Wrestling in New York state is dropping weight.
Beginning with the next wrestling season, competition on the mat will include 13 weight classes rather than 15 following recent approval by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Central Committee.
The reduction includes the elimination of the 99-pound class, and the new weight alignment begins at 102 in the two-year pilot program.
“We want to make dual meets more competitive,” said state wrestling coordinator Marty Sherman, who noted a state-wide trend of teams winning on the mat, but losing matches because of forfeits. “We felt it was the right time. Pennsylvania went [from 14] to 13 classes this year, and we felt the same way.”
The state’s new weight class lineup will be 102, 110, 118, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 172, 189, 215 and 285 pounds.
“Some schools with bigger populations would prefer to keep it the same, and I can’t fault them for that,” Sherman said. “A lot of large schools can fill the weight classes. A lot of large schools are not filling the weight classes.”
Since the 2011-12 season, the state weight classes that were used were 99, 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285 pounds.
“I think the pros of it may be the potential to fill every weight class,” Amsterdam coach John Paris said. “Some schools have holes.”
“Some coaches having trouble getting kids out for their team would benefit,” Niskayuna coach Shaun Neely said.
That was a big part of the rationale the NYSPHSAA Wrestling Committee used in its proposal to change the playing field.
“The NYSPHSAA Wrestling Committee was very interested in addressing the lower weight classes we currently have in NY,” the proposal read in part. “This is the reason for the recommendation of 102, 110, and 118. By recommending these weight classes it will provide schools with smaller rosters to compete in dual meets and bring back the competitiveness and focus of our dual meets.”
“You were seeing four or five bouts contested,” Sherman said. “People are there for 15 minutes, and the match would be over with.”
The NYSPHSAA Central Committee voted 28-19 in favor of the proposal. The NYSPHSAA Wrestling Committee voted 7-3 in favor prior to that.
Neely said some large-school wrestling coaches in Section II were not in favor of the proposal because it eliminates varsity opportunities for lighter weight athletes.
“There’s no question you get that seventh- or eighth-grader who is exceptional, and you’d want to get them better competition,” Sherman said.
“The lower weights traditionally are middle school weights,” Neely said. “On the other hand, middle schoolers are always some of the best wrestlers in the section. It’s always been that way.”
The NYSPHSAA Wrestling Committee proposal indicated that this past year, there were 719 state athletes that certified at the 99-pound weight class, and out of the 719, 532 of those students were seventh, eighth and ninth-graders.
“Students in these grades typically are JV athletes in most sports,” the proposal read in part. “Students that do not make the starting lineup for the varsity dual meet will have the opportunity to participate in a JV dual match or an exhibition match on the day of the varsity match. These students will still have the ability to participate at some level of competition.”
Sherman is hopeful that the weight changes will help bolster lower-level wrestling programs in the state.
“We’re seeing a lot of modified and JV programs going south,” Sherman said. “Our committee felt we need to improve the modified and JV levels.”
“In other states that don’t allow their middle school kids to wrestle varsity, their modified programs are more competitive,” Neely said.