When is too much wrestling too much?
That’s a question that’s tough to answer, but it’s one that is continuing to pop up more and more. The reason? The influx of dual-meet tournaments that can have wrestlers wrestling a many as 10 times over just a two-day period.
While teams are limited to the number of two-day duals events they can schedule, wrestlers are still getting plenty of mat time. Much more, most coaches agree, then they have in years.
“It’s coming to a point where I’m sure something is going to be done,” said Portville coach and Section 6 co-chairman Mike DeBarbieri. “I believe down the line you’re going to see more restrictions.”
As it stands now, in New York, wrestling competitions are guided by a point system — which at one time applied to the team, but now to the individual wrestler. Competing in single dual meets count as one point, individual tournaments as two, and dual-meet tournaments as two —but wrestlers are limited to just two two-day dual tournaments. In all, coaches can schedule their wrestlers up to 20 points.
While that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider this: While Big 30 Pennsylvania power Smethport has wrestled just six duals and two tournaments so far this season, Fillmore entered this weekend having competed in 29 duals plus two tournaments. One of their top wrestlers, Cody Marriott, already has a record of 40-2 this season and there is still two weeks left before the start of the sectional class tournaments.
And there are others. Port Allegany, perhaps the most dominant team in the Big 30, not only this year, but for probably the past 10, has wrestled just 11 duals — with five of them coming in the one-day Towanda Dual tourney. Two other tourneys they’ve enter, at St. Marys and Brockway, were just one day individual events with just seven teams each.
Wellsville, on the other hand, has had 24 dual meets and two individual tourneys. Salamanca is 7-14, having competed in three dual-meet tournaments and two individual tournaments. One of the Warriors top wrestlers, Dusty Lewis, is already 27-2 on the year. That’s almost three times as many matches as Smethport’s Karl Lightner, a state qualifier last year for the Hubbers.
“My big thing it, I think you need practice time,” said Smethport coach Terry Schwab, who boasts a 170-76 record (6-0 this year) in his 18th and final season. “I think if you wrestle too much, you just wear them down.”
Smethport’s schedule will pick up over the next couple of weeks with a trip to the Sharon Duals and matches with St. Marys, Brookville, Ridgway and Port Allegany.
“I like to load up our schedule with the tougher matches at the end to get us ready for districts,” Schwab said. “But I think you can go (wrestle) too much and tire your kids out ... but different people have different opinions.
“When I first came here I pushed the kids way too hard, way too early, and they peaked way too soon. At the end of the year we weren’t anywhere where we should have been. I guess I learned from that.”
THE SWITCH to an individual point system has allowed coaches to get more competition for their wrestlers.
“Teams are allowed six tournaments and eight duals,” DeBarbieri explained. “You’re only allowed two two-day tournaments, but, obviously, these dual tourneys are getting kids a lot more matches. They can get up to 10 matches, but still only use up two points.”
Fillmore coach Mike Witkowski, last year’s Big 30 Coach of the Year, says by next season he’s going to take a closer look at the number of matches his kids are getting. But, for now, he says the systems has helped the Eagles.
“For us, it’s been a benefit,” he said. “From our standpoint, trying to get kids better, I think getting the competition has helped us a lot. Plus, I think, the dual tournaments, mentally, are a lot easier on the kids. They’re more predictable. In individual tournaments, you never really know quite when you’re going to wrestle.”
Witkowski admits, however, wrestlers are seeing a lot more matches now than ever before ... and it’s something he’s going to take a closer look at after this season.
“They system is what it is, and you use it to the best you can for your advantage,” he said. “The evolution from only being allowed two regular-season tournaments to what we see now has resulted in kids wrestling a lot more than what we’re use to seeing.
“I’ve questioned it in the back of my mind, but thought that we have fared fairly well ... that when all was said and done, we weren’t all that beat up.
“I’ll say, though, as far as getting a tough mindset for sectionals, it’s been a big plus for us, but I plan on talking to my seniors at the end of the year to see what they think.”
ANOTHER trend is that coaches are now splitting their squads, sending partial teams to different tournaments. Olean did so this past weekend, sending some of its wrestlers to Hornell and others to Franklinville. Fredonia, one of the top programs in the state, has been splitting its team for years, entering its better wrestlers in the stronger tournaments, while sending others to tournaments where they could be more competitive.
“That’s worked for a lot of teams,” Witkowski said. “Like Warsaw, always one of the better teams in Section 5 and the state, it regularly splits its squad. But I think eventually what’s going to happen, which might stop schools from splitting their team, is finances. It’s an expensive proposition to start splitting squads.”
The logic of splitting lineups, DeBarbieri said, was intended to allow teams to take their best kids to the tougher tournaments. Now, coaches are using the system just to get their kids more matches ... or simply, more wins.
“I’m sure, coming down the line, a lot of these kinds of things are going to be looked at and there’s going to be more restrictions,” DeBarbieri said. “One thing they’ve already done is limit the point-differential number that’s being use in determining the at-large selections for the state tournament. It’s use to be unlimited, say a kid was 48-2, he’d get 46 points. Coaches were trying to get their kids as many matches as they could just to take advantage of that. Now, the most youget, regardless of your record, is 35 points.”
(Tom Roof, a sports writer for the Times Herald, can be reached at email@example.com)