High school wrestlers across New York eyeing a spot in the state championships will have another way to accomplish the feat in 2018.
And subsequently, area coaches hope more student-athletes will participate in the sport.
On Wednesday, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association approved establishing state dual meet championship tournaments, beginning in the 2017-18 season. The state will recognize dual-meet champions in both large schools and small schools, and the tournament will be held in January each year at a site to be determined, prior to the individual tournament in February in Albany.
The meet gives wrestling teams a chance to win state titles, rather than wrestlers only winning individual titles. The state wrestling committee had the idea “some time ago,” said Robert Zayas, executive director of NYSPHSAA.
“I think it brings more attention. I think it’s going to add a whole new element to participation in the sport of wrestling,” Zayas said.
Wrestling has been a sport that’s seen a dip in participation over the last two years.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 14,391 students in New York wrestled in 2011. Five years later, 11,521 participated.
The decision was met with a warm reception from local wrestling coaches.
“Anything that helps promote the sport is great,” Highland coach John McFarland said. “We have a nice, strong area of wrestling. It’s not only an individual sport and this will help earn recognition on two levels.”
Nick Fredericks, Red Hook’s coach, said it gives wrestlers a chance to see a different variety of opposition. Red Hook earned a Section 9 Division II team title in 2016.
“I think it’s positive,” Fredericks said. “It shows more competition throughout the state.”
Each of the 11 sections in the NYSPHSAA will be represented in the dual meet state tournament. Both divisions will be split up into four pools. The winners of pool play will move on to the semifinals, and champions will need to win four matches.
“It’s going to make more people aware of the sport,” Arlington coach Fred Perry said. “People will pay more attention to it because it’s state-wide.”
A.J. Martelli: email@example.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports