State Tournament Series Commentary
Hello NCMaters and welcome back to The Grind. It's been awhile since the last update, but here we are with another edition of The Grind for your reading pleasure. With the season recently completed, and the off-season in full swing, I decided it had been long enough since the last update. With this edition, I will be discussing the state tournament series from this past season, as well as some observations from my perspective pertaining to the state tournament and some other situations pertaining to the NCHSAA.
First, a quick congratulations to all the teams that won a state championship this past season. Those teams are Rosewood (1A Duals), Uwharrie Charter (1A Individual), West Lincoln (2A Duals), Fred T. Foard (2A Individual), Piedmont (3A Duals and Individual), Cary (4A Duals), and Mooresville (4A Individual). Winning state titles is no easy task, and for some of the coaches of these teams this was their first ever state title win. Those coaches will attest to that fact. That being said, the team races in each division will be wide open again next season. The current off-season will dictate much of what happens in February next season. Take heed to that message.
In the 1A division, Rosewood ended up winning the war with Uwharrie in the semi-finals and then went on to win the state duals. I thought Uwharrie would bring the dual title home, but it wasn't meant to be as Rosewood made a couple of lineup changes that lead them to victory. Having a coach as Rosewood does (or did, and more on that later) that knows how to put the Xs and Os in the right spot can be the big difference sometimes. Some programs across the state have the team athleticism and talent to win dual titles, but the coaching lacks the insight on how to make the appropriate adjustments to get the job done. That wasn't the case with Rosewood, and as a result, they brought home the state championship. Uwharrie brought home the 1A state tournament title demonstrating their greatness as mentioned here previously on The Grind, and proving the 1A division was a two team race with a couple of other great teams that deserved to be in the conversation. I suspect next season these two teams will continue their rivalry for the 1A state championships.
West Lincoln shocked the wrestling landscape by upsetting Fred T. Foard en route to bringing home the 2A state dual championship. I saw a video posted online that illustrated the excitement that only the state duals can bring after winning a highly anticipated and highly contested dual meet. West Lincoln's win is a true demonstration of why the matches are wrestled and decided on the mat. They believed and they overcame. Foard rebounded though to win the 2A state tournament with West Lincoln finishing 2nd. In retrospect, the 2A division was a two team race all along with another team or two in legitimate contention.
Over in 3A, the most dominant team in any of the four classifications was Piedmont. Piedmont won both of the 3A state titles after a tremendous season that saw them get off to a slow start due to injuries, etc., but after getting the team together they never looked back. Not that it was easy, because it wasn't. The 3A division was as tough as you can find and beating the likes of Orange is never an easy task, and the same with SE Guilford, but this was Piedmont's season. Much of their success can be attributed to the off-season dedication they make as a team. It's no secret why Piedmont is always in the thick of things come February, and next season they will remain right where they were this year.
Cary returned to the glory years of yesteryear this season by winning their first state championship since 2009. The Imps were highly ranked all season and brought the title home in dramatic fashion in both the semi-finals (over Purnell Swett) and finals (over West Forsyth) by winning hotly contested dual meets. The 4A classification was a chess match probably more so than all the other classifications combined that saw the coaches who made the right moves win and advance while those who didn't came up short. Cary put it all together the right way and brought the title home in spectacular fashion. Mooresville solidified my claim that they were the best tournament team in North Carolina by not just winning the 4A state tournament, but also by scoring the most points in any of the four state tournaments offered by the NCHSAA. With nary one senior on the roster, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, Mooresville will be the heavy favorite to repeat as state tournament champions next season.
Let me make a comment about the 1A state tournament. Rosewood lost 10 placement points when one of their finalists didn't make weight for the state finals. I believe this is a genuine travesty, and while I am happy for Uwharrie winning the tournament, I don't like that wrestlers are disqualified from their placement after earning it the prior day. The kids who win their matches in the semi-finals made the weight that morning in order to qualify for the finals. It's shameful that missing weight removes their accomplishment prior to that point. This is such a bad rule that even kids who are injured MUST make weight in order to secure the placing they already secured the prior night after winning in the semi-finals. Believe it or not, this is not a NCHSAA policy. There is plenty to complain about and criticize when it comes to the NCHSAA, but this rule is not anything they are responsible for. This is a casebook rule by the NFHS and it should be addressed and changed to ensure that all wrestlers are able to maintain their placing even if they don't make weight. I can foresee the day come when a lawsuit stems from having a kid make weight to maintain their placing after they received a concussion and have been written out by a doctor. Either that, or the wrestler is removed from placing after being ordered not to wrestle by a doctor and is disallowed from making weight. There are plenty of scenarios where something like this could come up that demonstrate just how punitive this rule is. This is not a wrestling or wrestler friendly rule, and for those people who don't care about something like this, let it happen to you or someone you care about. You'll feel different then. This past season, this rule had a profound impact on the outcome of the state tournament championship. It needs to be addressed and changed to allow teams and wrestlers to keep what they have already earned. The only time a placing or team points should be stripped is due to misconduct. That is a totally different scenario.
It was also sad to learn that the NCHSAA mislead coaches into believing that wrestlers were allowed to move up in weight during the week of the state duals and could return to their certified weight for the regional. It's truly a sad situation when the entity that is supposed to lead and direct the coaches of the various sports in the state completely and utterly misleads them to the point where the kids are negatively affected by the association. I don't know precisely how many wrestlers were adversely affected by the NCHSAA misleading coaches on this weight issue, but I know it happened to a few. This should never happen. If coaches and schools were ever misleading toward the NCHSAA this would result in a fine, loss of playoff privilege, probation, or whatever else for the coach or school. What is the punitive action for the NCHSAA? There is none is the point. They operate with almost complete autonomy to the point where they feel like they can pretty much say or do anything they want without any ramification. Why else do you think it is that they can refuse to send a representative to three of the four state dual team championship matches, as they did in 2017, and operate as if everything is OK? Why else do you think it is that they can allow a 1-11 football team to be a playoff team that is seeded #2 in their side of the bracket that also gets a first round bye? What in the world happened with that? Talk about zero accountability. Talk about the blind leading the dog! Yet they continue to operate as if everything is fine, they know what they're doing, etc. all the while the kids are hurt by the misleading nature of their so called leadership. By the way, do you know that coaches and schools that speak out against the practices and decisions of the NCHSAA are subject to being fined by the NCHSAA up to $500? So, not only does the NCHSAA do the things they do to create the very criticism they endure, they also hide behind a little known ugly secret that fines can be imposed against coaches or schools that make comments that are disrespectful to the organization. I found this out after a coach I used to work with made a comment to the Winston-Salem Journal about a rescheduling decision for the soccer playoffs the NCHSAA made. The NCHSAA didn't like this coach's comment and called the school threatening to fine the coach/school $500. Can you believe that? So much for Freedom of Speech or Freedom of Expression, huh? I'd fight something like that all the way to the US Supreme Court.
As it pertains to wrestlers being able to move up and down the lineup during the week of the state duals, why is this even a question? I could explain the origins of this to its entirety, but really there is no point. To summarize this really quick, during the week of the state duals, the OPC that coaches are required to use during the season should remain open so that coaches and wrestlers can continue to operate as they normally do during the prior three months of the season. It's really stupid to limit their ability to move up in weight for that one week of competition after being allowed to do so the entire season prior. It serves zero purpose, and really hurts the kids, and teams, more than it helps them. The fact that there is such a question about the operation status of the OPC during the week of the state duals is something that needs a final clarification once and for all. This has been back and forth over the past few years and really needs a conclusion one way or another so that everybody understands exactly what the rule is pertaining to the allowing of wrestlers to move up in weight the week of the state duals. Anything short of that, my advice coaches, is to keep your guys at their intended regional weight, because as some learned the hard way this past season, doing otherwise may force them to stay where they weighed during the week of the state duals.
With all of that out of the way, there was another glaring problem at the state tournament this past season..OFFICIATING. Or, in reality, the lack of it. Bottom line is the process for selecting officials for the state tournament must be addressed. The kids and coaches deserve to have the absolute best officials representing the NCHSAA at the premiere event of the season and anything short of that is a genuine disservice. There were two officials who had no business officiating any matches during the state tournament. That was just in 4A. There may have been more in the other divisions. Luckily, the two I am referencing were tailed, and babysat, by a very knowledgeable official that protected them as much as possible, but even that wasn't enough. Of course, there were others who many understand operate with a bias and predetermined mindset against some coaches and wrestlers. Those officials also need to swiped from the officiating stage of the state tournament. Officials don't have to like coaches, but at least be fair to the kids. Sadly, the reality is that some officials blatantly call against some kids simply because they do not like the coach. The ridiculous suggestion that an official would never do that is a demonstration of ignorance at how some officials operate. The worst part is even some officials acknowledge that this is a problem. There were some great officials who were escorting wrestlers to mats at the state tournament. They need to exchange places with the one who don't know what they're doing and those who operate with a predetermined bias. But what the hell do I know?
I'm not going to bother discussing the wall conditions by mats 5 and 6 at the state tournament. Eventually, after someone get seriously injured, that safety concern will be addressed, but unfortunately, it will take someone getting seriously injured to get the NCHSAA to follow their own ten foot mat from the wall rule. Crazy, huh?
I did not attend the state dual team finals in Greensboro. My impression is that one centralized location is both good and bad. I like the idea of a high school hosting the state championship. Schools like Croatan and Robbinsville simply will not have community members drive all the way to Greensboro to watch like they would if the championship match was held at their school. At the end of the day, I suspect the bottom line will be the amount of money the NCHSAA profited from having the state duals in a centralized location. If the NCHSAA made more money from the centralized site then that will continue, and if so, then it should continue. However, if there is more money made allowing schools to host then let the schools host. I'm OK either way honestly, and I can see both sides of the issue. There is good and bad to both sides, but as long as the kids get to wrestle that's all I really care about when it comes to the state dual finals. That, and winning the championship!!
In the Hey, Hey, Hey Segment, allow me to say congratulations, and farewell, to coach Bill Edmundson of Rosewood. Coach Edmundson has decided to retire and move to the next chapter in his life. Losing state championship caliber coaches hurts the sports across the state, and I hate to see Bill move on, but a man has to do what a man has to do. The Rosewood program is an enticing program to entertain the idea of coaching. There is a great deal of returning wrestling talent there with some young kids coming through that will sustain the program over the long haul. Those kids deserve a worthy coach who will put the time in to help them maintain the state championship tradition Coach Edmundson established there. To Bill, we all say job well done and the best of luck in all your future endeavors.
The off-season is in full grind (pardon the pun). Be sure to check out the banner advertisements listed on thencmat.com and also on usswa.net. Be sure to let me know you read The Grind when you see me at an off-season tournament. It's nice to know that people are actually reading the diatribes I put out every now and again.
That's it for now. Thanks for reading, and until next time...
EMBRACE THE GRIND
Topic for next time: Off-season wrestling