High school wrestling coaches in Minnesota have dealt with many issues in recent years.
Last year the sport was suspended for eight days following an outbreak of an infectious skin disease.
Several years ago the sport added two weight classes.
Additional change is on the horizon. The Minnesota State High School League board of directors is considering a proposal to reduce the number of weights from 14 to 13, making Minnesota the only state in the National Federation of High School Associations with 13.
The board is scheduled to act on the proposal April 1.
Proposed weights would be 105 pounds, 115, 123, 129, 135, 141, 147, 153, 160, 170, 185, 210 and 285.
Following is a sampling of opinions from area coaches about the proposal:
Mike Boran, Brainerd
Boran favors a reduction in weights.
"I've seen a lot of teams not filling weights, including ourselves," he said. "It's been talked about and kicked around so much lately. For a while they said let's go to 12, then stay at 14. It's at the point now where just tell me and we'll put that number on the mat. If it's 13, great. If it's 14, we'll do what we can."
Boran is concerned about which weight might be dropped.
"If they drop one in the lower to middle weights that's where we can fill," he said. "We struggle at the upper weights. I hope studies have been done, looking at where most of the forfeits are, and reduce a weight there.
"The nice thing is (13) would get rid of the ties and tiebreakers. With 13 classes one team will win seven, one will win six."
Champ Hesch, C-I
The Rangers' coach believes Minnesota should stay with the national federation and have 14 weights.
"It's tough to fill 14 but I think Minnesota is going to shoot themselves in the foot if they start going away from what the rest of the nation does," he said.
Hesch doesn't like the proposed new weight classes.
"If anything I would bring 98 (pounds) back," he said. "There are kids out there who are smaller compared to older kids, a lot of kids who really are smaller kids."
Dan Stifter, Aitkin
Stifter said 13 weights is a compromise between coaches who want to drop to 12 and those who want to keep 14.
"More and more schools are having a difficult time filling a varsity and junior varsity team," he said. "We had the opportunity for our junior varsity to get 19 duals this year, they only got nine. Teams do not have enough wrestlers to fill a junior varsity so we end up wrestling exhibition matches just trying to keep kids involved with competition.
"On the other hand, reducing a weight class will reduce a varsity opportunity for an athlete. I'm not sure that's a good idea."
Norm Gallant, Wadena-Deer Creek
Gallant likes the idea of 13 weight classes.
"Right now there are a lot of forfeits and a lot of kids on varsity squads who would benefit from more time on the junior varsity," he said. "There are a lot of kids who are in lineups just to have a body there. They're not learning and improving and some of them quit. I think going to 13 weights eliminates some of that."
The issue Gallant has with the proposal is that it may eliminate a lighter weight.
"Granted, many of the participants are young," he said. "But wrestling is one of the only sports, if not the only sport, where a little kid can be successful. A 119-pound senior probably isn't going to be a force on the football field, but he can be on the mat.
"It seems like it might be better to eliminate one of the weights in the middle. That seems to be where a lot of teams are thin. We went to a tournament and there were four kids at 145, three at 152, out of eight teams."
Tom Demars, PL/PR-B
Demars said many programs struggle to fill 14 weights or filling the weight classes requires putting a wrestler on varsity who is not varsity caliber.
"With the current proposal the reduction comes in the lower third of the weight classes, which wouldn't help us as, for whatever reason, we have a harder time filling the upper weights," he said.
"I guess right now you could say I'm on the fence. I think there is a potential positive side, with less forfeits and better competition but also a negative side with reducing opportunities for some wrestlers."
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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