PIAA discusses prep workouts, wrestling weight classes, national guidelines, other topics

PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi.

The PIAA board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to give its executive director, Bob Lombardi, the authority to permit offseason sports workouts before the association’s July 1 suspension date — provided a county is given permission by the governor’s office to do so.

The board voted on April 9 to cancel the remaining state basketball and swimming championships and the entire spring season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, it also prohibited any sports activities until July 1.

Now, schools which enter the green phase before July 1 under Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to reopen the state will be allowed to start athletic activities with Lombardi’s approval. No counties are in the green phase and several remain in the red phase, which includes a stay-at-home order.

York County entered the yellow phase on Friday.

The vote came at the end of a virtual meeting that lasted more than four hours. Also, District 2 chairman Frank Majikes was elected the president of the board. He served as the vice president for several years.

“I think the board gets a bad rap that they don’t care,” Lombardi said. “And you saw and heard how committed they are to get kids to do what they like to do — play athletics. That’s why this scenario of the last eight weeks has been so gut-wrenching for all of us, including you folks.”

The first official day of fall sports is Aug. 17. However, many teams conduct voluntary workouts throughout the summer. Lombardi said he’s cautiously optimistic there will be a fall high school season.

Wrestling weight classes: One more checkpoint was reached in the PIAA’s effort to tweak the weight-class structure in high school wrestling.

The PIAA passed on a first-reading basis the wrestling steering committee’s proposal to reduce the number of weight classes from 14 to 13 beginning in the 2020-21 season. A few steps still remain before any change goes into effect.

The proposal will be referred to the PIAA Sport Medicine Advisory Committee for its consideration and recommendations. From there, the board will consider any recommendations given from the committee.

A date for the Sport Medicine Advisory Committee’s next meeting has not yet been scheduled, though it’s expected to take place in June before the next PIAA board meeting.

If the proposal continues smoothly through the approval process, next season will be the first time wrestlers compete in new weight classes since 2012, when most of the 14 weight classes were adjusted slightly. Since then, meets were wrestled at 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285 pounds.

Now, though, the PIAA is hoping to shrink the number of forfeited bouts with its latest proposal, which aims to turn the weights between 170-220 into three classes: 172, 189 and 215.

The PIAA’s wrestling steering committee went ahead with its own proposal in April, one day after the National Federation of State High School Associations chose not to make any weight class rules changes for the upcoming academic year.

Not ready to endorse national guidelines: Lombardi said the PIAA isn’t ready to endorse the return-to-sports guidelines issued Tuesday by the NFHS.

The lengthy NFHS guidelines cover everything from pre-workout screening, limitations on gathering sizes, requirements for cleaning facilities, the safe use of athletic equipment and athlete hydration. The guide was written to help states reopen high school athletic programs closed by the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of detail in there and there’s some things that I think are very questionable,” Lombardi said. “I think it really needs to go to (the PIAA) sports medicine (committee) before anyone else.”

Stricter DQ rules: The board passed the second reading of the supplemental disqualification rule. Any coach, player or official using of vulgar language or having physical contact will be ejected from the game and then suspended an additional two games.

The current rule is an ejection results in a one-game suspension. The supplemental rule would augment that rule in addressing language and physical contact.

“Soccer is always the highest and they had over 400 this year,” said Lombardi, who added there were about 250 ejections for football this past season.

The supplemental disqualification rule needs to pass a third reading to become official.

Mercy rule change: The board passed unanimously a recommendation from the basketball steering committee to change the points required to implement the mercy rule from 40 to 30.

Once a team leads by 30 points in the second half, a running clock will be used except for timeouts, injuries or change of the quarter. The rule remains in effect even if the deficit dips below 30 points.

Same tees in postseason: The board passed on the third and final reading that female golfers playing in boys’ individual postseason competitions are required to use the same set of tees and play the same yardage as boys.

The change does not affect team competitions. The recommendation from the golf steering committee passed unanimously.