The MIAA individual wrestling tourneys kick off with the sectionals on Saturday, Feb. 9. But first, the Massachusetts Wrestling Coaches Association once again will put on the State Dual Meets next weekend.
Since their inception in 2012-13, the duals have gained steam and become some of the most competitive tournaments in the state.
“I don’t think there’s going to be an easy match [in Division 1],” said St. John’s Prep coach Manny Costa, president of the state coaches.
The state duals, however, are not the official MIAA state tournaments. Those will be held Feb. 15-16. The state duals are solely a MWCA event because many coaches enjoy the team competition.
A number of coaches would like that changed.
The format to determine a wrestling state champion has changed twice since the turn of the 21st century. Until the 2005-06 season, state champions were determined by the current format of sectional-qualifying wrestlers scoring team points at the state tournament, in which both individual and team champions are crowned.
That year, the MIAA decided to implement the dual meet system to decide both sectional and state champion, and qualifiers went head-to-head for a title just like any other team sport. The matches lasted just a couple of hours, with the all-day individual tournaments only crowning individual champions and placewinners.
The MIAA voted to return to the original format for the 2012-13 season, which gave birth to the state duals. However, the MIAA would not allow them to determine team state champions.
“I think their reasoning is that [no sport] gets it both ways,” said Chelmsford coach Bruce Rich, who directed the Lions to the 2018 state title.
Coaches have enjoyed the state duals not only for their increased competitiveness, but the energy and enthusiasm the team format brings. A day-long individual tournament with multiple mats and hundreds of wrestlers is difficult to follow.
“The average high school wrestling fan will sit there at an individual tournament and say, ‘What is this? What is the score?” North Andover coach Carl Cincotta said.
Cincotta said he was “the driving force” for bringing back the state duals advocates for making them the official state tournament. North Andover has won Division 2 state titles in both the dual (2011, 2012) and original (2013, 2014, 2017) format.
“It really should be run over two or three days,” he said. “You can rally your team or your school together.”
Franklin coach Carmine Colace, whose Panther squad is the defending champion, agreed.
“Team vs. team, the fans are going to come out to watch it,” Colace said. “They don’t mind going for a two-hour event.”
Wayne Sayers, the head coach for defending Division 3 champion Dedham, has guided the Marauders to a 12-3 dual-meet mark this season. But Dedham is also a tourney squad, with a win at the Belmont Invitational.
“I like the individual tournament format for the kids, but that being said, I have opted to go to the D3 dual meet for the two years I’ve been head coach and it’s a good atmosphere,” Sayers said. “I like them both for different reasons. If I had to pick one myself, I would keep the original.”
Sayers argues that the state duals are good for elite competition, but they favor the teams with the most depth.
“If you have a kid who is a stud wrestler and he’s really the only kid who takes the sport seriously, the dual meet format would definitely hinder them,” he said.
The previous team dual format also lengthened the season for the entire team. The team state finals were held on the same week as the New England tournament in early March, which extended the season for wrestlers who didn’t qualify for individual postseason tournament for almost a month.
Costa, also the coaches’ representative to the MIAA wrestling committee, said the process to again change how a team state champion is recognized would be drawn-out.
He prefers the dual meet format, but does not believe it would reach the MIAA’s Board of Directors for a vote. It would first need to get through the state coaches and the committee.
“The teams that are historically competitive in dual meets, they’re all in favor of making sure your 14th guy can win matches,” Costa said. “There’s a lot of coaches that feel strongly in the dual meets.”
Those feelings, however, may not translate into a change any time soon.
“It’s not an easy topic at the next level,” he said.
Here’s the lowdown on the state duals, scheduled for next Saturday at three sites.
Division 1 (at Franklin High, 8:30 a.m) — 15 teams: Franklin, Springfield Central, Lincoln-Sudbury, St. John’s Prep, Framingham, Shawsheen, Chelmsford, BC High, Lowell, Lawrence, Methuen, Marshfield, Mansfield, Needham, West Springfield, Weymouth
Division 2 (at North Andover, 8 a.m.) — 16 teams: North Andover, North Attleborough, Plymouth South, Dracut, Oliver Ames, Algonquin, Woburn, Beverly, Catholic Memorial, Central Catholic, Masconomet, Danvers, Milford, Nashoba, Arlington, Winchester
Division 3 (at Ashland High, 9:30 a.m.) — 9 teams: Ashland, Dedham, Norton, Holliston, Wayland, Foxborough, Taconic, Melrose, Sabis
■ St. John’s Prep won its astounding 21st consecutive Catholic Conference title on Wednesday with a 72-3 win over Catholic Memorial.
■ Ashland picked up a solid 36-27 win over Tri-Valley League champion Norton on Wednesday. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if they have a rematch at the Division 3 state duals.
Wrestler of the Week
Ryan Garlitz, St. John’s Prep — The senior 138-pounder won his 200th match last Saturday with a 22-second pin. He’s at 207 entering the weekend, with a month remaining in the season.
Meet of the Week
North Attleborough at Foxborough, Wednesday, 7 p.m. — The league title is on the line in this Hockomock Davenport showdown, as the defending Division 2 state champion visits the Division 3 South sectional and state runner-up.
Brandon Chase can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.