There was an opinion piece that has been circling the internet for the past few months from Leigh Valley Live that calls for the elimination of the wrestling quad and dual tournament format. It focus heavily on the opinions of Bangor, PA head Coach Rick Thompson, a giant in the sport and well respected by me and others. He has well over 400 dual wins in the brutal and unforgiving landscape of Leigh Valley, part of the bedrock of wrestling. Elated off his win against a rival, he is quoted saying:
“This is what people want to see. No one wants to sit all day in a gym and watch five matches. It’s why basketball has never lost it popularity -- it’s one game at a time. I hate to see (wrestling) go down this way. We need to eliminate dual-meet tournaments, wrestle single dual meets, go to a 30-match limit, or else in wrestling we’re going to have the elite teams and nobody else. All those dual-meet tournaments and sitting in a gym all day -- it’s killing the sport.”
This has spearheaded an online discussion and great deal of clamoring of coaches across the country: ban the dual meet tournament and the quad meets. Keep wrestlers at single duals and individual tournaments. And while he has a great experience to lead him to this conclusion, I offer the antithesis to this argument
“This is what people want to see.”
Off the bat this is a slippery slope. We need to be careful assuming we know what is best for other teams and their fans. Some school thrive on the quad meet scenario, especially if they have long distances to drive to find competition. The same can be said for lesser developed programs that want to get the best cost effective scenario for their athletes. I do agree that there is a certain magic behind the Wednesday night dual meet, especially against the cross town/conference rival. I prefer that and so do my athletes and fans. But I would never force another school to drop their quads because it didn’t fit with my notion of how a team should be competing. That’s what is great abut wrestling; you can set a schedule that best fits your team’s individual needs.
“No one wants to sit all day in a gym and watch five matches.”
Fair to say that sitting all day can be tiresome, especially for an entire season. But what is the alternative? If you do an individual tournament, you can all day and only wrestle two matches. Either way, you’ll be in the gym all day. I feel it is best to get as much competition as you can if that time allowed. The problem here then is tournaments in general. You would rather do a Saturday night dual meet instead? Great. Make it happen. As for our program we prefer to get more matches.
“It’s why basketball has never lost it popularity -- it’s one game at a time.”
This is an old example that is more like comparing apples to oranges. I find it ironic that we can dog on all the hard work of basketball player, and refer to wrestling as “a sport men do during boys basketball season.” Then we go about trying align with their systems and adopt it as our own (that is a whole other ball of wax, mind you). While there are basketball tournaments, most teams play several games during the week. This system would be incredibly taxing on any wrestling program, as weight cuts would be an issue. But the larger symptom here is trying to compare this two sports as if they are cut from the same cloth. After factoring the individualism, the weight cut, the singlet, and skin disease are we readily prepared to assume the sports can function the same?
“I hate to see (wrestling) go down this way.”
Again, this seems more like a personal preference. If you look at some of the most successful programs in the MHSAA, you’ll find that the majority of their events are quads or dual tournaments. But that doesn’t they all are by any stretch of the imagination. The system set up at 7xTeam State Champions Richmond would most likely not work at 11x Team State Champions Detroit Catholic Central. I feel trying to shoehorn learning styles and philosophies on other programs would be folly.
“We need to eliminate dual-meet tournaments, wrestle single dual meets, go to a 30-match limit, or else in wrestling we’re going to have the elite teams and nobody else.”
This harkens back to other coaches feeling they know what is best for other programs. Empirical data shows us that in a system without a 30 match restriction that those wrestlers who excel at the highest level tend to engage in a high level of matches. For example, just by reviewing the 2016 MHSAA Division 3 individual state champions we see that if we total the match won prior to the tournament it would equal 655, or an average of 46 matches per the 14 weight classes. This number would not be achievable unless they were getting in a least several dual style tournaments or quad duals.
All those dual-meet tournaments and sitting in a gym all day -- it’s killing the sport.”
I will say that this is the strongest argument, at least in my mind. Parents and fans are eager for competitions, as long as they don’t last all day. Driving to an event across state and engaging in 5 to 6 rounds of wrestling then driving home eats up an entire day. Multiple that by 7 to 10 weekends a regular season and producing athletes and parents pining for another season. But what‘s to say you wrestle 4 duals? Maybe 3 on a Saturday? This would cut down on matches, but these matches (barring any being forfeits, mind you) But this harkens back to an earlier point; the problem isn’t the dual meet. The problem is being stuck in a gym all day. That is an argument worth having, however not here.
I have also gathered up points of my own in support of the dual format events.
Reminds us that wrestling is a team sport as well.
I notice the difference in performance with my wrestlers right away when it is an individual tournament versus a dual tournament. Kids are more willing to fight off their backs in a dual and not give up bonus points. Individuals want to win for themselves (a noble cause, no doubt) while a wrestler will fight harder for bonus point s for a team.
You can control how and when a wrestler competes better.
I love the mobility a wrestler has when bumping around with a line up. In an individual event, a kid weighs in and competes against other kids in his bracket. If he or she wins; they advance, generally to a tougher opponent. Not a whole lot of mobility there. In a dual line I can bump wrestlers to match ups I want (i.e. a kid we can beat or challenge ourselves) or avoid others (void a weight class with a returning state champ). You can force or avoid match ups as you see fit, which can be healthier for an athlete in the long run.
At the end of the day, wrestling programs are not all the same, and each program will need certain things to thrive or meet the expectations of the community. I for one enjoy 100% dual format regular season. The kids are exposed to the team aspect and I can protect or challenge my line up each weekend. When working in a program that is still building, I need to ensure that all 14 guys are there to help build the wrestling culture in the community.