Despite failing to meet minimum number requirement, two junior high wrestling programs will likely remain
It appears two Warren County School District junior high wrestling programs that fell well short of minimum participation numbers will not be combined with other programs.
In June, the district enacted minimum team size requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. Teams that did not have the required number sign up during the pre-season online registration period would be combined with other school’s programs.
In the fall, one program — girls junior high basketball at Eisenhower — did not meet the minimum requirement and the program was combined with Beaty-Warren Middle School’s.
Of the four girls that signed up, two played at Beaty, according to Coordinator of District-Wide Athletics Rick Gignac.
The sign-up period for winter sports is over and both the Youngsville and Sheffield junior high wrestling programs failed to meet the required numbers. The guideline for junior high wrestling is 10. Programs with 8 or 9 are on probation.
On Monday, wrestling coaches from both of those areas urged the school board’s Personnel, Athletics, and Co-Curricular Activities Committee not to move the programs.
Youngsville Little Eagle Wrestling Club Head Coach Dave Myers said he is not concerned about the size of the team. There were four students who signed up during the registration period.
“To have a wrestling team, you need two people,” he said.
Sheffield varsity assistant coach Tom Holden said Sheffield’s program will meet the probation number. He said there are five signed up and another three that will be bumped down from varsity because they are “not ready.”
Holden said there were “30-some” elementary wrestlers in the club program last year and about 10 wrestlers are showing up when coaches open the doors for 6 a.m. weightlifting. “I don’t see how moving any program that’s doing that kind of commitment with kids is doing anybody any good,” he said.
“We’re competitive, we’re not forfeiting a lot of weight classes,” Holden said.
He said the junior high program travels with the varsity team, meaning the program costs the district essentially nothing. He said the cost was $175 last year and that that amount would be covered by the community if needed to keep the program.
“We’ll do it for free,” Jared Finch said. “We’re self-funded.”
He said he was told the cost of transporting students from Sheffield to Warren if the programs were combined would be about $500 per week during the season. “The numbers don’t lie. You’re shooting yourselves in the foot.”
Finch said it didn’t make sense for students to participate in Sheffield’s youth program, then travel to Beaty for junior high wrestling, then return to Sheffield for varsity.
“I don’t know how it can even be put in front of the board to get rid of a program like that,” Holden said.
He suggested that district should focus on bringing up participation numbers. “Let’s come together as a county community and figure out how to bring numbers up in sports and in music.”
Myers asked if transportation would be provided both ways for the combined program. Gignac said that transportation to practice was in place but that a determination about a return had not been made.
“That right there would cripple us,” Myers said. “You’d lose all four of them. We will disband and move it down with our elementary program.”
“Don’t strip us of what we’ve got going because it will cripple us all the way to the foundation of what we’re trying to lay,” he said.
School board members had concerns with what effects combining junior high programs would have on varsity programs.
“I don’t like eliminating junior high teams,” board member Marcy Morgan said. “You’re going to kill your varsity programs when you do that.”
“That middle school program, if it dies, it kills the high school program,” Board President Donna Zariczny said.
The current board did ask administration to come up with a plan for handling situations in which a sport had low registration numbers.
A task force was organized to come up with some solutions.
“We had no consensus out of the task force on numbers,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said.
“”In the continuing meetings, there was absolutely no agreement,” board member Mary Passinger said.
“We worked with the athletic directors on numbers that would make up appropriate teams,” Stewart said. “It was our thinking at the time with wrestling that we need bodies of like size to wrestle with.”
“You wanted the rigor,” she said to the board. “You wanted the pairings.”
“It’s not just about the numbers. It’s not just about dollars,” she said. “It’s about the experience.”
“We brought you a procedure because we thought you wanted some specific lines,” Stewart said. “We had a specific sign-up at a specific date. That is what we thought we were supposed to do. That’s what we did.”
According to that policy, the programs should be combined with Beaty’s.
“What you described is exactly what we asked for,” board member Arthur Stewart said. “There’s a lot of gray area here. Maybe while we’re in that gray area… it may be appropriate from time-to-time to tweak that.”
“Junior high wrestling may be one of the places to deviate from the procedure… to stop things from slipping through the cracks,” he said. “I doubt that killing the junior high program is going to achieve… increasing the varsity numbers. I’m open to what may be unique solutions what might be temporary situations.”