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Should high schools allow more than one wrestler per weight?

By Mike Finn

Anyone who has wrestled knows that a wrestling room is usually a pretty warm place to practice.
Sam Federico, the head coach at Pomona High School in Colorado wouldn’t mind if it got a little hotter.
The ten-year veteran prep coach, whose team finished second in Colorado’s 5A class last winter, isn’t interested in turning up the thermostat in the wrestling of his high school, which is located in Arvada, a suburb of Denver, Colo.
Federico just wants the 50 young men on his wrestling team to be even more active as the postseason approaches in Colorado and the rest of the country.
“Kids spend 90 percent of their time in the wrestling room and only 10 percent in actual competition,” said Federico. “If you can turn up the heat in the wrestling room with better quality workouts and more competition, as a whole our state can benefit from that.”
Wrestling, unlike almost every other high school sport in the nation, allows the lowest percentage of athletes to compete in postseason. And in the case of Pomona High School, where Federico has 50 kids in the room, only 14 — 28 percent — have the chance to compete past the regular season.
So what Federico is proposing — at least in Colorado — is for the state organizations to allow more than one wrestler at each weight class to compete in the post-season.
“They did this in Oregon where I grew up,” said Federico, who admits it’s hard to keep all his wrestlers interested in competing if they are not part of the 14-man varsity squad. And those who do stick it out are forced to push their bodies to extremes in hopes of making a different weight class if they cannot be No. 1 at their weight.
“When I got to Colorado, I saw after the wrestleoffs that you have a lot of kids quit,” he said. “You have too many kids cutting weight or giving up a bunch of weight and go up to grab a varsity spot.
“It put kids in a bad position. Most of them failed trying to cut too much weight or giving up too much weight. They either quit or transferred to another school. Each of those solutions are bad for wrestling.”
Federico really wishes more than one wrestler could compete between 120 and 150 pounds, which makes up the majority of his roster.
“I would say that 75 percent of our kids are below 150 pounds,” he said.
Federico said there are some coaches within the state who do not agree with his suggestion.
“Some feel the rich will only get richer.”             Federico has approached the Colorado High School Activities Association about possibly allowing more than one wrestler per weight. CHSAA said they would give it some consideration, but Federico knows he has an uphill battle.
“They don’t like to make changes,” said Federico, who also believes that Colorado could handle a 32-man bracket — rather than the current 16-man — and that there would be a better financial payoff for the association. “If there are more wrestlers, there will be more spectators and more money.”
But more importantly, the Colorado coach is thinking about his seniors, many of whom quit before their careers are over if they do not make the current varsity line-up.
“Two years ago we had a state qualifier, but the next year we had a freshman come in and beat him out,” Federico said, adding that the older wrestler is no longer wrestling.
“We have a returning state qualifier walking the halls in our high school. He could have made it back to state but could not have gotten out of our room.
“The freshman ended up finishing third and the other kid could have been a state placer. But now he has a bad taste of wrestling in his mouth.”

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