The National Federation of High School Associations has changed the landscape of prep wrestling.
In its meeting April 4-6 in Indianapolis, the NFHS wrestling rules committee voted on several changes.
Among them is the first complete weight-class overhaul in 23 years. Beginning with the 2011-12 season, weight classes are 106 pounds, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.
LaRue County coach Gary Canter said the weight classes are similar to what they were when he wrestled in high school in the 1970s.
“The only thing they’ve done is up that 215 by 5 pounds and push the 189 to 190,” Canter said. “It might encourage more kids that play football to give wrestling a try because it gives them more opportunities and they don’t have to worry about cutting weight.”
The last significant weight class change came in 1988, when the lowest weight class was raised to 103 from 98 pounds. The only other changes came in 2002, when the 215-pound class became mandatory, and in 2006, when the 275 class was bumped to 285.
“The weight class I kind of thought was coming,” Canter said. “I like the fact that they’re moving the lowest weight class up. The only bad thing is it took away one of the middle weight classes, which is typically where you have the most kids wrestling.
“I’m kind of indifferent on it. I can see good things, and I can see bad,” he added. “It hurts the middle weights and helps the upper weights. It works both ways, I guess. Typically most teams have had a harder time filling the upper weights than they have the middle.”
The NFHS said the change “resulted from a three- to four-year process utilizing data from the National Wrestling Coaches Association Optimal Performance Calculator.”
“The rules committee was able to analyze data from almost 200,000 wrestlers across the country, with the goal to create weight classes that have approximately seven percent of the wrestlers in each weight class,” said Dale Pleimann, chair of the NFHS wrestling rules committee and former assistant executive director of the Missouri State High School Activities Association.
“Throughout the process, each state association was kept completely informed and was provided multiple opportunities for input,” he added. “The results of the last survey of each state association indicated that the majority of states favored a change, and the committee listened and acted accordingly.”
Other rules changes could have an even bigger impact on the sport.
The governing body has banned the Figure 4 hold around the head, body and both legs, saying it put the rule in place “to minimize the risk of injury.”
A change to expand the wrestling area was also put into effect. A wrestler is now considered in bounds if he or she is touching the 2-inch-wide line.
Injury timeout rules were also ratified. Rule 8-2-1 says that if the second injury timeout is taken at the conclusion of the second period, and the opponent already has the choice at the beginning of the third period, the opponent would then have the added choice at the first restart after the beginning of the third period.
“Honestly, I don’t even know if that was a rule before. I’d have to look that up,” Central Hardin coach Russ Pike said. “Some of these rules, it depends on where my kid is in the match. I think it’s a good change. It makes a kid think twice about using the injury timeout. I’ve seen that happen so many times.”
Other minor changes — switching the term forfeit to disqualification, and allowing the referee to determine their best position to monitor the clock and wrestlers during injury timeouts — also were adopted.
In all, 18 changes were made. Canter said rules changes happen almost every year, but none have been as significant as this year.
“This year seems to have a lot more changes than normal,” he said. “I don’t see it having a major impact. Everything other than the weight-class changes I wouldn’t consider a major change. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a change. It’s hard to say where they’ll go with it in the future. I’d say they’ll stay with these weights for a few years.”