Prep Wrestling

Iowa high school wrestling programs will have option to sit out regional duals competition

Coaches' reactions vary to change for 2020-21 postseason

Wrestlers compete in Class 2A quarterfinals of the 2020 IHSAA State Wrestling Championships at the Wells Fargo Arena in
Wrestlers compete in Class 2A quarterfinals of the 2020 IHSAA State Wrestling Championships at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. O’Brien won by an 8-3 decision. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — The Iowa high school wrestling state duals tournament isn’t going anywhere.

The event is remaining at Wells Fargo Arena, taking place the day before the three-day traditional state tournament.

Qualifying and the teams involved could be different.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association Board of Control unanimously approved recommendations from its wrestling advisory committee in April, allowing teams to opt out of postseason duals before the start of regular-season competition and trimming the regional duals field from 32 to 24 in Classes 1A and 2A. The changes go into effect for the 2020-21 season.

The goal is to create a better competitive environment for regional duals.

“The hope is at the regional duals and state duals is the teams that show up are going to bring their best varsity kids, being able to compete, and try to win,” IHSAA Wrestling Administrator ad Director of Officials Lewie Curtis said. “We’ve had numerous situations where teams basically send their junior varsity or non-district qualifiers and those beat out at sectionals. They’re just not sending their best team.

“They don’t want to advance, but they qualified because the won or got second at their sectional. We’re just trying to give them the option of not being there, if they don’t want to be there.”

The process will begin before the start of the season. Wrestling programs will receive a survey about their plans to participate. Teams can choose to be removed from consideration at that time and decisions are final.

Those teams will not be included in dual rankings by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association, which will be used to round out the regional duals field. Participants in 1A and 2A will be the 16 sectional champions and the next eight ranked teams. If one of the sectional champions decline to wrestle in duals, the next highest ranked team will take its place.

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“I think it is positive,” West Delaware Coach Jeff Voss said. “If you have a highly-ranked team and you don’t want to be there you’re taking an opportunity away from somebody else who does.

“The reasoning was the regionals were becoming so lopsided, because teams don’t necessarily want to be there. So, they’ll take 24 teams and hopefully those 24 teams want to be there.”

Class 3A regional duals will continue to consist of the top 24 ranked dual teams.

Last season, regional dual semifinals included four shutouts and a forfeit. In 16 1A regional duals, the average margin of victory was a whopping 37.6 points, which grew to 42.7 in the seven competed in 3A (Fort Madison forfeit to Cedar Rapids Kennedy at North Scott). In 2A, the gap was slightly smaller at 31.75.

Cedar Rapids Prairie romped Pleasant Valley in its regional dual opener. Despite being outmatched by fourth-ranked Bettendorf, the Hawks made moves and an effort to knock off the Bulldogs.

“My hope is that the regional dual final is two teams really attempting to get to that state duals,” Prairie Coach Kane Thompson said. “If you didn’t want to get to it, you could have been out a long time ago. I think those duals will be more competitive.”

Linn-Mar Coach Doug Streicher said the changes will have little effect on the problems caused by the timing of the regional dual and state duals, being place before the individual qualifier and state tournaments.

“I don’t think it does much,” Streicher said. “It doesn’t solve any of the problems we have in our sport with duals the way they are. Zero impact.”

Streicher said he also feels the coaches shouldn’t be involved in rankings the pairings and hosts, preferring it done by a neutral party that oversees the sport. He also noted the timing of the survey makes it hard for coaches to make an appropriate decision.

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“They have bigger fish to fry than teams opting out in November,” Streicher said. “To me, it makes no sense whatsoever.

“They (coaches) have no idea what kind of team they’re going to have at the end of the season, where they’re going for regionals, what teams are there, what their injuries are like or what their lineup looks like.”

Streicher was asked about how he will approach the Lions’ decision.

“I’m not closing any doors in November,” Streicher said. “Let’s put it that way.”

Thompson has discussed the situation already with his staff. He plans to have the Hawks in the mix each year.

“No matter what, we’re going to be all-in,” Thompson said. “I think that’s the message we send to our kids.

“I want to try to win what’s available out there. If that’s available, then I want to keep it on our radar and a part of our goals.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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