The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) board of directors has voted to petition the National Federation of State High School Associations next year if the NFHS does not reduce the number of the wrestling weight classes from 14 to 12 for the 2020-21 school year ... all with the idea of reducing forfeits, especially in the lower weight classes.
Right now, the 14 weight classes are: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220, and 285 pounds. With the proposed change, the 12 new weight classes would be 110, 118, 125, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 190, 215, and 285 pounds.
The PIAA proposal to the NFHS is for a three-year pilot program to see if reconfiguring the weight classes reduces the number of forfeits in high school wrestling in the Keystone State.
As PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi told PennLive.com's's Dustin Hockensmith, "We've had a couple years to look at it and probably next year will be the third, maybe the fourth, that these weight classes have seen an increasing number of forfeits in the lower weights. We think our proposal is a better distribution than 14 and cuts down the number of forfeits and make dual meets more pleasing to fans and to coaches."
The reduction in number of weight classes comes at a cost: fewer wrestlers will be able to compete in varsity matches throughout the dual-meet season ... and in individual competition in the postseason.
The issue of forfeits is one that many state athletic associations and their member high schools have been wrestling with for a number of years. The PIAA weight-class reduction proposal, coming from a state that is widely considered to be a hotbed of amateur wrestling in the U.S., is sure to be discussed well beyond the borders of Pennsylvania, where 9,720 wrestlers compete at 486 high schools. After all, the sport has a long history in Pennsylvania, with the first program taking to the mat at Bethlehem Liberty High in 1923. The first PIAA state wrestling championships took place in 1938 at Penn State's Rec Center. Back then, there were ten weight classes: 85, 95, 105, 115, 125, 135, 145, 155, 165 and 185 pounds.
Thanks to the NFHS and Tom Elling's "Pennsylvania Wrestling Handbook" for statistical and historical information on high school wrestling in the state.