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Grappling with changes

By Tyler Shoberg

For the first time in 23 years, weight classes across the country will change for high school wrestling.

On April 26, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) approved an upward shift of weight classes, resulted in new weights for 10 of the 14 classes. According to the NFHS press releases, the changes were combined with 17 additional rule revisions approved by its board of directors.

"The change in weight classes resulted from a three- to four-year process, utilizing data from the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Optimal Performance Calculator," said Dale Pleimann, chair of the NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee and former assistant executive director of the Missouri State High School Activities Association. "The rules committee was able to analyze data from almost 200,000 wrestlers across the country, with the goal to create weight classes that have approximately seven percent of the wrestlers in each weight class.

"Throughout the process, each state association was kept completely informed and was provided multiple opportunities for input. The results of the last survey of each state association indicated that the majority of states favored a change, and the committee listened and acted accordingly."

The new weight classes in effect for the 2011-12 season are: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285. Only 145, 152, 160 and 285 remain the same.

"They've been talking about (making changes) for a long time," West Fargo wrestling coach Kayle Dangerud said. "It's a change, and I think, we (as coaches) don't accept change very well. But we'll deal with it."

Dangerud said that, although the shift in weight won't as greatly impact a large school like West Fargo, smaller schools may still have trouble filling slots.

"I think some of the Class B schools, and even some Class A, were hoping to see less weight classes," he said. For schools with smaller enrollment numbers and less participation, unfilled weights result in forfeits and subsequent losses at dual meets. "What you'll see is a lot of coaches in N.D. not like these changes, because it's tough to fill weight classes the way it is."

While change isn't always embraced wholeheartedly, at first, Dangerud said some of the recent ones may actually benefit wrestlers.

"What's it's done is taken one of the middle weight classes out and placed it up top, so there's a bit more even spread," he said, referring to the creation of the 195- and 220-pound divisions. "Before, it went from 171 to 189, so that's a big jump. (Wrestlers) won't have to make that drastic jump in weight."

Although the changes may benefit wrestlers looking to make weight, the Packers could see a disadvantage at state, Dangerud said.

"Short term, to be honest, it still hurts us," he said. "We had extra placers at state in 112, 119 and 125 pounds. We basically had state placers in low to 150. So when you take out that 140, it will hurt us a little bit.

"I guess, our personal stance is, we'll deal with the changes."

According to the NFHS, the last wholesale shift in weight classes happened in 1988, when the lowest weight class was increased from 98 to 103 pounds. The only other changes were in 2002, when the number of classes increased from 13 to 14, and the 215-pound weight class became mandatory, and in 2006, when the 275-pound class was increased to 285 pounds.

Other changes made that will go into effect next season include:

• The Figure 4 around the head has been ruled an illegal hold/maneuver. Previously, the Figure 4 was illegal around the body or both legs.

• Rule 2-1-3 makes the boundary line inbounds and, thus, expands the wrestling area. Previously, a wrestler was out of bounds if he or she was touching any part of the 2-inch-wide line that marks the wrestling area.

• An exception was added to Rule 8-2-1, stating that if the second injury time-out is taken at the conclusion of the second period, and the opponent already has the choice at the beginning of the third period, the opponent would then have the added choice at the first restart after the beginning of the third period.

• A revision in Rule 3-1-13 allows the referee the flexibility to determine his or her best position to monitor the clock and wrestlers during injury, blood or recovery time-outs.

• Language in Rule 6-2-2 was changed from "forfeit" to "disqualification" to reflect correct terminology.

Wrestling is the sixth-most popular sport for boys at the high school level, with nearly 273,000 participants in more than 10,000 schools during the 2009-10 season. In addition, more than 6,000 girls were involved in wrestling.