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Mitch Rupert on wrestling: Perhaps it’s time to eliminate sectionals

It’s time to end another antiquated idea of wrestling. Just like horsehair mats, it’s time to say goodbye to District 4’s sectional wrestling tournaments.

Let’s pause a moment while your chorus of boos rain down.

In a long ago time when wrestlers weren’t wrestling 30-40 matches in the regular season, there was a place for sectional tournaments. When teams from even the district’s smallest schools filled lineups, there was a need to whittle tournament fields to a manageable number for the district tournament.

That time is no longer now. It’s time for District 4 and chairman Dave Campbell to explore ideas for a 33-team district tournament. It’s an idea which Campbell and others within District 4 wrestling have wrestled with in recent years, and there are road blocks.

Eliminating sectional tournaments in the district would be a monumental change. These tournaments are as much about the history of the district as they are another postseason tournament. But the argument I often hear against eliminating the sectional tournaments are that sectionals give wrestlers who might not otherwise reach one, the chance to stand on a postseason podium.

There is no worse argument I can think of than that particular one. What’s interesting is those making that argument often come from the generation which complains about the everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality of today’s youth athletics. The reality is so very few non-favorites are winning sectional tournaments.

In the last five years, only nine wrestlers district-wide have won a sectional tournament without being seeded among the Top 3 in their weight class. Two of those have come from Southern Columbia’s Gavin Garcia and Gaige Garcia, who both missed significant time during their freshmen seasons and did not have enough seeding points to be seeded among the Top 3.

Another one came from Sayre’s Nate Nordin in 2016 when he was the fourth seed in a bracket which had just four wrestlers competing. Three others came from brackets where the top seed was within two or three matches of a .500 record, or in one case, had a sub-.500 record.

So it begs the questions, what is really being accomplished with sectional tournaments? What is the goal of the sectional tournaments? What is being done with sectional tournaments which can’t be done with one giant district tournament?

If the tournaments are serving no purpose other than to possibly get some unheralded wrestlers on the podium, then they’re serving no purpose at all. Of the 42 brackets over three sections today, there will only be two which have a full 11-wrestler field: 152 pounds in the North and 132 pounds in the South. If you take into account Meadowbrook Christian has just three wrestlers in the Central, there are still only two weights in the Central which has 10 wrestlers where the only missing team is Meadowbrook.

Across the district, the most entrants in one weight is 29 at 145 and 152 pounds. There are three weight classes with a double-digit number of schools which do not have an entry (106, 113 and 220).

For the most part, matches which are being wrestled this week are just going to be wrestled again next week. And then the week after that at regionals. Is it really necessary for three weeks of this kind of competition, especially in weight classes like 106 pounds and 220 pounds where the field is so deep that it’s easy to see four potential state medalists coming from the district?

What is a better option for the district is to eliminate sectionals and go to one big district tournament. Obviously, this provides some logistical issues, which may very well be the only thing holding up a change. There needs to be a facility big enough to host a district tournament with 30-plus teams.

Options are likely limited to college campuses, mainly Bucknell, Bloomsburg and possible Lycoming. Parking would be an issue at all three venues, especially with students on campus. And while Bucknell has expressed interest in hosting a tournament of this magnitude at Sojka Pavilion, but it can’t guarantee the dates to District 4 because of its need to remain flexible for basketball scheduling. And you can’t blame Bucknell for making that its priority. Basketball is where it makes its money, and it has to keep its own interests in the forefront.

A one-week tournament would allow for a break for wrestlers, either between the end of the dual-meet season and the individual postseason, or even in the middle of the individual postseason. The Class AAA South Central tournament is run two weeks prior to the state tournament because it consists entirely of District 3. It provides those wrestlers with a week off between regionals and states. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a wrestler who, at this point of the season, wouldn’t mind a break leading into the most important tournament of the season.

A two-week district tournament held at Williamsport probably makes more sense. The tournament could be wrestled to the quarterfinals or semifinals in the first weekend, then finish with the final few rounds the second weekend. The drawback here is it means one more weekend of hotel stays for teams, which could be an unwelcome expenditure to school districts which are already pinching pennies.

But from a pure wrestling standpoint, it’s time for the sectional tournaments to go by the wayside. If the logistics can be figured out, it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

MITCH RUPERT’S PREDICTIONS

(Top 4 advance to District 4 Class AA tournament)

Central Sectional

(At Hughesville)

106: 1, Branden Wentzel, Montoursville; 2, Ethan Kolb, Benton; 3, Cade Wirnsberger, Meadowbrook Christian; 4, Bobby Gardner, South Williamsport.

113: 1, Scott Johnson, Muncy; 2, Kaden Majcher, Warrior Run; 3, Dylan Granahan, Benton; 4, Cole Johnson, Montoursville.

120: 1, Gable Strickland, Benton; 2, Caiden Puderbach, Hughesville; 3, Chase Crawley, Muncy; 4, Blake Snyder, Montgomery.

126: 1, Jacob Blair, Muncy; 2, Broc Lutz, Montoursville; 3, Caden Temple, Benton; 4, Colton Chipeleski, Central Columbia.

132: 1, Bryce Vollman, Muncy; 2, Noah Hunt, Warrior Run; 3, James Batkowski, Montoursville; 4, P.J. O’Connell, Central Columbia.

138: 1, Luke Gorg, Hughesville; 2, Isaac Kester, Central Columbia; 3, Hunter Leet, Montgomery; 4, Xan Oberheim, Montoursville.

145: 1, Mario Barberio, Muncy; 2, Landon Lorson, South Williamsport; 3, Emery Balint, Montoursville; 4, Colby Puderbach, Montgomery.

152: 1, Devon Deem, Montgomery; 2, Christian Good, Muncy; 3, Troy Johnson, Central Columbia; 4, Masen Lane, South Williamsport.

160: 1, Nolan Lear, Benton; 2, Isaac Cory, Montoursville; 3, Stephen Roeder, Bloomsburg; 4, Kaide Drick, Montgomery.

170: 1, Cael Crebs, Montoursville; 2, Ethan Gush, Muncy; 3, Lane Lusk, South Williamsport; 4, Sam Crawford, Warrior Run.

182: 1, Dylan Bennett, Montoursville; 2, Sam Hostrander, South Williamsport; 3, Tristen Ditzler, Muncy; 4, Kaleb Michael, Benton.

195: 1, Dylan Devlin, Central Columbia; 2, Andrew Wolfe, Benton; 3, Bailey Hadzinikolov, Muncy; 4, Hoyt Bower, Warrior Run.

220: 1, Cameron Wood, Montoursville; 2, Zach Poust, Benton; 3, Logan McWilliams, Central Columbia; 4, Bradley Leon, Montgomery.

285: 1, Gunner Treibley, Meadowbrook Christian; 2, Alexx Eveland, Central Columbia; 3, Cael Hembury, Muncy; 4, Caleb Burkhart, Hughesville.

North Sectional

(At Troy)

106: 1, Seth Seymour, Troy; 2, Isaac Landis, Canton; 3, Roger Learn, North Penn-Liberty; 4, Jacob Courtney, Athens.

113: 1, Gavin Bradley, Athens; 2, Bailey Ferguson, Canton; 3, Tyler Hawley, Towanda; 4, Alex Boyd, Wyalusing.

120: 1, Sheldon Seymour, Troy; 2, Liam Goodrich, Jersey Shore; 3, Kaden Setzer, Athens; 4, Hunter Manahan, Wyalusing.

126: 1, Nick Woodruff, Wyalusing; 2, Gabe Andrus, Jersey Shore; 3, Patriot June, North Penn-Liberty; 4, Miah Lehman, Canton.

132: 1, Hayden Ward, Canton; 2, Skyler Manahan, Wyalusing; 3, Wyatt Delamater, Towanda; 4, Jacob Burgess, Sayre.

138: 1, Riley Parker, Canton; 2, Colbrin Nolan, Wyalusing; 3, Skyler Allen, Towanda; 4, Josh Hultz, Williamson.

145: 1, Nate Higley, Sullivan County; 2, Evan Johnson, Towanda; 3, Gabe Packer, Jersey Shore; 4, Karter Rude, Athens.

152: 1, Logan Newton, Wyalusing; 2, Jacob Bennett, Sayre; 3, Colton Ammerman, Sullivan County; 4, Brenen Taylor, Canton.

160: 1, Hayden Packer, Jersey Shore; 2, Jacob Turner, Troy; 3, Kohen Lehman, North Penn-Liberty; 4, Colton Pretti, Sullivan County.

170: 1, Timmy Ward, Canton; 2, Ryan Kershner, Jersey Shore; 3, Will Bowen, Towanda; 4, Herm Harney, Sullivan County.

182: 1, Derek Atherton-Ely, Canton; 2, Alex West, Athens; 3, Kenric Ricci, Northeast Bradford; 4, Edward Cole, Troy.

195: 1, Garrett Storch, Canton; 2, Clay Watkins, Towanda; 3, Ben Pernaselli, Athens; 4, Mikey Sipps, Williamson.

220: 1, Jackson Chilson, Wyalusing; 2, Trevor Williams, Canton; 3, Alex Perez, Towanda; 4, Kade Sottolano, Williamson.

285: 1. Dawson Brown, Northeast Bradford; 2, Keagan Braund, Athens; 3, Aaron Herlt, Towanda; 4, Logyn Choplosky, North Penn-Liberty.

South Sectional

(At Southern Columbia)

106: 1, Aidan Kritzer, Line Mountain; 2, Kyle Ferster, Midd-West; 3, Blake Sassaman, Danville; 4, Tyler Geiswite, Milton.

113: 1, Kaiden Wagner, Lewisburg; 2, Conner Heckman, Midd-West; 3, Brady Feese, Southern Columbia; 4, Wade Alleman, Shamokin.

120: 1, Kole Biscoe, Southern Columbia; 2, Blake Wirt, Line Mountain; 3, Ethan Zevan, Midd-West; 4, Brady Struble, Mifflinburg.

126: 1, Mason Leshock, Line Mountain; 2, Aidan Steininger, Midd-West; 3, Gabe Gramly, Mifflinburg; 4, Brayden Sarviss, Danville.

132: 1, Kyler Crawford, Milton; 2, Ian Yoder, Southern Columbia; 3, Troy Bingaman, Mifflinburg; 4, Austin Aucker, Midd-West.

138: 1, Clayton Reed, Mifflinburg; 2, Patrick Edmondson, Southern Columbia; 3, Ian Coller, Line Mountain; 4, Logan Bartlett, Lewisburg.

145: 1, Avery Bassett, Midd-West; 2, Wolfgang Pearson, Shamokin; 3, Brandon Gedman, Southern Columbia; 4, Bryce Carl, Line Mountain.

152: 1, Wes Barnes, Southern Columbia; 2, Max Madden, Shamokin; 3, Matty Coller, Line Mountain; 4, Broghan Persun, Lewisburg.

160: 1, Gavin Garcia, Southern Columbia; 2, Riley Heim, Line Mountain; 3, Noah Berkoski, Mount Carmel; 4, Dominic Sampsell, Mifflinburg.

170: 1, Cade Linn, Southern Columbia; 2, Shane Weidner, Mount Carmel; 3, Cale King, Line Mountain; 4, Aven Ayala, Milton.

182: 1, Tyler Waltman, Southern Columbia; 2, Jacob Feese, Line Mountain; 3, Mike Cook, Danville; 4, Graham Wiand, Mifflinburg.

195: 1, Gaige Garcia, Southern Columbia; 2, Dominick Bridi, Line Mountain; 3, Trey Lauver, Midd-West; 4, Nathan Rauch, Milton.

220: 1, Carter Sauer, Midd-West; 2, Quentin Doane, Mifflinburg; 3, Max Tillet, Southern Columbia; 4, Austin Reed, Mount Carmel.

285: 1, Lear Quinton, Southern Columbia; 2, Nevin Rauch, Milton; 3, Emmanuel Ulrich, Mifflinburg; 4, Hunter Minnig, Mount Carmel.

Mitch Rupert covers wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 570-326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Mitch_Rupert.

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