Wrestle Where You Belong

If we look for any additional benefits that might arise from adopting a point earned is a team point scored system that I covered in a previous blog, (on the right) it’s that schools would be compelled to wrestle where they belong.

I’ll explain.

No one knows better than I how objectionable what I’m about to say is going to be with many of you. I don’t like it either but I see where the sport is heading and it’s foolish to keep building carburetors when technology has the world running on fuel injectors.

Teams need to reconsider how they schedule opponents and especially where they wrestle at year’s end. It doesn’t help Lock Haven as an example, a D-II school, when they get blown off the mats by a Penn State, Virginia Tech or an Ohio State. Bald Eagle fans; please, we’ve been friends for decades now, no screaming. No one respects your program and coaches more than I do, from Hubert Jack to Simons to Cox to Poff and the list continues. It’s not that you’re doing anything different, it’s that the other teams you have been playing with for decades have grown up financially and now dwarf your efforts on every front.

As to those three big boy schools I just mentioned, I realize that two of the three aren’t on your schedule but I was trying to use some examples of what not to do, and give my readership a sense of perspective.

The challenge we face is although many of us don’t mind watching a blow-out, or we’ve become numb to it, it’s not in the sports best interest. But we attend these mismatches anyway with fingers crossed that the far better team might pass under a ladder or walk past a black cat on their way to the mat.

However it happens, the challenge we face is administrators aren’t as blind as wrestling coaches are when it comes to evaluating the programs they administer. They base everything by the amount of return on resources invested.

So if any D-II program touts their program as being Division I and pushes the administration to provide D-I levels of financial assistance, which compromises an already stressed athletic department budget, when the rest of the teams are being asked to subsist on D-II budgets, while the wrestling program is winless against Top 20 teams, well, departmental resentment ensues followed by the AD being forced to take a hard look at his commitment to wrestling.

As you can imagine, none of the run-on sentence above is good for the sport. Which begs the question, what’s easier for an AD; cut the budget back to the level at which a program’s preforming or eliminate the sport? If he chooses to keep it, the unhappy wrestling coach will squawk incessantly because his program has been severely wounded. However, if the AD terminates the sport, the parrot will only squawk for a month or so before finding another job. So which is easier to digest if you were in charge?

Now I realize coaches feel the need to get high end competition for their athletes but blow outs and lethargic post season outcomes aren’t good either.

So, can the two ever be balanced?

The simple and reasonable answer might not be very popular here; but it is what we’re facing. Wrestling programs need to compete where they belong. Sure, keep some of the tough duals because steel does sharpen steel but at the very least at season’s end programs should wrestle in the same division as their institution. In the example of Lock Haven, along with maybe 15 other programs I can think of, they should be part of the D-II nationals.

Whoa now folks, wait until I put my noise canceling ear buds in before you start in on me.

I use to feel as many of you do about this topic because I remember the good old days as well when David could, and did, slay Goliath; and a great many of the smaller programs walked away with more than their share of D-I hardware. And yes, they still do it often enough, all be it considerably less, to be able to point out how off-base I am here. But, and this is a huge but . . . at what expense when these coaches are wrong and I’m not?

Sure, LHU had Cary Kolat 20 years ago and no question he’s one of America’s legends and a great source of price for those who follow the Bald Eagle program. But in order to provide Cary with a vehicle to achieve at the highest levels, how many athletes have graduated from Lock Haven during that time or since then who could have and would have been a Division II National Champion or All-American; but never had the chance to be that because they were participating at the far more competitive D-I level?

I guess the eventual question has to be; what’s fair and reasonable? Then we have to compare that with what’s right? Should the potential achievement of 1 varsity athlete overshadow the potential achievements of the other 9? Is one 5th Place finisher at the D-I’s worth not having a 5th place team finish, an NCAA Runner-up, one 4th place and two 7th place athletes in D-II? This is what happens when coaches either refuse to compare resources or they do and prefer to be selfish rather than prudent.

We need to get a grip. I get it that everything we do in our sport is measured by the D-I microscope. But given that the country has a population of 325 million and out of that, maybe 1% knows anything about wrestling, it makes a strong point about how unimportant our opinions really are.

So as a result, when a person indicates he was All-American in college the respect he receives is always universal. No one asks, “In what division”, they just say, “wow”. So maybe we should consider dropping our own divisional prejudices and simply respect every All-American for achieving at the highest levels. We’re our own worst enemy in this regard.

I guess as long as everyone knows what’s going on and the ramifications of wrestling at the D-I level when the school is D-II . . . it’s still not right. How can anyone be okay with taking away a majority of the team’s chances to graduate as an All-American so the squad’s best athlete might be able to say he was a D-I All-American?

Then we have the issue of putting thousands of wrestler’s ability to wrestle in college at risk because of dropped programs for the sole purpose of coaches being able to sit in the corner during Thursday’s rounds at the D-I’s. If you didn’t notice, I was trying to be nice here and not mention that most D-II wrestlers don’t make it to Friday’s rounds.

I believe most of you know that I wrestled at Clarion under one of the greatest coaches the sport has ever had, and I’d do it again but that was then, a time when our budget was the same size as many of the Top 20 teams. But that equality no longer exists with the possible exception of Edinboro, and that’s only due to their Athletic Director being a World and Olympic Champion in wrestling. Today, the worst team in the Big 10 which was 2-16 last year and 0-9 in the conference has a budget that is 3 times greater than the size of Clarion’s and why I’m writing this segment.

Personally I still prefer to remember the days when Penn State refused to schedule the Golden Eagles, and for good reason. But that was then . . . today the landscape is totally different.

I wish I was wrong about all this and sure, there will always be examples that will fill my inbox with “see, you were wrong” emails but in the larger picture, we must think of how to protect the sport and all its athletes even when it’s not popular.

As to how A Point Earned is a Team Point Scored will help, it should be obvious given the rule’s name. You score a bout point; it becomes a team point, just like any other sports you can name. So, instead of the Bald Eagles losing to Virginia Tech this past season by 29 points, they would have lost by 53 points. This is a far more effective way of pointing out to coaches who should stay on the porch and who should be running with the big dogs.

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11 thoughts on “Wrestle Where You Belong

  1. Count me as one who has been there an done that. I’ve been both a small college all American and a participant in “the Big Show”, and the memories of walking out on the mat to compete against the Big Boys is one that I will treasure always. To be in the same gym with Dan Gable, Dwayne Keller, etc. and be thought of as being somewhat of a peer has stayed with me to this day. While I didn’t become a Division I All American, I was able to knock off some of the Conference Champs. along the way. What Clarion and other small colleges offer is the chance to participate. Wrestling is the only sport where it doesn’t matter where you come from but the size of your heart. Wrestling doesn’t cost a lot of money: just a piece of mat, good coach and teammates.

  2. The athletes at Lock Haven University are attending the program to have a chance to compete at the Division I level. If the change is made, the athletes would choose to attend a different division one institution. The changes would limit opportunities for Pennsylvania athletes to compete at the division one level.

    I’m not sure that limiting student athletes ability to compete against the best competition is a good idea.

    • Pete . . . think you’re a little off base here. Contrary to our own press releases and level of pride, not all PA kids are D-I athletes. Sure some D-II coaches will tell a 5th place finisher at the PA States that he’ll coach him up to become a D-I All American so sign here but the odds of that happening is so large that I can’t find the words to describe it.

      But in the same breath it’s also wrong for that same athlete to lose his chance to become an D-II All American while struggling to have a .500 record with a D-I schedule and never qualify for nationals because we was sold a bill of goods.

      Most kids at D-II schools are there not because they’re overly excited to be wrestling in D-I but that is where they received the most scholarship aid to attend. Had PSU or either of the two OSU’s offered those same athletes the same or more money they would have gone there. Once you make it a rule that athletes have to wrestle in the Division of the school they attend, no one, not one wrestler will be denied the right to wrestle D-I. They will just go to a D-I school. There are plenty of schools around.

  3. I think you are right on Wade. I can talk from my own experience. I look back on my career. Bloomsburg was Div II until my junior year. Then it went to the EWL. I qualified for Div I Nationals once, wasn’t nearly good enough to ever win, and maybe on my very best day with some luck I could have placed. That was my dream, I never came close. I took 4th in Div II Nationals my sophomore year that made me an All-American. I had wrestled all my life, and that was by far my biggest accomplishment of my career and I’m
    very proud of it. Maybe with two more shots at it after my sophomore year I could have done better. I never had that chance. Also, if teams start doing what you say, the wrestlers will know before they sign they won’t wrestle in Div I nationals if they sign at a smaller college. Go to Penn State and and get a shot at Div I, and perhaps risk not wrestling first team or go to a smaller school, become a Div II National Champ or All-American. I’d rather be a Div II All-American then lose in the first round at nationals. I’ve done both.

    • Tom . . . you were a heck of a fine wrestler. An All-American!

      And your comments are spot on. I wish Pete (above) would have read your thoughts before he started writing his. You addressed and overcame all his points.

      Change is difficult and wrestlers particularly try to find holes in the logic of change because they love to battle, it doesn’t matter what they’re fighting they just want to do battle and win; in these cases while the sport suffers. You can’t get anything past their combativeness. If you show them 15 reasons why something should change all wrestling people tend to punch holes in the 4 areas they see are issues. It’s as if they never read or digested the 15 positives that would come out of the change. It’s sad but it’s the battle many of us have to endure. Warmest Regards . . . Wade

  4. Excellent points Wade. I’d also rather see schools at the appropriate level but with the top placers allowed to move on to the big dance like they used to be able to do. Why is the D-1 tournament limited to just 33 wrestlers per weight? Why do we still have a weight limit of 285? There are lots of bigger athletes who could compete in an unlimited class.which is always a better watch at the end of the dual. Just one man’s opinion.

    • Mike . . . to your questions. 1) I would love to see the sport revert back to the days when an athlete could wrestle in the lower D’s and then move to the Big Top if he’s that good. That would be nice BUT, I see where the NCAA is right to keep that from occurring. It’s not fair to any D-I athlete. Why is it okay for the lower D’s to go to two national championships, possibly garner two AA certificates per season and the D-I kids only get one shot at it and possibly get bumped off the podium all together by those smaller divisional kids? If it were your son who would have finished in 7th place at the D-I’s and gets pushed to 9th because because there was one D-II and one D-III kid who placed above him? I don’t think you’d be very supportive of that . . . I know I wouldn’t. Great thought but the downside for D-I kids is enormous. 2) Agree with you about there being larger athletes out there but as soon as you up the limit the NCAA knows that the fans and coaches will start saying how unfair it is to have over 125 pounds difference between the larger and smallest in the division and start demanding an 11th weight class. There’s no right answer here but I also know that very few if any of our big men of old could create any excitement which the sport needs more of, not less. I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for writing.

  5. Yes, times have changed. It really isn’t fun watching a slaughter fest.

  6. As a parent, I watched wrestling from my 5 year old till the end of college, including most weekends in tournaments year round. There is nothing better then an equally matched bout. I agree with Wade wholeheartedly.

  7. Appreciate your comment here. It was equally difficult to write.

  8. All excellent points Wade. Difficult to hear, but absolutely true.

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