Not everyone happy with new wrestling format

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The days of dual wrestling meets in the Portage County League have gone by the wayside. At least for now. With forfeits and painfully short meets plaguing the league in recent years, the PCL's athletic directors voted at the close of last season to drop league dual meets from the 1998-99 schedule. It was a decision made with the hope of allowing teams the opportunity to create their own schedules, compete in more regular-season tournaments and help prepare individuals for the postseason. It is also a decision at least one coach worries could damage the state of wrestling in the county. "I am not a proponent of this at all," said Southeast coach Ralph Graham. "We've tried this before (in the late 1980s), and at that time I thought it was a great idea and was one of the people who helped lead the charge. "Back then, we wrestled dual meets, but they didn't count. ... And it really killed interest locally. Everything came down to one day at the PCL Tournament at the end of the season, so when we'd wrestle our rivals like Streetsboro and Crestwood (in the regular season) it didn't mean a thing. Nothing was on the line the whole year. It was like there was no league. ... We did that for three years and then we voted to go back to a schedule where the dual meets counted." As it was with the previous experiment, the only league matches that will count this year will take place on one day _ the PCL Tournament Feb. 6 at Rootstown. One of the main reasons the league voted to cut the dual meets was the OHSAA rule allowing teams to schedule only 20 points in the regular season (dual meets count 1 point, one-day tournaments are 2 points and two-day tournaments are 3 points). Dropping the duals, in which a wrestler can take the mat just once, freed more points to allow schools to schedule more one- and two-day tournaments where wrestlers could compete in as many as five matches. With a few schools fielding rosters as small as seven wrestlers, some schools felt there were simply too many forfeits to justify traveling for a meet that could last 15-20 minutes. "We also couldn't justify asking fans to pay four dollars for a 20-minute meet," said Crestwood athletic director Tom Hannan. "If the schools would be able to field (larger teams) then I'd like to see us go back to the old system. ... We've kept (dual meets) with Southeast, Streetsboro, Field and Rootstown this year, but we are wrestling them independently." Crestwood coach Bill Butto said he has "mixed emotions with eliminating the duals." "I kind of like it as far as opening up the schedule for us to get into more tournaments," said Butto. "We aren't locked in to wrestling some of the smaller schools anymore. But on the other hand, a lot of the tradition is gone. There is some great tradition that goes along with dual meets." Streetsboro coach Jim Boardwine, a supporter of eliminating league dual meets, does not think the change in schedule will hurt the tradition or the excitement when PCL rivals meet in duals "that don't count." "I've heard that in the past when (the duals) didn't count, sometimes the crowds were a little smaller and it was a little less intense," said Boardwine. "But I don't think it will be that way. "I think this will be beneficial for the bigger schools who won't be hurt by too many forfeits from wrestling smaller schools. And it will be beneficial for the smaller schools who can enter more tournaments and get good work for the nine or 10 guys they have on the roster without forfeiting weight classes." One option for the future that would allow the PCL to re-new its traditional rivalries while maximizing wrestling time and scheduling points might be hidden in Streetsboro's schedule this season. "We've scheduled two dual-meet tournaments, one that we are hosting, which cost a team only two points," said Boardwine. "We have Akron Hoban, Padua, Stow, Rootstown and Orange coming to our dual-meet tournament (Jan. 23). It's a one-day event which amounts to five duals in one day. The team with the best record at the end of the day is the champion." The PCL could consider adopting schedules that include two five-team dual-meet tournaments rotating different schools as host each year. "I think that could be a great option," said Boardwine.

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