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State duals could be a good thing if everyone gets behind it

By JAMIE BAKER
Ok, it’s time for everyone to get on the same page.
As the saying goes people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Well, sometimes a well-placed stone is just what’s needed. See David vs. Goliath.
There were 33 withdrawals from the OHSAA dual meet tournament team tournament in the past week.
Some I understand, some small schools just can’t put eight wrestlers on the mat. I can understand that.
It’s the big schools I don’t get.
Yes, I’m looking at you Toledo St. John’s, Sylvania Northview, Springfield and the rest of the NLL schools that declined to participate in the event.
If you have enough kids and decide to opt out, you are doing your wrestlers and program and sport as a whole a disservice.
This state dual meet team tournament can be a good thing for Ohio high school wrestling but only if everyone gets on the same page and gets behind it.
Wrestling has changed dramatically since I first got involved with the sport in the early 1980s.
Back then you wrestled a little in spring at some opens, you went to camp for a week at someplace like Clarion or Michigan and that was the extent of your offseason regimen.
Then, it was time to prepare for football, cross country or whatever fall sport you decided to play.
Now wrestling is a year-round endeavor for those athletes striving to become Ohio high school state champs. Not saying it’s bad because that’s just the way it has to be at this point in time if you want to be one of the elite.
But in all of the changes, many schools, programs and coaches have lost focus. It’s been all about catering to top-level individuals and less and less about developing a team which was much more important in the 70s, 80s and even the early 90s when dual meets were still in vogue.
Personally, as a coach, and I did it for probably 16 or 17 years, I would much rather have a team of 25 average wrestlers, with a few sprinkled in with a shot at going to state and placing than a team of six with four state champs.
Participation or trying to build participation, in a day and age of video games, cars, iPods and other things in a kid’s life that draws him or her away from athletics should be the focus.
Wrestling is a tough sport, it’s you out there alone. The season is long, practices are a grind. There’s a lot of reasons for kids not to get involved. Those who follow, coach and love the sport should be looking for ways to get kids involved.
Which brings me back to the concept of the OHSAA team tournament.
This is an event where you don’t have to be an elite wrestler to contribute to your team’s success. A kid can be a sub-.500 wrestler, spring an upset pin or win by forfeit at your weight class and be the difference as to whether a team wins a crucial dual meet on the tournament trail.
The team tournament is a great way and reason to build a wrestling TEAM. And maybe by finally shifting the sports focus in Ohio away from the individual angle a bit and back on the team, more kids can get involved and will get to experience and understand why many of us love and enjoy it so much.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments…