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Pennsylvania sees 'issues' with keeping 14 weight classes in high school

Earlier this week, the NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee announced nearly a dozen new rules with an impact on high school wrestling -- eliminating restrictions on hair length, and clarification of weigh-in requirements to eliminate potential issues with having male and female wrestlers stepping onto the scales in the same locker room, to name two of some of the most-discussed -- but some in the wrestling community are focusing on what was NOT in the new NFHS rules for 2020-21.

No changes to the long-standing 14-weight class structure.

In recent years, however, a number of high school wrestling coaches have expressed concern that 14 weight classes cause problems of their own. For starters, that many weight classes can make it more difficult for many smaller schools to have a minimum of one wrestler for each weight class ... or risk costly forfeits. From another perspective, an even number of weight classes can more readily result in a team-score tie that requires some sort of tiebreaker that would be avoided if there's an odd number of wrestlers on each team in a dual meet.

It's an issue that folks in at least one "wrestling hotbed" state have been grappling with for a number of years ... and now even more willing to share some ideas to eliminate perceived problems with an even-number of individual weight classes.

However, the organization that governs school wrestling programs in Pennsylvania -- the PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) -- is now proposing changes to upper weight classes for the upcoming season. Among those changes: reducing the number of weight classes down to 13.

The PIAA wrestling steering committee crafted a proposal Wednesday to reduce the number of weight classes from 14 to 13 while leaving all of the weights from 106-160 pounds intact, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The Pittsburgh paper went on to report, "In the new set of weight classes outlined in the proposal, the 170-pound weight class would be bumped up to 172 pounds, the 182-pound weight class would be increased to 189 pounds and the 220-pound weight class would be lowered to 215 pounds, while the 195-pound weight class would be scrapped altogether."

From the other end of Pennsylvania, LehighValleyLive.com explained the committee's following rationales: "minimal changes to the current 14-class structure (nothing changes at 160 and below); ties easier to break in dual meets; and for facing out-of-state competition, whether it be in Pennsylvania under this proposal or out of the state under the current NFHS classes (170, 182, 195, 220, 285), only three weight classes would have to adjust weight descent plans."

This proposed new weight-class structure of 13 classes wasn't cooked up in the days after this week's announced wrestling rules from the NFHS, but, in fact were a year in the making, according to Canon-McMillan athletic director Frank Vulcano, who also serves as the chairman of the WPIAL (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) wrestling committee and represented the WPIAL at Wednesday's annual committee meeting.

"It all started last year at our committee meeting when we proposed going to 12 [weight classes] and hoping the [National Federation of State High Schools] would do something this year," Vulcano told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "The federation came out with their new rules changes for next year yesterday, and there was no movement in the weight-class changes."

This proposed restructuring of Pennsylvania high school wrestling classes will be considered by the PIAA board of directors for final approval on May 20.

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