The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

June 3, 2012

Rule change gives wrestling coaches more flexibility

Area wrestling coaches will have greater flexibility with their tournament schedules under a rule change adopted by the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

The requirement that a wrestling tournament on a school day — typically Fridays — must begin at 4 p.m. or later was dropped last month, as recommended by the Wrestling Advisory Committee. The vote among member schools was 151 in favor and 52 opposed.

The intent of the rule, which applied only to wrestling, was to protect the amount of time student athletes spend in the classroom. In effect, however, some schools — such as Joplin — have had to allow more time for travel to compete in tournaments in-state than they would to compete in out-of-state tournaments that did not have time restrictions.

“I never understood why they had that rule,” said Joplin head coach Shawn Finch. “In every other sport, there’s no limit to start times. There are baseball tournaments where the kids are gone for days.

“It will definitely help us out,” he said. “Given the choice of going to Columbia for a weekend or Tulsa, I’d take Tulsa. It’s an hour away. A lot of times, they start Friday at noon and they’re done by about 7 p.m., so the kids come back home and get a full eight hours sleep.”

Competing in Tulsa would not require an overnight stay, Finch said, while competing in Columbia would.

As an example, Joplin’s wrestlers would face intense competition at the Mid-America Nationals, held in Tulsa. The field includes teams from Jenks, Tulsa Union, Claremore and Broken Arrow, along with top teams from Texas and New Mexico, Finch said.

“The first year I was here, they didn’t have that rule and we went to Tulsa,” Finch said. “They have teams from everywhere and we couldn’t go back again. For us to see good competition, we would have to go to Columbia or St. Louis or Kansas City.”

Among Missouri Class 4 schools, only Nixa, Ozark, Kickapoo and Parkview are within a three-hour round-trip from Joplin.

The rule change could affect local events as well, such as the People’s Bank of Seneca tournament, said Seneca head coach Jeff Sill.

“It could. You get started earlier and get done earlier,” he said. “For our tournament, weigh-ins are at 3 p.m. and wrestling starts at 4 p.m.

“I’ll get with the coaches and see what works for them. That way, they’re not getting back to the hotel at 11 o’clock at night and having weigh-ins at 8 a.m. the next day.”

Another rule change has eliminated the random draw of the weight class that began the finals of the state Wrestling Championships at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.

Instead, the finals will begin with the lightest weight class (106 pounds) and progress to the heavyweight division.

“I’m on the rules committee,” Sill said. “Really, no other tournament does that. We do it at duals, but we don’t do it at districts. Then why change it for the finals at the state tournament? They changed it three years ago, and a majority on the committee voted to drop it.”

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