From the desk of MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts: Wrestling’s next big thing

Jack Roberts

“The next big thing” is what marketers often seek.  But it’s what school sports administrators usually dread because the “next big thing” is routinely a problem.

And so it is with the sport of wrestling which, at the high school level, has had an admirable record of solving the big issues that have threatened the sport’s existence.

School-based wrestling addressed unhealthy practices for weight loss, first with rules about what could not be done – e.g., rubber suits were banned from practices – and then with rules about what must be done, including a weight management program.

Twenty years ago, MHSAA member schools became one of the early adopters of policies and procedures that include the training of skinfold assessors who are employed to do measurements of all wrestlers, from which each wrestler learns his/her lowest allowed weight and the rate at which he/she may descend to that weight and still remain eligible to compete. These rules, and a nutrition education program, saved interscholastic wrestling from much public criticism and, possibly, from continuing drops in participation.

In addition, the Wrestling Committee has been unique among MHSAA sport committees in recognizing that a season that is too long is neither healthy for nor desired by student-athletes; and the committee has reduced the length of season and number of matches. All of this, combined with the MHSAA team tournament, have greatly increased the sport’s popularity among both participants and spectators.

But in spite of all this, the sport of wrestling is “one communicable skin disease outbreak from extinction,” according to those discussing the state of high school wrestling at a national meeting in June. We’ve already seen an outbreak lead to the suspension of all interscholastic wrestling for two weeks in Minnesota during the 2006-07 school year.

To avoid this next big thing, the rule makers have banned taped headgear, because tape can’t be properly cleaned. The NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which is the MHSAA’s advisory body as well, is urging schools to mandate that all participants shower or perform an antiseptic wipe-down after every match.

The MHSAA will make this issue a point of special emphasis in its online, print and face-to-face communications this fall. In addition, an excellent free webinar is provided by the National Wrestling Coaches Association. Click here for the webinar.

Check out the videos below in case you missed area wrestlers competing in the individual wrestling state finals this season.

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