Deny PIAA's Weight Class Reduction Proposal- Decreases Opportunities & Endangers Wrestlers

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Save Thousands of PA High School Wrestlers from Losing Their Chance to Compete in The Sport!

PIAA is attempting to change the number of PA high school wrestling weight classes from 14 to 13 by eliminating one wrestler from high school line-ups (which would primarily affect the current 170, 182, 195-pound weight classes and eliminate one wrestler from competing for each team every year). They are trying to reduce those 4 weight classes to these three 172, 189, and 215-pounds eliminating one wrestler from the line-up for every team.

The PIAA’s proposal will deprive thousands of wrestlers from a chance to compete in the sport.  If this proposal were to succeed it would eliminate an entire class of wrestlers that do not contribute to higher forfeiture rates or decreased fan participation. We are trying to prevent the PIAA’s proposal in order to safeguard the competitive and inclusive nature of high school wrestling as well as keep wrestlers safe from unnecessary health risks.

Especially in this current time, when the Coronavirus pandemic has already caused depression and anxiety for students, eliminating a weight class and forcing weight change challenges on student wrestlers is unconscionable.  At a time when parents are already worried about their children and school athletic participation, any change threatening to increase health and safety risks should be postponed.

Thank you in advance for spreading the word, supporting fellow wrestlers and signing this petition!

If you have a student athlete being impacted by the reduction of this weight class, please email us at save182@yahoo.com or call us at (888) 253-2971. We will add your student athlete to the list of athletes that could be substantially impacted unfairly.

PETITION

This petition is presented on behalf of members of the wrestling community whose discontent and concern with the PIAA’s continued efforts to modify existing weight classes. Those who support this petition believe PIAA’s efforts will have a negative impact on the participation rate, safety, and competitiveness in Pennsylvania wrestling. We are pleased that PIAA decided against eliminating the lowest weight class after members of the wrestling community, like us, worked to achieve that decision. We are also encouraged that PIAA appears to be open to continuing to hear and respond to the concerns of fans, families, and advocates. Despite the partial success of this recent decision, the burden of elimination has shifted, and now the 182-pound weight class faces the chopping block. This is a very popular weight class. It is well-established and laudable that the PIAA is interested in making changes that will decrease the number of forfeitures and increase the availability of wrestling to more members of the community. However, these efforts would not be accomplished by outright elimination of one of the most competitive weight classes. We, as the advocates of this petition, are most interested in maintaining the sanctity of wrestling in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and respectfully request that when the PIAA votes on June 15 to decrease the number of wrestling classes that they say “no” to this misguided effort, an effort that will clearly not benefit the sport of wrestling and will increase the risk of injury and reduce the opportunity to compete in the sport for many student athletes.

Contrary to the purposes of the PIAA in encouraging participation in wrestling, the elimination of the current 182-pound weight class will discourage student athletes and limit such participation. Further, it will have a cascading effect on all weight classes by causing larger wrestlers to lose weight to compete at lower weight levels and smaller wrestlers to move up which causes serious health and safety issues.

It goes without saying that wrestling at any level is a broadly inclusive sport, one that not only involves the wrestlers themselves but their friends, their families, their schoolmates and in many cases their entire community. Every individual from every walk of life who participates in and follows Pennsylvania’s scholastic wrestling programs can appreciate and admire the fire and intensity displayed by wrestlers and channel it into something that benefits everyone physically, mentally, and spiritually. This coincides with the very nature of all high school sports organized by the PIAA, where everyone can participate and be a member of a group of dedicated, hard-working student athletes. In fact, the PIAA’s primary purpose is to “promote and support the educational values of interscholastic athletics and the high ideals of good sportsmanship.” PIAA Constitution and Bylaws Section 1, Article II(A). Under the current proposal, the PIAA is understandably attempting to increase community enjoyment and support of wrestling by decreasing the number of forfeitures and increase the intensity of each bout. Unfortunately, their chosen path risks the isolation of an entire group of heavier weight classes, which already contain some of the most compelling matches at each meet and some of the lowest percentages of forfeitures. Their proposed solution discriminates against older athletes at the heavier weight classes (who have less time in their high school athletic career to participate). The PIAA seems to have blindly focus on the elimination of the 182-pound weight class which achieves nothing to address the majority of forfeits that occur at the lower weight classes (where the younger athletes typically compete). We are not advocating to eliminate any weight class, even the lower weight classes. However, the PIAA should not implement a proposal that is not fair to all weight classes and discriminates against the larger sized athlete. There has to be a more innovative solution in the scoring system to truly address the forfeiture issue at all weight classes while still maximizing competition opportunities for all athletes involved.

ALTERING THE HEAVIER CLASSES DOES NOT ACCOMPLISH THE PIAA’S STATED OBJECTIVE
As mentioned, the PIAA began these proposals as an effort to decrease the number of forfeitures in dual meets. This goal was directly achieved by eliminating the lowest weight class, 106 pounds, which had a roughly 50% forfeiture rate, and replace it with a 110-pound class. With the 106-pound elimination no longer on the table the proposal now only attempts to stymie the amount of forfeitures of the 182-pound class, which most recently stood at 30%, one of the lowest levels of forfeiture among the classes. A review of news articles on this subject illustrates that most teams are able to fill the 182-pound gap in a line-up with at least one wrestler and it is often a high school student attracted to wrestling from another sport like football, basketball, or lacrosse. With many of these students denied their regular sports seasons due to the complications with the Coronavirus, even more will be looking to fulfill their sports needs through wrestling but will likely not be able to, given the poor timing of this proposal.

When considering the proposed change in light of the current health crisis and its effects on high school sports participation and attendance, the PIAA can no longer reasonably argue that their proposal is a legitimate attempt to address the number of forfeitures. The proposal, if enacted, would directly eliminate a weight class with one of the lowest forfeiture rates while leaving in place several other weight classes with much higher forfeit rates. That alone is a reason to either vote against the proposal, or table it indefinitely. Further, as compared to the 182-pound weight class, others have significantly more forfeitures. The 106 and the 113 pound classes had roughly a 50% forfeiture rate and the 120 and 285 pound classes had roughly a 40% forfeiture rates. All of these are significantly higher than the 182-pound forfeiture rate. The PIAA’s current proposal would eliminate one size athlete’s ability to compete while not directly impacting the forfeiture issue in a way that is based upon the actual statistics surrounding the proposed elimination of the 182 pound weight class. The PIAA should go back to the drawing Board and try to design a solution that does not discriminate against an age or size of athlete and truly addresses the forfeiture issue at all weight classes, while striving to maximize competitive opportunities to all. The current proposals will surely shrink the number of athletes competing in the sport of wrestling in PA.

HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH FORCED ADAPTATION TO A NEW WEIGHT CLASS
It is a common belief among those who don’t closely follow the wrestling community that seemingly drastic weight changes are frequent among wrestlers, especially within the days and weeks leading up to a weigh-in. However, the weight changes are never more than a few pounds, and much of the loss is caused by efforts to shed water weight to meet the requirement of the participant’s weight class. But under the current proposal, wrestlers seeking to adapt to a new weight class would be required to make drastic changes. For example, a 182 pound wrestler would have to lose 10 pounds to compete in the next lowest weight class, 172-pounds. To look at it another way, that means that a developing high school 182-pound wrestler would have to lose over 5% of their body weight to participate at a competitive level. This may not seem like a lot, in terms of weight or percentage loss, but sports medicine scientists have expressed concerns about wrestlers losing only 1.5% of their body mass during periods of weight descent. (Weight Management in Amateur Wrestling Sports Health. 2009 May; 1(3): 227-230). The other alternative is to attempt to gain 7 pounds and compete in the 189-pound class with wrestlers who are more accustomed to that weight and inherently have more muscle from pre-weigh-in cuts rather than pre-weigh-in bulk. Failing to gain that weight before a bout would match significantly lighter wrestlers against heavier opponents, exacerbating already common Ulnar Collateral Ligament tears, Anterior Collateral Ligament tears, and other hard muscle tears seen in wrestling. It will also cause many athletes to lift weights and/or workout excessively in order to gain or lose weight, thus potentially causing injury. This may also increase the use or temptation to use potentially harmful supplements and may encourage the use of steroids or other illegal substances in the attempt to gain weight to compete at the higher weight class...

If the PIAA eliminates the 182-weight class, many wrestlers throughout PA will be pushed to the limits to try and get a starting spot in many cases trying to gain massive weight and in other cases losing massive amounts of weight to gain a starting spot. Many wrestles formerly who wrestle at 170, 182, 195, and or even 220 will be pushed to drastic measures to try and make a starting spot. One of these athletes will be eliminated from the line-up and their chance to compete. Wrestling is known as a family sport and many families have spent a lifetime preparing the student athletes for an opportunity to compete that is being stripped away from their child in the heavier weight classes. So, it is only probable that many student athletes will be taking drastic measures to try to keep a starting spot which means becoming obese, dehydrated, and/or anemic in many cases.

Navigating this physically detrimental maze is completely out of touch with the PIAA’s stated purpose enumerated in its Constitution and Bylaws. Article II Section 1(C) reads that the purpose of the PIAA is “[t]o promote and support safe and healthy interscholastic athletic competition.” Further on, Article V of the regulation reads that “While injuries are an inherent risk of any physical activity, and the avoidance of all illnesses is not realistic, PIAA believes that the risk of such injuries and illnesses can be minimized through proper Coaching, training, and supervision.” In what way does subjecting the 182-pound wrestler to drastic weight alterations or to larger and stronger opponents promote safe and healthy competition? In what way does it minimize the risk of injuries that are already commonplace among wrestlers of all weight classes? It does not. The current proposal seems to promote the polar opposite of the intended goals set forth in the PIAA Constitution, Bylaws and Regulations.

Another health risk which would attend a 182-pound wrestler’s efforts to cut-weight to make the 172-pound class is hypohydration. The Sports Medicine Advisory Committee’s concern about hypohydration is common knowledge. Hypohydration is a negative sodium balance in the body that results from starving the body of water to cut weight. (PIAA Sports Medicine Guidelines, Handbook Section IV). Hypohydration would be a major concern for those 182-pound wrestlers attempting to cut down to the 172-pound class, or the 195-pound wrestler attempting to get down to the 189-pound class. The PIAA Sports Medicine Guidelines even go far as to say that “There are no valid reasons for subjecting the student-athlete's body to a hypohydrated state, because of the variety of adverse physiological effects and possible pathology that accompany hypohydration.” In other words, the PIAA itself has regulations that state the dangers of cutting the weight necessary to jump to significantly lower classes.

Furthermore, the PIAA has made health and safety a Commonwealth standard across all sports as evidenced by its consideration in nearly every section of the PIAA Handbook. The Constitution and Bylaws Code of Ethics reads “[t]o organize, develop, and direct interscholastic athletic competition by and between PIAA member schools which will promote, protect, and conserve the health and physical welfare of all participants” (Handbook Section 1). The PIAA Policies and Procedures reads that “The purpose of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is to promote the health and safety of the interscholastic athletes by providing advice to the PIAA Board of Directors” (Handbook Section II). The current PIAA proposal appears to be tone-deaf to the very rules and regulations that guide PIAA procedure and practice. Subjecting even a small number of wrestlers to a significant risk of physical injury or unhealthy dieting practices is an improper use of PIAA’s regulatory authority.

The NFHS Wrestling Rules Book warns against wrestling in higher or lower weight classes as a dangerous and therefore unacceptable risk of injury.

Medical professionals have also expressed concern about weight cycling in combat sports. This is when wrestlers alter their weight significantly before a match, fight at the event, and then revert to their normal weight. Evidence shows that weight cycling during adolescence can be a major issue and can lead to hormone imbalances, increased rates of obesity, and other growth and development issues. Weight Cycling of Athletes and Subsequent Weight Gain in Middle Age, International Journal Obesity (London) 2006 Nov; 30(11): 1639-44. It follows that there is an increased risk of these ailments when wrestlers have to gain or lose greater amounts of weight. These issues are in conjunction with the already unhealthy weight loss practices common in the wrestling community, which lead to increased acute cardiovascular issues, increase risk of stroke and heart disease caused by increased blood viscosity. The Current State of Weight-Cutting in Combat Sports, Sports (Basel). 2019 May; 7(5): 123. The PIAA’s proposal would exacerbate these issues by removing the 182-pound class and significantly increasing the gap between adjacent weight classes. As the classes stand, there is a 12-pound difference between the 170-pound and 182-pound classes and 13-pound difference between the 195 and 182-pouond classes. Under the PIAA’s proposed changes there would be a 17-pound disparity between the comparable weight classes (172 and 189). Not only would the proposal increase the amount of weight that wrestlers in this category would need to gain or lose to compete, but it would also exponentially increase the dangers of weight cycling.

The elimination of the 182-pound weight class creates a substantial health concern due to the weight disparity between weight classes. However, it is not just the 17-pound disparity between the 172 and the 189-weight class, but a much greater disparity that will surely occur of up to a 42-pound disparity at times. PA high school coaches regularly bump up wrestlers to a higher weight class in an attempt to win matches through strategy. It is more than plausible that a wrestle weighing in the around 161 pounds and entered into the 172-pound weight class would be bumped up to wrestle against the 189-pound wrestler creating a large disparity of up to 28 pounds. Another scenario can happen where a 173-pound wrestler is entered at the 189-pound weight class but bumped up to the 215-pound weight class creating a 42-pound disparity. These scenarios will surely happen at times as coaches implement strategy and bump wrestlers up a weight class. It is certain that serious injuries will occur with the increased disparities that can and will occur with the new proposed weight classes.

The current PIAA proposal to make such a drastic change to the wrestling weight classes goes against every health and safety concern that it has enumerated in its bylaws, guidelines, and general regulations, all for the purpose of decreasing forfeit percentages. Personally, we would all rather see a healthy wrestling team forfeit a few classes than watch team members be forced into unnatural or extreme efforts as dangerously dehydrated or overweight and under-conditioned wrestlers.

We, as wrestlers, do not want to be subjected to these risks. Any of us will tell you about the difficulty of going into a bout dehydrated on those occasions we have been overzealous in our weight cutting practices, even when it was within appropriate guidelines. To force an even more extreme adaptation would be unhealthy to these wrestlers, and it would certainly not promote safe and exciting matches.

NFHS DOES NOT INCLUDE WEIGHT CLASS CHANGES IN 2020-2021 WRESTLING RULE CHANGES
On April 28, 2020, the National Federation of State High Schools (NFHS), the organization that oversees the PIAA, released its 2020-2021 guidelines and rule changes. This announcement is a landmark year for the NFHS and many of the coming changes are controversial, such as the lifting of hair-length restrictions or discouraging wrestlers from taking injury time as an attempt to stop an opponent from scoring. Proponents of the proposed PIAA weight class changes believed that their proposed changes would be included in NFHS publication, however, it was notably absent. The reason for its absence? The NFHS does not agree with the PIAA’s choice to move forward with the proposal. At no point has the NFHS endorsed the PIAA’s proposal and with these recent rule changes, the NFHS has actively indicated their disinterest in pursuing it.

On April 29, the very next day, the PIAA Steering Committee announced that it would be moving forward with the 13-class proposal, which will be considered on June 15. The Steering Committee reasoned that under current NFHS classes, only three weight classes (182, 195, 220) would have to adjust their weight descent plans. What they failed to mention is that many of those changes would require wrestlers to lose roughly 10 pounds, which promotes the host of health issues already illustrated. Beyond this, the PIAA Rules & Regulations reads the PIAA will “[a]dopt the 2019-2020 NFHS Wrestling Rules Book, which includes the following 14 weight classes: 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220, and 285.” If the PIAA fails to adopt the NFHS wrestling rules in their entirety, then the PIAA is acting on its own, on contravention of the experience, scope, and guidance of its national oversight organization.

Significantly, PIAA’s proposal was not adopted by the NFHS in its most recent rule changes despite PIAA’s request. Certainly, this confirms that the elimination of the 182 pound weight class will only lead to wrestlers being injured, or turned away from the sport entirely.

WRESTLERS WILL HAVE TO CHANGE WEIGHTS: DECREASING THE COMPETITIVE NATURE OF EXISTING LEAGUES
Pennsylvania has always been a wrestling powerhouse, boasting one of the best NCAA feeder programs in the country, with over 53 Pennsylvania natives qualifying for the 2018 NCAA National Tournament in Pittsburgh. The success of the present-day programs indicates that Pennsylvania’s legacy will continue. (Papowerwrestling.com/53-pennsylvania-natives-qualify-for-the-ncaa-national-torunament-in-pittsburgh/). Much of the skill of PA wrestlers comes from talented coaching staff, creative practice formats, and state-wide appreciation for and support of the sport. However, a considerable amount of wrestlers’ knowledge is acquired not only from practice but from the matches and meets that they participate in, and the diversity and variety of opponents that they face.

Pennsylvania has traditionally hosted many out-of-state high school wrestling programs in an effort to broaden the range of opponents that local wrestlers can face. The PIAA’s proposal would drastically limit this practice or eliminate it altogether. 23 States currently follow the NFHS weight class guidelines to the letter and Pennsylvania is currently one of them. Others include Ohio, Delaware, and New Jersey. Many of these other states consistently have wrestlers come to matches in Pennsylvania or host events where Pennsylvanian wrestlers participate. This will make Pennsylvania a second-class wrestling state, rather than its current first class status.

With the passage of the current proposal, Pennsylvania would be the only state in this coalition that does not have a 182-pound class and the only state with the additional proposed changes. Therefore, other states’ programs will be significantly disinclined to come into Pennsylvania, or even invite Pennsylvania wrestlers to their meets, when their wrestlers will either have to completely alter their traditional weight classes or forfeit competition in those classes. Additionally, programs that opt into inter-state bouts face the potential for wrestlers to be forced to engage in the same dangerous weight-alteration behaviors previously described. The PIAA has traditionally made efforts to foster positive relationships among Pennsylvania and adjacent states, all for the betterment of the interscholastic sports leagues. This proposal will only negatively affect Pennsylvania’s relationship with neighboring states. This will not just hurt the wrestlers that will have to change weight classes, but each and every wrestler who is denied the opportunity to face opponents from other states that they would otherwise have the opportunity to wrestle. This will have a serious adverse effect on interstate competition.

THE PIAA’S PROPOSAL IS IMPROPER AND SHOULD BE VOTED DOWN ON JUNE 15
To take competitive opportunities away from high school wrestlers and to risk their health and well-being simply to heighten a sense of constant competition is simply wrong. The PIAA’s proposal does nothing to help or protect the one class of all those involved that is most directly affected - the wrestlers themselves. It is still unclear why the PIAA is so adamant about this proposal when it takes away competitive opportunities previously afforded to the student athletes and does little, if anything, to benefit the sport as a whole. As stated, the current proposal is not supported by the PIAA’s own constitution, bylaws, regulations, or rules handbook, all of which place the health and safety of the student athletes above all else. Additionally, and most importantly, there is no reason to deny high school wrestlers a relatively safe wrestling environment. There is no reason to deny them the competitive opportunities that their predecessors were given and that the national oversight body still supports. And there is no reason that an entire class of wrestlers needs to be removed from the existing weight class structure to serve nothing more than the appearance of competition rather than competition itself.

Why does the PIAA, an organization designed and operated to promote safe, health, and compelling competition among all groups of young athletes, desire to advance a proposal that would force the wrestling community to move backwards? It is unreasonable and irresponsible for the PIAA to move forward with its proposal, and we believe that the PIAA Steering Committee should act to prevent the errors built into the current proposal to eliminate the 182-pound weight class.

In closing, please join us in signing this petition, of the PIAA, to stop the inappropriate elimination of the 182 pound weight class or any current weight class in PA High School wrestling.

If you have a student athlete being impacted by the reduction of this weight class, please email us at Save182@yahoo.com or call us at (888) 253-2971.