Tuesday January 8th, 2019

As the new year begins and the season resumes, my thoughts instantly go to my high school team and how to best get them started after the holiday break.  There was a flurry of meets before the holidays for my boys’ and girls’ teams that caused me to take note of many things.  First and foremost, high school wrestling is truly challenging as with younger athletes, it can be harder to get the desired results for many reasons.  With things such as limited practice time and the shortage of partners, oftentimes the only way they’ll be able to advance is by getting real matches and matches can only come from tournaments and dual meets.  In the Quebec high school leagues, we still use the dual-meet format in addition to tournaments, something that I spoke about in a previous article.  While in the previous article, I mentioned that it would be a shame to lose this format since we seem to be the only province on this side of the country that still uses it as most other high school leagues across Canada only do tournaments.  However, the meets that I had before the holidays began has caused me to think about the current system in place and that we may need a change.

The Dual-Meet format has two schools facing off against each other from lightest to heaviest

Instead of losing the dual-meet format entirely, I think that it should stay but it needs to be modified.  This has to do more with current numbers in the English high school system as well as the English population which is in a steady decline in this province.  This has basically resulted in fewer kids attending English public schools in general.  Let’s face it, the numbers will never return to what they were in the seventies or even the nineties for that matter.  Many of the programs that were around before the latest series of school strikes are now gone.  Coaches who coached those programs have either retired or didn’t restart the program when the strikes ended.  It’s only thanks to some dedicated coaches that the league continues to function.  Our league has long been a developmental league since we don’t have the depth that we had many years ago.  While some talented wrestlers have come from the GMAA in the last two decades, the amount of truly gifted athletes are few and far between.  Most of the wrestlers competing in the league will not progress beyond high school and most will not compete in the U17-U19 National Championships.  Also, some schools due to their small population size have a hard time recruiting athletes to their respective teams.  This is pretty much a constant theme in English public schools as most schools will opt to go with the basic sports that constantly remain popular such as basketball and soccer.  Aiming to expand to the French schools may be the solution but at the moment, we don’t have enough coaches in the province to expand to those French leagues.

Due to the lack of depth, the number of students wrestling pretty much determines the competition, thereby making it somewhat one sided as the disproportionate numbers and not quality of wrestlers tend to be the determining factor of who wins the league title. Most schools may have good numbers but have most of their wrestlers concentrated at the same weights.  My current high school team has sixteen boys and four girls.  On the boys side, half of my team fills out three weight divisions while I’m virtually empty or have just one athlete in that division.  This basically means that if another school fills that weight that my team doesn’t, then they score five points to the overall team score.  While I’m not against removing that, I’m thinking that the team scoring needs to be revised.  In the current system, the winning team gets two points for the win and the losing team gets none.  This doesn’t take into account that the losing team may have won more total matches but forfeited the rest of the matches.  While I wouldn’t think that we need to penalize the larger team, I think that a modification could be put into place.  Instead of two points being given to the winner in the team standings, we could essentially move to a three-point system.  The winner of the meet would get two points while the head-to-head winner would get one point.  If the winning team won more matches then the losing team, then they would get all three points.  If the losing team won more matches, then they could still salvage some points.  This wouldn’t penalize the teams that were able to recruit larger teams while at the same allowing the smaller teams to compete amongst themselves for second and third place.  Last but not least, this would put a greater emphasis on the regular season since the points accumulated from the regular season are virtually eclipsed once the total points for the medals are taken into account. Seeing as the default scoring for the medals adding to the team points basically amount to a lot more than the regular season total, than the importance of winning the regular season is somewhat diminished.  For the record the points for the medals are the following: ten points for Gold, seven for Silver, five for bronze, three for fourth, two for fifth and one for sixth.  If the weight division doesn’t have enough for a Top Six, then the points are adjusted accordingly.  Seeing as there are only ten teams in the league this year, then even if the winner of the league went 9-0, then the most points they could get would be eighteen, which is basically equivalent to two Gold medals.  Seeing as there are sixteen weight divisions in our league, this is just some food for thought.

My first dual meet of the season: The meet was pretty much over before it began

Next issue that I think could be addressed would be our girls league.  As it stands, there is no minimum number of girls that are needed in order to have girls team considering that the girls travel with the boys and miss the same amount of school.  That also means that they need to have matches in order to progress.  The problem?  There are even less girls than there are boys in the league making matches harder to come by.  While I still think that the girls’ team should follow the same weights as the boys for the dual meets, for the finals we need to come up with another configuration as many weight divisions will only have one competitor in it.  Combining weight categories is the most logical solution to ensure that we at least get some matches for the girls that are there and not have a series of voids when the finals come around.  While it may not be ideal, we can probably tweak the system this year and see how it goes.

Basically, we need to make major adjustments in order to help that our sport can grow.  While club wrestling accounts for most of our high-performance athletes in the province, we can’t discount the athletes that come from our feeder systems, the high schools.  In the end, we can only make the adjustments that we can and hopefully the sport will grow.  We shall see what the future holds.