PIAA breaks with national federation, mulls dropping wrestling weight class

(Greensburg) Tribune-Review (TNS)
Gettysburg's Montana DeLawder, bottom, wrestles against Dallastown's Zach Luckenbaugh in December. Because of rule changes, male and female wrestlers are expected to take part in the weigh-in procedure together in the same room next season. Dawn J. Sagert photo (Photo: The York Dispatch)

The National Federation of State High School Associations announced 11 rule changes on Tuesday, none involving the reduction of weight classes.

But that was the No. 1 topic discussed Wednesday when the PIAA wrestling steering committee met as a group via Zoom.

The PIAA wresting committee is proposing to cut one weight class for the 2020-2021 season. The proposed weights are 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 172, 189, 215 and 285 — basically eliminating the 182-pound class. Having 13 weight classes will make it easier to break a tie in dual meets.

In addition, many teams throughout the state are having difficulty filling all 14 weight classes.

The PIAA does not have to abide by NFHS recommendations, but typically the state organization follows the lead set by the national group.

The NFHS wrestling rules committee met April 5-6 and recommended the 11 changes for the 2020-21 season. All rules revisions recommended by the committee were approved by the NFHS board of directors.

“These rule changes are some of the most prolific modifications in the history of high school wrestling,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and student services, liaison to the wrestling rules committee and former PIAA executive. “The rules committee made necessary, drastic changes to attract more young people to our sport without sacrificing the health and safety of the participants.”

The main two rule changes involve the weigh-in procedure for all wrestlers (male or female) and the length of hair.

“When they send the release, we usually get the minutes of the meeting,” PIAA executive director Dr. Robert Lombardi said. “The minutes would give us a guide to see if they looked at the weight class reductions we submitted for a pilot program. I thought we’d have more feedback from the federation.

“We discussed the weight classes and other things at our meeting, including how to improve the individual and team tournaments, the brackets, the number of qualifiers a region gets and listen to Pat Tocci, the senior director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, on girls wrestling.”

Weigh-in procedure: There were 229 girls who wrestled in the PIAA this past season according to Lombardi. In previous seasons, female wrestlers had to go to another room to weigh in with a female supervisor. Now girls can wear compression shirts and all wrestlers must wear a singlet so the weigh-in for every wrestler, male and female, can take place in the same room.

“The change to the weighing-in process is remarkably timely, as schools have struggled in the past to identify adult females to weigh in the female wrestlers," Hopkins said. "This action accommodates transgender children as well; it respects their rights and dignity and addresses any modesty concerns for any affected children. We anticipate that the entire weigh-in process will be expedited and more efficient.”

Lombardi said recommendations from Wednesday’s meeting will be voted on at the May 20 PIAA board of control meeting.

Hair rule: The previous hair-length rule stated hair could not extend below the top of an ordinary shirt collar in the back, below the earlobe level on the sides or below the eyebrows in the front, and hair that exceeded those limitations must be covered. It was deleted from the rule book.

While those restrictions were eliminated, the requirement that hair-control devices cannot be hard, abrasive or sharp remains. If a hair cover is used, it must be attached to the ear guards. Additionally, the barring of oils or greasy substances on or in the hair is still in effect.

Shoelaces, stalling and roughness: Shoelaces tied too loosely to cause a stoppage in action and potentially thwart an opponent’s scoring opportunity when the shoe comes off is a technical violation and the injury clock will be started to correct the situation.

If a wrestler, attempting to flee the mat, is taken down or has given up near-fall points, he will not receive a technical violation and be penalized a point.

If a wrestler commits a fourth stalling violation, the match will be stopped and restarted.

A wrestler will be penalized for unnecessary roughness if he pulls an opponent’s hair.

Injuries: The final change was a new article added to Rule 8-2 dealing with injuries. Rule 8-2-9 has been designed to discourage wrestlers from using the “whirlybird” sign, putting an index finger up and making a circle, to request injury time from an official to stop an opponent from scoring.

If the official determines a wrestler would have scored had the injury timeout not taken place, the injured contestant will be charged a timeout and applicable points awarded.