Roberts, much older & wiser, meets Hafizov again in Final X
Photo: Dalton Roberts (left) beat Ildar Hafizov at the 2023 U.S. Open...
Photo: The ARC arena at St. Andrews Episcopal School, Jackson, Miss., will serve as the host site of the first Mississippi state high school individual wrestling tournament on Feb. 24-25. The state’s dual tournament will be held Feb. 18 at the Mississippi School for the Blind in Jackson.
By Rob Sherrill
There have been enough thrills and excitement to last a whole season already. And most of the 2023 boys state tournaments have not started yet.
But they will and sooner than you think. In fact, one’s already in the books. Alaska started the state tournament parade in 2022, the week before Christmas. Starting in January, four states, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and New York, take center stage with the start of dual-state tournaments.
The big news this year: for the first time, all 50 states will conduct a state-sanctioned wrestling tournament series. Mississippi is joining the party and will conduct both a dual and an individual state series, becoming the 23rd state to do so. Mississippi’s dual state takes place Feb. 4, with its individual state meet two weeks later.
Halfway across the country, Maine performed major surgery on its state tournament series, transforming it from a jumbled mess to one resembling the schedule of states elsewhere that are doing it right. In 2022, the Pine Tree State conducted its individual state tournaments on a Saturday, its state duals the following Tuesday, and its New England Championships qualifier three days after that, on Friday.
That’s a lot of very meaningful wrestling in a very compressed period of time. This year, Maine moved its state duals to the first weekend of February. The individual state series — the region tournaments, the state tournament and the New England Qualifier — take place the following three weekends. That’s a far more sensible schedule.
I can’t help but continue to shake my head at the thought that Mississippi and Maine pivoted to or quickly adopted tried-and-true sensible state-series scheduling options, but states like Illinois are unable to do so. That’s what happens when people, who really care about wrestling, are both able and willing to take quick action. (Maybe some of the folks at the Illinois High School Association are reading this.)
Oregon and Nevada, which held state meets at separate high school sites for each classification in 2022, are reuniting for single-site events in 2023; Oregon at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland and Nevada at the Winnemucca Events Center in Lowry (it’s the Northern Division’s turn to host the state meet this year).
The two states were among many which scrapped the all-class approach and turned to distributed sites in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Georgia is retaining a distributed dual-state setup which sees its seven classifications competing in one-day state meets at high school sites on Jan. 21, the same day Alabama and Florida complete their dual-state meets.
Kentucky will continue to conduct its 32-man, single-classification state tournament over two weekends, all at high school sites. The first two rounds will be conducted at two semi-state sites, one in western Kentucky and one in eastern Kentucky. The top eight finishers from each semi-state advance to a 16-man state final bracket Feb. 24-25 at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester.
Three states, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota, conduct their dual and individual state championships on the same weekend. Minnesota conducts its dual state meet first, followed by the individual state meet. North Dakota and South Dakota do the opposite, with the dual state meets conducted on Saturday.
For the second straight year, Hawaii is the only state without a confirmed state tournament date at press time. The Aloha State tournament is scheduled to be conducted at its usual site, the Neal Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu.
Georgia remains the state with the most classifications — seven — followed by Utah and Virginia (six each) and Oregon and Washington (five each).
For eight chaotic weeks, the 50 states with state-sanctioned wrestling programs — plus the National Prep Championships, the New England Championships and a handful of non-sanctioned independent school state meets — will put it on the line. With Arkansas and Missouri moving their state tournaments back one week. The fourth and final weekend of February is now the most active state meet weekend with 21 states (which includes the National Prep Championships) hosting their state meets. That’s one more than the 20 conducted on the third weekend of the month.
Pennsylvania and Ohio bring down the curtain on the high school season over the second weekend in March. Pennsylvania conducts its tournament Thursday through Saturday, Ohio Friday through Sunday.
That’s a week after Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and West Virginia open the month with their state tournaments, along with the New England Championships.
The Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association will again conduct that state’s dual state series, one month prior to the individual series. And Rutgers University is stepping up to host the New Jersey dual-state finals for the first time, on Feb. 12. The Garden State’s individual state series remains unchanged, concluding on the iconic boardwalk in Atlantic City.
Want to know when and where your favorite team — or wrestler — will be competing for a state title? Then you’ve come to the right place. The chart on page 33 lists all the state tournaments in the nation, state by state. A single date and site given is for an all-class tournament. Some states split the classes by site or date, which will be listed as applicable.
Buy those tickets and book those reservations and make sure you get there!
(A native of Chicago’s south suburbs, Rob Sherrill has been covering high school wrestling on the national level since 1978 and has served as WIN’s high school columnist since 1997.)