This week prep wrestlers will descend upon Utah Valley’s UCCU Event Center for the state championships, an intense competition that will crown 70 state champions from five classifications.
Before the competition begins, 4A and 5A coaches are scheduled to meet for a discussion on the future of the sport, including whether to implement a dual meet state championship sponsored by the Utah High School Activities Association for the 2015-16 season. The Utah Wrestling Coaches Association proposal will then be presented to school administrators and the UHSAA board of trustees.
Although there are dual meet state tournaments now, they are not formalized by the UHSAA, so participation is optional. Only 2A and 5A have competitions. Formalizing a state championship will not eliminate individual bracketed tournaments and the team component that comes with them. However, it will provide a culminating event in the final stages of the season, when many wrestlers are at their peak.
“I love the idea of a dual meet state championship for several reasons,” said Layton head coach John Fager, who previously served as president of the Utah Wrestling Coaches Association. “First, it’s easier for fans to understand. Second, it’s more indicative of the team aspect of the sport and, third, it makes every region dual more important.”
A dual meet is usually simpler for fans to follow than individual bracketed team scoring. In a dual meet, a pin is worth six points, and each meet typically lasts just over an hour, compared to other tournaments that can go for two days with hundreds of bouts.
A dual meet can also generate more crowd excitment, such as in a recent meet between Layton and Syracuse, when the the competition came down to the last match and the bleachers were filled with fans. Fager said that, after the meet, 10 boys expressed interest in wrestling the next year.
Qualifying for the dual meet state championship would involve having the top four teams from each region compete in a tournament. With a state championship on the line, coaches are more likely to use their best wrestlers in regional meets, compared to now, when many varsity wrestlers instead compete at other tournaments.
The question may come down to when to hold the championship because, even though wrestlers value individual titles, those involved will not want to stress athletes or programs preparing for individual bracketed state championships.
Brian Preece is a freelance prep sports writer. He created the 4A Duals in 2001 which lasted for six seasons. He was also the 2005-06 Utah Coach of the Year for the National Wrestling Coaches Association.