In a somewhat surprise move, District 3 decided Tuesday to realign the Class 2A wrestling sectional tournaments starting next season, moving from a two-section format to four sections.
District 3 wrestling chairman Randy Umberger said the new format should address a lot of the concerns that Class 2A coaches and fans had, including equity with Class 3A, medal opportunities and advancement to the district tournament.
“I tried to make all those points of justification of why the four-section model was the best, and the District 3 committee loved it,” Umberger said.
The district had been considering several options for the sectional tournaments, including eliminating them altogether. Sectionals are the first round of wrestling's individual postseason.
The decision was not one of the three options that had originally been on the table for District 3, including an option to eliminate sectionals altogether. The other two options were to get the sectional format the same or switch to a two-week district event.
How will sectionals be organized?
The district will add two more sections for the 2016-17 Class 2A sectional tournament, which will take place Feb. 18, 2017. The tournament will feature three sections of eight teams and one section of seven. The class expanded from 26 teams to 31 this year.
The top three wrestlers from each section will advance to the district tournament, setting up a 12-wrestler bracket at districts. The medal opportunities for wrestlers will increase, as well, with the total medals per weight class going from 12 in previous years to 16.
“They have a net gain of four medals in each weight class,” Umberger said.
The new format will also use a two-mat format over the three-mat format that was used in the past. The three-mat format will still be used in the Class 3A sectional tournament.
Why did the district choose this format?
The four-section option addresses concerns that had been voiced in the past, Umberger said. Two of those were sectional medalists and district qualifiers.
In the two-section format, the top six wrestlers per weight class from each section advanced to districts. That meant the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place finishers would reach districts with at least two losses in the section tournament.
Now, the top three finishers in each section will advance to districts, so only wrestlers with one loss or no losses would reach the 2A district tournament. It also now includes wrestlebacks.
“It will be complete wrestleback from an eight-man bracket,” Umberger said. “They gained another opportunity for a loser to advance up through the loser’s bracket, which they wouldn’t have before.”
The new format also will allow for less traveling for schools by creating more localized tournaments. The teams in each section will be familiar with their opponent, since the sections are set up with teams close geographically facing one another.
“We will have seen each other, we will have competed against each other so I think that’s a positive,” Bermudian Springs coach Dave McCullum said. “The kids coming in will know what they’re up against and will prepare themselves mentally to be ready to compete.”
What do coaches think?
McCullum said the new format is a good change for 2A wrestling, but understands that it will make it tougher for some of the better wrestlers to make it to the district tournament.
“I think it’s going to be a real tough challenge to get to districts now,” he said. “You really have to be on your game that first weekend. Last year we had kids that went to districts that were sixth-, fifth- and fourth-placers. That’s not going to happen anymore."
Still, keeping the sectional tournaments in place was appealing to Delone Catholic coach Frank Sneeringer.
"Of all the options, this one might have been the best,” Sneeringer said. “Some of the options I thought were pretty grim, and I was against having just one section. As far as for the local schools, I think it's tremendous."
Will the district tournament move to Giant Center?
District 3 is exploring its options for moving the district tournament to the Giant Center this season. No decision was made Tuesday regarding the tournament location, but Umberger is still looking into it.
In the past, the district tournament has been held next door at Hersheypark Arena, known as "the old barn." A move to Giant Center, home of the Hershey Bears, would place the tournament in a more modern facility.
Umberger said he will meet with the Hershey Bears after the AHL schedule is announced to discuss the matter.
“See about changeover and that type of thing,” he said. “How it can be beneficial to us.”
Section I: Halifax, Newport, Susquenita, Upper Dauphin, Camp Hill, James Buchanan, Bishop McDevitt, Trinity.
Section II: Annville-Cleona, Lancaster Catholic, Northern Lebanon, Columbia, Boiling Springs, Susquehanna Township, Middletown.
Section III: Brandywine Heights, Hamburg, Kutztown, Schuylkill Valley, Tulpehocken, Wyomissing, ELCO, Pequa Valley.
Section IIII: Bermudian Springs, Biglerville, Delone Catholic, Eastern York, Fairfield, Hannover, Kennard-Dale, Littlestown.