The PIAA has approved a plan by the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association to expand the 16-man brackets for the state wrestling tournament to 20. The move is effective for next season.
In Class AAA the WPIAL will now have four qualifiers, while Class AA, which competes in the Southwest Region tournament with Districts 5 and 6, will have six advance from its regional tournament.
The scheduling for the tournament will remain at three days, but the first two days of the tournament will run later in order to add an extra session.
“There will be no change in the starting times,” said Robert Lombardi, executive director of the PIAA. “It will impact the Thursday session.”
Lombardi said eight medals will still be rewarded.
“This gives for added wrestling,” he said. “It gives more opportunities for wrestlers to move into the state championships.”
Lombardi said with the extra qualifiers the breakdown of the regions goes like this: in Class AAA, Northwest three, Southwest four, Northeast four, Southeast five and Southcentral five. In Class AA, Northwest four, Southwest six, Northeast four and Southeast six.
Lombardi said the new qualifying numbers will remain in place for two seasons, then be evaluated.
“It was a unanimous vote by the steering committee,” Lombardi said.
The proposal was brought to the steering committee by the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association, and it gained final approval at Wednesday’s PIAA board meeting.
“There are so many reasons, but I think foremost is that Pennsylvania wrestling is so strong. We’re the national leader,” said Ron Kanaskie, president of the PIAA Wrestling Steering Committee, told the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
“Pennsylvania is quite comfortable with two classes, but by expanding the brackets it is going to give four more kids an opportunity per weight class. It’s something that we do think is long overdue, but it’s something that is comfortable and can be done now. I applaud the PIAA for such a progressive move.”
The additional wrestlers do not necessarily mean more wrestlers have opporunities to win state titles.
Over the past three seasons, only nine wrestlers won state titles starting from a position that was not first or second in the region and eight were in Class AA. In Class AAA, there has only been one wrestler, 2014 gold medalist Dalton Macri of Canon-McMillan, who was runner-up at 120 in 2013. Macri entered the tournament as the third-place finisher in the WPIAL.
In another move that has implications for the WPIAL, the PIAA approved an appeal by Bethlehem Catholic to move up to Class AAA. The school missed the December cutoff for moving up and appealed to the PIAA, which granted the request at the Wednesday meeting.
That could mean a final dual meet between Bethlehem Catholic and Franklin Regional in February’s PIAA Team Tournament in Hershey. Bethlehem Catholic won the Class AA team title last season and Franklin Regional was the Class AAA champion.