Photos: There was plenty of buzz between Penn State (left) and Iowa...
Ready for High School state tournaments? Here are some unique stories
By Willie Saylor
Wrestling is officially sanctioned in 49 out of the 50 states (c’mon Mississippi!) in this country. And, believe it or not, it’s that time of year.
As February is upon us, we’re on the verge of ramping up state tournaments across the country. By the end of this weekend, 15 of them will have taken place. But sorting out the discrepancies between them all is no small task. State associations across the country all have their own method to their madness. We get state tournaments at different times, in different formats with different classifications.
Of course all states have their own number of classes; some are organized by enrollment; some by a public-private/parochial designation; some by both.
Among states with lengthy wrestling traditions, only California, New Jersey and Indiana have a single-class system: one bracket, one champ. Pennsylvania is the most prominent with just two. Everyone else has three or more.
Here’s a crash course for the championship season, and particular format idiosyncrasies, as we gear up for the stretch run.
Some states (Minnesota, North Dakota) allow seventh and eighth graders. Florida even allows some sixth graders, such as Fox Baldwin, who as just a freshman, is going for his fourth state title already.
Bravo to the powers-that-be in the Montana and Michigan state athletic associations for bucking the trend and going against the infinite wisdom of the masses who adopted the new, atrocious weight classes.
Idaho and New York have adopted the new NFHS weights, but kept the lightest non-federation weight. Idaho stayed with 96 pounds, while New York bumped it up to 99.
Hawaii? Well, they dance to the beat of their own piniu (that’s drum, to us mainlanders). Their weight classes are a little different. After starting with 110 and 116, their weights are like the old federation classes, plus two pounds.
Since 1988, Montana has held state championships in three school classes, culminating with an All-Class tournament. Several states in the Northeast hold an All-Class event and this year, Florida has adopted that practice for the first time.
Duals Done in Hoosierland?
The state duals in Ohio have been a sort of ‘unofficial’ championsip, maintained by the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches’ Association featuring eight teams per division. Next year, their state duals will be taken over by the state athletic association and the field expanded.
But the exact opposite is happening in Indiana. Earlier this year, it was announced that the IHSAA would not sponsor the one-class state dual tournament going forward. The state duals have been held for 17 years and it would have been a shame to lose them.
As a result, the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches’ Association has stepped in to perpetuate it … although with a twist. The tournament will categorize into three sizes. Thankfully, the IHSAA will allow any team participating at the event a ‘weigh-in’ waiver, as to not count against their quota of competition points.
• I love that New Jersey has just one state tournament for the individuals. But their state dual series goes the opposite way. Totally.
Not only is the Garden State an oddity in that it has a different number of classifications for the team championships as it does for individuals, Jersey, ostensibly, has an entirely different philosophy.
They have about 150 state dual champions. OK, not 150. Six.
The numerous classifications reduces the tournaments to mere footnotes, if not entirely irrelevant. And New Jersey has some of the most passionate wrestling fans. Give them a treat. Put it all on the line the way the individuals do, and go with one tournament pool.
• Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota wrestle for both dual and individual supremacy in the same building, on the same weekend. While it may save on travel and lodging, it often sets up an interesting situation. Sometimes you see two kids wrestle in a dual, with one guy winning, and then wrestle in the state final, where the other guy wins.
• Alaska has one of the oddest state tournament structures. The three smallest (1A through 3A) have the state tournament in December. The big schools (4A), wrestle for a title in February.
• The New England tournament has a cool concept: the top placers from the surrounding states get together for a big ol’ multi-state regional championship.
• At the National Preps, there’s about a dozen states, on average, represented annually at the National Prep tournament held in Lehigh’s Stabler Arena. Each team goes through a qualifying process through a “Prep State” tournament. Last year, for the first time, Texas allowed only seniors to participate in the national event.
• In Pennsylvania, the athletic association in this state often boggles my mind. But this one takes the cake. The PIAA (and its District Representatives) voted to do away with single-mat finals for their individual tournaments. Instead, they’ll wrestle the finals alongside the matches being contested for third through eighth place.
What’s the reason?
They want to get out of the building – wait for it – an hour earlier. That’s the best solution they could come up with?
• Illinois teams qualify for the dual state tournament according to how they fare at their Sectional, an individual tournament. Huh? Yeah. Exactly. Also, along with Indiana and Wisconsin, Illinois is one of the rare states in which the dual title is competed for after the individual state tournament.
State Tournament Dates:
Alaska (1A, 2A, & 3A): December 9th-10th – 3 of 4 Divisions
Georgia (Duals): January 13th-14th – 5 Divisions
Alaska (4A only): February 3rd-4th – 1 of 4 Divisions
Massachusetts: February 3rd-4th – 3 Divisions
Tennessee (Duals): February 3rd-4th – 2 Divisions
West Virginia (Duals): February 8th – 3 Divisions
Arizona: February 9th-11th – 4 Divisions
Pennsylvania (Duals): February 9th-11th – 2 Classes
Arkansas: February 10th-11th – 2 Divisions
Montana: February 10th-11th – 3 Divisions
Nevada: February 10th-11th – 3 Divisions
Oklahoma (Duals): February 11th – 4 Divisions
Maryland (Duals): February 11th – 2 Classes
North Carolina (Duals): February 11th– 4 Divisions
Louisiana: February 11th-12th – 3 Divisions
New Jersey (Duals): February 12th – 20 Groups
Iowa (Duals and Ind.): February 15th-18th – 3 Divisions
Utah: February 15th-18th– 5 Divisions
Alabama: February 16th-18th – 3 Divisions
Colorado: February 16th-18th – 4 Divisions
Georgia: February 16th-18th – 5 Divisions
Illinois: February 16th-18th – 3 Divisions
Missouri: February 16th-18th – 4 Divisions
Nebraska: February 16th-18th – 4 Divisions
North Dakota (Duals and Ind.): February 16th-18th – 2 Classes
Connecticut: February 17th-18th – 4 Divisions
Florida: February 17th-18th – 3 Divisions
Indiana: February 17th-18th – 1 Class
Kentucky: February 17th-18th – 1 Class
New Mexico: February 17th-18th – 3 Divisions
Tennessee: February 17th-18th – 2 Divisions
Washington: February 17th-18th – 5 Divisions
Virginia: February 17th-18th – 3 Divisions
Maine: February 18th – 3 Divisions
New Hampshire: February 18th – 3 Divisions
Kansas: February 23rd-24th – 4 Divisions
North Carolina: February 23rd-25th – 4 Divisions
West Virginia: February 23rd-25th – 3 Divisions
Wisconsin: February 23rd-25th – 3 Divisions
Idaho: February 24th-25th – 4 Divisions
Michigan (Duals): February 24th-25th – 3 Divisions
New York: February 24th-25th – 2 Classes
Oklahoma: February 24th-25th – 4 Divisions
Oregon: February 24th-25th – 5 Divisions
Rhode Island:February 24th-25th – 1 Class
South Dakota: February 24th-25th – 2 Classes
Texas: February 24th-25th – 1 Class
Vermont: February 24th-25th – 1 Class
Wyoming: February 24th-25th – 3 Divisions
South Carolina: February 25th-26th – 4 Divisions
Illinois (Duals): February 25th – 3 Divisions
Indiana (Duals): February 25th – 1 Class
New England States: March 2nd – 1 Class
Michigan: March 1st-3rd – 4 Divisions
Minnesota (Duals and Ind.): March 1st-3rd – 3 Divisions
Ohio: March 1st-3rd – 3 Divisions
California: March 2nd-3rd – 1 Class
Hawaii: March 2nd-3rd – 3 Divisions
Maryland: March 2nd-3rd – 2 Classes
Wisconsin: March 2nd-3rd – 3 Divisions
New Jersey: March 2nd-4th – 1 Class
Pennsylvania: March 8th-10th – 2 Classes