Source: Sherman Publications

New weight classes for wrestling

by Andrew Moser

May 04, 2011

It’s a whole new ballgame next year for wrestlers.

Beginning with the 2011-2012 season, the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) will follow the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) by going with new weight classes for 10 of the 14 weight divisions.

The NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee approved an upward shift of weight classes, moving the 103-pound division to 106 pounds.

This upward shift resulted in 10 new weight classes.

The 14 weight classes approved by the MHSAA are (in pounds) 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.

The three middle weights - 145, 152, 160 - went unchanged, along with the heavyweight class (285).

The NFHS Board of Directors approved the decision at their meetings in early April and left it in the hands of the MHSAA to decide.

The MHSAA deliberated on the subject and approved the changes at meetings on Sunday, May 1 and Monday, May 2.

“I’ve been trying to rack my brain and see what possible good this weight class change going to be for the kids,” wrestling head coach Brad Keeney said. “I guess the pros are going to be it’s going to split the competition in the middle, it gives more depth up top and some more depth down low.”

The weight-division change came about after the NFHS studied more than 200,000 wrestlers from across the country.

“The rules committee was able to analyze data from more than 200,000 wrestlers from across the country, with the goal to create weight divisions that have approximately seven percent of wrestlers in each weight class,” Dale Pleimann, the chair of the NFHS Rules Committee in a press release on April 26.

“I personally don’t think it will make that much of a difference...it doesn’t effect us as a team,” Keeney added.

He said he gets why the MHSAA is switching weight classes, but he hopes it doesn’t water down the competition.

“I see what they are doing and they are making more of a chance for kids to be successful, but at the same time whenever you spread out and add more state champs, more weight classes or different weight classes, you have to be careful you are not taking away from the quality and how tough it is to be that state champion,” he said.

According to Keeney, the effect the weight division changes might have on next year’s Wildcats is to force them to spread out some of their returning depth in the middle portion of their lineup.

“We got a lot of depth coming back in the middle, so we are trying to spread these kids out a little more, but ultimately this is going to have to make kids cut a little weight or get bigger for next year,” he said.

Keeney said one of the problems with the lower weight classes (103, 112, 119) is a lack of upperclassmen.

“From about 125 up to about 160 is where a bulk of your athletes are,” Keeney said. “Down at 103 and 112, you don’t get a ton of seniors; usually they are more of your underclassmen and the bulk of the seniors lie in that real thick middle range.”

This is the first time a change in the weight class has occurred since 1988, when the lowest weight class was upped from 98 pounds to 103 pounds. The only changes since then was an increase in the number of classes when 215 became mandatory in 2002 and in 2006 when the 275 pound weight class was bumped up to 285.

Keeney said if the MHSAA wanted to change something, they should start focusing more on national competitions so athletes like seniors Ben Ralston and Matt Frisch could get some exposure and be seen by division one schools.

“Coming from Pennsylvania, the amount of (college) recruiting that is done in Michigan compared to Pennsylvania is a lot lower,” he said. “I remember looking back on my high school chart and seeing seven out of eight kids going to division one schools...the emphasis in Pennsylvania to get these kids out nationally is way stronger and it draws a lot more attention to the sport.”

“Then I’m looking at great wrestlers like Ben Ralston and Matt Frisch, and they are not getting near the attention that some of the kids that placed lower in Pennsylvania are getting,” he added.