rule used in college,” Evans said. “It will be better for the referees because it will take a lot of the subjectivity out of wrestling on the edge of the mat.”

Evans also would like to see more participation in tournaments.

“I would allow more than one wrestler to compete in a weight class in tournaments during the season,” Evans said. “Just let us pick which wrestler will score for team purposes. College wrestling has this feature, where non-starters can compete at tournaments unattached.”

Plum coach Mike Supak echoed the opinion of all Class AAA coaches in the WPIAL with his change.

“The WPIAL used to have four wrestlers qualify for the PIAA tournament [in each weight class],” said Supak, referring to the fact that Class AAA has had only three qualifiers since 2003. “Every year we are leaving a quality wrestler [in each weight class] at home when they should be going to Hershey.”

Hopewell coach Jason Martsolf would like to add one more round to the PIAA championships.

“I think it would be very interesting to see a dual meet that pits the Class AA state champions vs. the Class AAA state champions, thus giving us one true champion in each weight class.”

Montour coach Jason Bombardier would like to see the season start later.

“I would push the season back two weeks to avoid conflicts with the PIAA football playoffs, the start of hunting season and the Thanksgiving holiday,” he said.

Several coaches believe there are too many weight classes.

“I would cut the number of weight classes from 14 to 12,” Riverview coach Joe Murphy said. “There are not many teams in Class AA fielding a full lineup.”

South Fayette coach Rick Chaussard would like to see an uneven number of weight classes.

“I would like to see either 11 or 13 weight classes,” he said. “That would help with the tiebreaking system. We used to have 13 weight classes. That would work.”

Shaler coach Drew D’Agostino and Penn-Trafford coach Rich Ginther would make changes to junior-high wrestling.

“Junior-high tournaments should be an open forum so that every kid can wrestle in a tournament,” D’Agostino said. “We should give every kid a chance to participate. It’s the only way they can gain experience.”

“I would put more emphasis on the junior-high programs and give them more to wrestle for,” Ginther said. “It would really help if they had a state tournament.”

D’Agostino would also like to see the PIAA adopt the participation rules used in Ohio.

“The number of matches an individual can wrestle is determined for each kid, not the team,” he said. “They allow coaches to send some wrestlers to two different tournaments the same weekend. That means I could send my best wrestlers to a strong tournament, and the rest to a weaker tournament.”

McGuffey coach Mark Caffrey is one of several coaches who voiced his displeasure for the weight-assessment system adopted by the National Wrestling Coaches Association a few years ago.

“I would get rid of the awful weight-assessment program,” Caffrey said. “It makes the kids suffer more, especially when they decide to go down early. It’s a real burden for them for four months. I realize that the program is to help kids follow their diet, but many of them don’t do it.

“It also makes it harder for a coach to maneuver in big matches.”

Caffrey would also eliminate the rule of “picking from a hat” to determine which weight class starts a dual meet.

“It really handcuffs coaching strategy,” Caffrey said. “I would rather have dual meets begin at 106.”

And lastly, South Side Beaver coach Bear McCoy suggests: “Get rid of the basketball team.”

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