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PIAA takes step toward eliminating a weight class in high school wrestling

The PIAA took its next step toward eliminating a wrestling weight class Monday when the Board of Directors voted unanimously to pass the new weight classes on a second reading. If the board passes the new weight class proposal on a third reading at its July meeting, there will be 13 weight classes for the 2020-2021 season.

The vote came after Atty. Richard Sandow made a presentation to the board about his concerns of eliminating a weight class. Sandow also made a similar presentation to the PIAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) earlier this month, but the committee determined there were no health and safety issues involved in reducing the number of weight classes.

“The beauty of our sports medicine group is they’re involved. They’re boots on the ground dealing with the wrestling weight control program and use of the (Optimal Performance Calculator),” PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi said following the meeting. “I’m glad the board sent it there because you couldn’t have a more educated group and the conversation we had at that meeting was second to none. They didn’t leave anything unturned.”

The new weight classes (106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 172, 189, 215, 285) came as a recommendation from the PIAA’s Wrestling Steering Committee and was the result of a three-year long look at adjustments which could be made to the weight classes, according to Lombardi.

Sandow cited a change.org petition which has been signed by more than 11,000 people as one of the reasons he thought changing the weight classes now would not be advisable. He also said the reduction of an upper weight would cause health and safety issues for wrestlers ranging from concussions to potential eating disorders with a 17-pound gap between weight classes.

Sandow also said the timing of such a change, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, should also make the board pause before making the change. He also said a reduction in weight classes could have an effect on college scholarship offers for wrestlers who may not be able to making the varsity lineup now.

“There doesn’t seem to be any necessity to do this at this time,” Sandow said. “We’re not sure what is being achieved versus what is being lost right now.”

But despite those questions raised by Sandow, the measure still passed unanimously. Pennsylvania Coaches Association representative Ron Kanaskie, who is third in Pennsylvania history in wrestling coaching victories, asked the board if there was any sentiment to adjusting the weight classes as they were proposed by the wrestling steering committee.

Lombardi said the board could vote to refer the motion back to the steering committee to make an adjustment, but that it was the board’s job to trust the committee’s expertise in the matter.

“I don’t think it’s on the board to change (the proposal),” Lombardi said. “The weights they chose were based on a recommendation from the National Wrestling Coaches Association. They were based on the data.”

“We still have JV matches and other sub-varsity opportunities,” District 11 chairman Bob Hartman said. “So it doesn’t diminish the opportunity to compete, it’s just maybe not at the level they want.”

A reduction in weight classes would be the first time in PIAA history it has taken a weight class. Four times previously the PIAA has added a weight class. In 1942 it went from 10 to 11 weight classes. In 1960 the PIAA went from 11 to 12. In 1989 it went from 12 to 13, and in 2003 it added a 14th weight class.

On June 1, SMAC voted unanimously to approve the recommendation to change from 14 to 13 weight classes. The PIAA Board of Directors meet again on July 14 and 15 at the Penn Stater in State College.

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