A majority of the De Pere wrestling team’s 10 qualifiers for Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 Kaukauna sectional have been disqualified.
Eight of the school’s wrestlers are being ruled ineligible due to having exceeded a schedule limit during the regular season.
De Pere administrators will make an appeal to the WIAA Board of Control at 10 a.m. Friday in Stevens Point.
“We hope that the (WIAA) Board of Control would reconsider its decision,” De Pere Superintendent Ben Villarruel said.
“It was a mistake on our part. We wish we could turn back the clocks, but we can’t and the worst part is it has had a significant negative effect on our students who had no play in this. Like every other student that participates in an athletic contest, they just want to participate.”
The eligibility of the school’s wrestling team for the postseason first came into question on Feb. 3 when athletic director Jeff Byczek self-reported a possible scheduling conflict to the WIAA.
The team’s schedule was adjusted to clarify which events were varsity and junior varsity to put the team within the 14-meet limit for the regular season and allow it to compete at regionals.
However, eight of De Pere’s sectional qualifiers are being ruled ineligible due to exceeding the 14-meet limit upon a review of the individuals’ schedules in the regular season.
The individual review of wrestlers this week by the WIAA happened after it received inquiries from other member schools regarding eligibility.
“It’s definitely been tough,” De Pere wrestling coach Matt Kincade said. “It’s a distraction we really don’t want to have to be dealing with. But unfortunately these are the cards we’ve been dealt, and we’re trying to deal with it accordingly.”
If an appeal can’t be made, the fifth-place individual for a weight class where a wrestler is ineligible would advance to Saturday’s sectional. The top four individuals at regionals in Division 1 advance to sectionals.
Kincade did not indicate which two wrestlers on his team were still eligible for sectionals.
De Pere’s 10 sectional qualifiers were freshman Sam Bruss (106 pounds), junior George Lopez (113), freshman Andrew Lopez (120), junior Austin Esser (126), junior Max Bruss (132) junior Trevor Van Oss (138), senior Trevor Turriff (160), sophomore Tommy Kratz (170) sophomore Charlie Hooyman (182) and senior Travis Lueck (195).
“The worst days in this office is when we have to remove somebody from the tournament series,” WIAA director of communications Todd Clark said.
“It’s a difficult situation, and people are going to be upset by it, but that’s why we try to make any case possible or indicate a way we can find a team to be eligible for the regional. We try to find any way it can be interpreted in a manner that would maintain eligibility for teams and kids.”
Other teams in different sports have been ruled ineligible due to violating WIAA guidelines regarding schedules.
For example, the Westosha Central girls volleyball team was ineligible for the playoffs last year due to a scheduling error.
“We’re self-governed,” Clark said about the WIAA. “The membership forms and guide book indicate it’s a self-governing body. The schools make the rules, so the school is breaking its own rules.”
Kincade is hoping his school’s appeal will be accepted to grant eligibility to the eight wrestlers on his team that unknowingly went over the schedule limits.
“I just hope that common sense prevails here,” Kincade said. “I really hope common sense prevails. This is about the kids. If they want to punish somebody, they should punish myself, punish the school, punish us, but don’t punish the kids. That’s how I feel about it.”
The 14-meet limit for wrestling requires a multilayered explanation in the WIAA winter sports regulation guide book.
The following is an excerpt regarding schedules: “The maximum number of meets is 14. No more than seven of the 14 may be multiple-school meets (involving more than two teams). Except that a school may schedule double duals or triple duals beyond the maximum of seven multiple-school meets, BUT a double dual must replace two of the 14 allowed exposures and a triple dual must replace three of the 14 allowed exposures. Schedules of all teams should be clearly published and separated by level for each team sponsored by a school.”
To further clarify the schedule rules, a team cannot exceed seven multiteam meets, which are often contested as tournaments consisting of brackets for individual weight classes. Double duals and triple duals as an event would count accordingly towards the 14-meet limit but not towards the seven multiteam meets.
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