OUR VIEW: One class could be best for future of SD wrestlingThere was a big change this year in South Dakota wrestling when district tournaments were dropped from Class B.
There was a big change this year in South Dakota wrestling when district tournaments were dropped from Class B.
There already were no districts in Class A, but they had been part of Class B since the 1970s. The march of time has brought more options in boys’ sports, and the popularity of wrestling has waned. Many district tournaments had so few wrestlers that they weren’t worth continuing.
What we now have is a system in which wrestlers go to region tournaments — four regions in each class — and vie for one of the top four spots and a berth in the state tournament.
We’d like to propose a crazy idea. In the not-so-distant future, it might behoove the state to return to a one-class system for wrestling.
Before you storm our offices, wrestling fans, hear us out.
The sport had only one class from 1960 to 1970. As more schools added wrestling, it was divided into two classes. The system thrived through the heyday of wrestling, which lasted well into the 1980s, but with the number of wrestling programs and participants declining, it’s logical to ponder a return to a one-class system. There are, after all, only 85 wrestling programs in the entire state. That number could be handled with eight 10-team regions (some would have 11), from which the top two place-winners in each weight class would advance to a single state tournament.
We realize this format would take some chances away from wrestlers who would otherwise qualify for the state tournament. But opportunities for participation in wrestling are abundant, even without the state tournament. Many wrestlers compete in 30, 40 or even 50 matches during the course of one season.
Also, we think a one-class format would bring more excitement to the sport. The state’s wrestling fans are usually split between two state tournaments, except for those rare years when the tournaments are held at the same site. A one-class tournament would bring together all of the state’s fans in one place and allow them to see all of the state’s best wrestlers. Also, it would settle the age-old argument between Class A and B schools about which wrestlers are better.
If competition among similarly sized schools is still desired, we would recommend bringing back a state duals tournament in conjunction with the individual tournament. The duals could be split between large and small schools to crown two team champions. A state duals tournament would also give some wrestlers who don’t qualify for the individual competition a chance to compete as part of their team.
Minnesota has a format much like the one we’ve described. The state has about 250 wrestling teams divided into three classes with about 83 teams per class. Each class is divided into eight sections — the equivalent of our regions — with about 10 teams per section. The top two wrestlers from each section advance to the state tournament. A state duals tournament is conducted on a Thursday in conjunction with a Friday-Saturday individual state tournament. All of the action takes place at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, which makes for an incredibly exciting three days of wrestling.
South Dakota should consider following Minnesota’s example to make state-tournament wrestling more exciting and fan-friendly. With wrestling in danger of being dropped from the Olympics and participation numbers dwindling, the sport could use a shot in the arm.