Its Time To Change Our State Tournaments by Richard Rockwell
As we inch through the early spring months, we are left with nothing but daydreams of us practicing or competing on the mats. Most of which is bad because everyone would rather be competing. However, some good could come from all this. Ideas of change could possibly help us down the road and further grow our sport. None more needing to change than our state tournament formats.
We've operated under a combined tournament format, I believe since 1997, when we moved the event to Memorial Coliseum and briefly at the State Fairgrounds in Salem. Before that, we competed separately at places such as Marshfield HS, Western Oregon University and the Chiles Center in Portland. At first, moving to the Coliseum seemed like a smart move. It got every classification under one roof allowing our sport to showcase wrestlers to everyone. Maybe you only watched certain teams or followed certain divisions, now you could see that large school kid everyone is talking about or that small school kid from a town of 100, who's been tearing up the scene. It showcased wrestling and it was good.
Then something happened. Every year it seemed that prices kept going up. Hotels adding $100 here and there to every room. Food prices doubled every year. Tickets just kept inching up more and more. Crowded parking, if any at all due to monster truck shows or concerts. Paid parking a mile away or walking through the streets, weaving in and out of traffic just to stand in line. Losing weeks of a season due to Ice Capades and their money. Then three days became two. Coaches and wrestlers are up at 5am getting ready to weigh in and staying until 10pm or later to coach. Trying to survive on popcorn and RC Cola to make it through the long days. Taking out small loans to buy a sandwich or piece of pizza. Coaches huddled in small corners to try and watch the sport they've been a part of for decades. Why are we continuing to allow this? This is no longer fan or wrestling friendly. Its time for a massive change and overhaul in our sport.
This six classification format simply does not work for every sport. We know this, schools know this, fans know this and the OSAA knows this. We allow many other sports to operate under whatever combined division they want, make up special districts for nearly every sport and division. We should be three divisions still, four tops. There was no need for our change, yet we went down with little of a fight, much like most of the decisions we deal with. That's how much respect our sport has amongst our peers. We are widdled down to just "dealing with it." On the boys side, 6A/5A should be combined, 4A its own divison and 3A/2A/1A should be combined. On the girls side, 6A/5A should be combined and 4A/3A/2A/1A should be combined. All three boys could have a 32 man bracket and girls could be at 16. Girls will continue to grow and eventually become a 32 man bracket as well. Higher ups will argue that the logistics just isn't there, but that is a flat out lie. Towns have not moved, only classifications have changed. It's only a matter of finding a wrestling friendly city to host. As someone who has ran tournaments for 15yrs, logistic issues are only an excuse for those who refuse to change, either through sheer laziness or something is in it for them to not change.
Here is my plan:
Boys 6A/5A and Girls 6A/5A at the Salem Fairgrounds either the first or second week of February. For those who have been around long enough, you remember the two years we were at the fairgrounds. This actually wasn't a bad location. Hotel costs were reasonable and plenty, location wasn't congested, parking was great, food choices and costs were great as well. The only downfall was seating inside was limited to I believe around 4500 people. Fans were turned away at the door and people missed out. However, split this event and you solve this problem. This will also allow us to begin weigh ins and start time at a reasonable hour.
Boys 4A, 3A and 2A/1A, Girls 4A/3A/2A/1A at the Redmond Fairgrounds the week prior to the large school tournaments. Redmond has proven time and time again, they are a very wrestling friendly city. The top programs from these smaller divisions tend to be from rural communities that love their programs and their fans come in droves to watch them compete. Their tends to be a much better connection with their programs to these smaller towns. From the parades, to radio broadcasts for the older fans back home, to the sheer hospitality, the smaller division schools should be represented in a city with a small town feel. Plenty of hotels, great restuarants with the mountains as your backdrop. Redmond is it.
While the dates can vary to fit our needs, this fixes many problems for us. It allows us to get back to competitive tournaments and not minimized brackets that only help with time management and not actually help with making a competitive tournament. It allows us to get our best officials for all divisions. It brings down the cost for every program in the state from hotels to food. Heck, we could even have a hospitality room that has name brand soda in it.
Part two of this will be my breakdown of teams in each division, as there is a much needed change here as well.