The NJSIAA Wrestling Committees made the best decision for the wrestlers on Thursday by voting unanimously to push its state team tournament, the 32 district tournaments and the eight region tournaments all back a week.
That decision eliminated what would have been a 13-day break between the conclusion of the region tournaments and the beginning of the Individual Championships March 8 at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City.
“I think Mr. Timko (NJSIAA Executive Director Steve Timko) and the wrestling committee made a legitimate decision based on putting the kids first and foremost,” said Brick Memorial coach Dan O’Cone, who is also president of the New Jersey Wrestling Coaches Association and was at the Wrestling Committee meeting at the NJSIAA’s headquarters in Robbinsville.
The potential for the 13-day gap after the region tournaments came about when Timko announced on Sept. 12 the NJSIAA announced the Individual Championships were going to return to Boardwalk Hall for the next three years. The NJSIAA’s contract with Boardwalk Hall had expired after last season’s tournament. The association had put out a Request For Proposal (RFP) during the summer to venues interested in hosting the tournament.
Boardwalk Hall, which has hosted the tournament since 2002 and for 18 of the last 21 years, was only available March 8-10, instead of the March 1-3 dates the NJSIAA had on its schedule dating back to last March because Boardwalk Hall’s management booked a Lady Gaga concert the first weekend of March. The NJSIAA decided to return to Boardwalk Hall after officials from the IZOD Center, East Rutherford, told the NJSIAA their venue was not available the first weekend of March. The tournament will be the first weekend in March the next two years.
The revised schedule is as follows: NJSIAA Team Tournament: Feb. 11-17 with the state group semifinal and championship matches at the Pine Belt Arena, Toms River, Feb. 17. District tournaments: Feb. 22-23; Region tournaments: Feb. 27, March 1 and March 2.
“Everybody was looking out for the health and safety of the wrestlers, especially as far as weight management,” Timko said.
Weight management was likely to have been an issue if there was the 13-day break after the regions.
“It would have an almost unreasonable request,” said Southern coach John Stout, who as a member of the wrestling committee was at Thursday’s meeting “If you have 3-4 kids make the states, to try and train those kids to hold weight while everyone else is home and eating and doing what everyone perceives to be fun things, it would have been a very difficult task.
“I think a great number of kids would not have made weight, maybe not even have shown up at the tournament.”
O’Cone said going into the meeting there were two options. One would have been to have the 13-day break between the conclusion of the state team tournament and the district tournaments. The other would have been to have the break between the regions and the state tournament. He said during the meeting, it was proposed to push everything from the state tournament to the regions back a week.
“It’s best for every program in the state,” O’Cone said.
The decision creates an extra week in the dual-meet season. Bob Fredrick, the chairman of the Wrestling Committee, said the bout limits of 30 before the cutoff date for qualification for the state team tournament and 35 before the districts will not change.
Both Timko and Fredrick said there is a good chance the cutoff date for the team tournament will be pushed back a week.
O’Cone said Brick Memorial will not schedule a dual-meet during the week before the state team tournament begins.
“We’ll take the time to heal up, get some rest and go over technique,” O’Cone said.
Stout said if the chance to have a dual-meet during the extra week became available, Southern will schedule one. He said he is more likely to use the extra week to schedule meets for his junior varsity and freshman teams.
“It gives good opportunities for everyone,” Stout said.
A potential problem could be whether some of the pre-arranged sites for the district and region tournaments will available with everything being pushed back.
Toms River Regional Schools District Athletic Director Joe Arminio said he had to look at his calendar today to see if Pine Belt Arena was available to host both the District 24 and Region VI tournaments.
“If we have a show or concert booked, we’re not going to be able move that,” Arminio said.
If Pine Belt Arena can not host the Region VI Tournament, other possible sites could be Brick Memorial, Jackson Liberty and Southern. Toms River East hosted the District 24 Tournament for years before it was decided this year to move that tournament to Pine Belt Arena.
The creation this year of an extra wrestleback round for the losers of the preliminary round of the individual championships has resulted in the wrestleback semifinals being pushed back to 10 a.m. on four mats on the morning of the final day of the tournament, Fredrick said. That round had been the final round of the second day of the tournament in recent years.
Also, the quarterfinals will be pushed back to noon on the second day of the tournament and the semifinals will be pushed back to 7 p.m. on the second day of the tournament.