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Section VI Wrestling 2018-2019: What to Watch For

Another year of high school wrestling in Western New York is upon us. A host of new administrative changes and the departure of a solid senior class set the 2018-2019 season up to be one of exciting and significant change.

As practice officially begins on Monday, November 5th, here is what YOU need to know and look out for this wrestling season.

New BEDS rules cause major shifts in school classification

A major point of discussion across the New York State high school wrestling landscape in recent years has been the combination of schools’ wrestling teams and how to fairly classify them along their respective Basic Educational Data Systems (BEDS) enrollment numbers as recorded by the NYS Department of Education. For years, a combined wrestling team would apply a percentage of the larger schools’ BEDS number to that of the smaller school(s) to formulate a ‘combined’ enrollment number so as to classify that merged team into class AA, A, B, C, or D and either Division 1 (large schools) or Division 2 (small).

Finally, this offseason, NYSPHSAA made changes to that formula. Combined teams will simply take 100% of the smaller schools’ BEDS number (grades 9-11) and add that to the larger schools’ number. However, teams consisting of wrestlers from three or more schools will be classified using a BEDS percentage formula.

The two most notable jumps to large schools from small because of this change are perennial Class B power Olean, who are combined with Allegany-Limestone, and Depew/Cleveland Hill. Both teams will compete in Division 1 Class A for the 2018-2019 season. Akron/Alden, who have been combined for the previous two seasons, as well as East Aurora/Holland, would have been in large schools this season as well but have separated. Alden and Akron will now compete in Division 2 Class C. East Aurora will compete in Class B.

Teams, classes realigned

According to NYSPHSAA, the cutoff for individual sports to be in Division 1 is a BEDS enrollment of 600 or more; 599 and below are in Division 2. The Section uses these parameters and applies them to the participating wrestling schools to determine a teams’ class for the upcoming season.

Beginning with the 2018-2019 season, the number of classes in Section VI goes from five to four as classes C and D will be combined to create a 16-team ‘Class C/D.’ Class B has been realigned to feature a 16-team field as well. The B and C/D tournaments could potentially be conducted over two days.

Ten teams will participate in both Class A and AA. The powerful Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons remain in Class A while they were set to move back to AA. The WSE/WSW merger forced leadership to re-balance the large school classes.

“Tons of mergers, less wrestlers” is one reason for the class realignment and consolidation stated Section VI wrestling co-chairman Mike DeBarbieri. There are ten ‘combined teams’ scheduled to compete in Section VI this season.

According to NYPSHSAA’s BEDS for WNY schools, there are 96 schools, including Buffalo City Schools. Only 68 of those schools will field wrestlers this season on only 52 teams. In addition, it hasn’t been uncommon in recent years to see less than ten total entries out of a possible sixteen-man bracket in the sectional-qualifying class tournaments.

This was a necessary change as enrollments at smaller schools continue to shrink, especially in the southern tier.

State qualifier tournaments reformatted

Beginning with the 2018-2019 season, the number of place winners from the four class tournaments that will qualify for the Division 1 and 2 state qualifier tournaments will be reduced.

Only the top four place winners in each weight class in the AA and A tournaments will be entered in the large school state qualifying tournament to be held at Starpoint HS. It will be an 8-man bracket, double elimination, with placement to 6th place.

The top five place winners from the B and C/D tournaments will advance to the Division 2 state qualifier at Lake Shore HS. This is also a double elimination tournament wrestled to 6th place.

Class tournament ‘extras’ redefined

New for 2018-2019, the Section has issued new rules on the ‘extras’ that teams are allowed to enter in class tournaments.

Each team is allowed, by rule, to enter up to two additional wrestlers, but only two per weight class in the post season class tournaments for a maximum of fifteen entries into the tournament. This is commonly referred to as ‘double entries.’

“We’ve been looking to make this more beneficial for everybody” stated Mr. DeBarbieri of the rule change. “We’re just trying to make it better…I think this will make it better, more competitive.”

The Section has decided, according to the ‘2018-2019 Wrestling Handbook,’ “If two wrestlers are entered in the same weight class, they must both have a .600 win/loss record or better. To be eligible for sectional or state competition, contestants in individual sports must have represented their school in six scheduled contests.” The second portion is standard to all NYSPHSAA participating schools.

Essentially, if a coach intends on double entering a weight class in the wrestling post season, it will be required of that coach to secure competitions for any wrestlers throughout the season, and, “prior to the conclusion of the team’s regular season.”

State representative ‘wildcard’ formula revised

Section IX wrestling chairman Jeff Cuilty proposed a new formula to help determine statewide ‘wildcard’ selections that fill out the state tournament brackets to be complete 16-man brackets.

In 2017-2018, Section VI big schools sent the most ‘wildcards,’ (otherwise known as ‘at-large’ entries) to Albany than in any previous year in Section VI. Small schools sent more wildcards to the state tournament than any other section. The wildcard entries are sent in addition to the fifteen big school and small school weight class winners.

This new formula takes into consideration an overall winning percentage (minimum twenty individual bouts wrestled) to determine the wildcard ‘points’ a wrestler has earned.

Mr. Cuilty’s formula, in practice, might cut down on ‘point chasing’ and racking up a high number of individual bouts during the course of a season (some wrestlers in recent years have recorded 60 or more bouts in a season). Also, this formula may benefit wrestlers recovering from injury, and those recovering from the mental and physical strains of the season, as well wrestlers who are unable to compete as often as some due to schedule restrictions of individual schools. Many wrestlers might miss out on matches where few qualified teams or individuals only are competing like at the state dual meet tournament. This formula could help those wrestlers as well.

12 Section VI champions have graduated, 18 return

At least six new individual sectional champions in both large and small schools will be crowned this winter as 40% of the 2017-2018 Division 1 and 2 champions have graduated. Nine returning champions and a host of wildcards return in both divisions.

Small school league dual streaks on the line

Falconer – has won seven straight Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association (CCAA) Division 1 titles. The Golden Falcons are 41-1 in league duals going back to the 2011-2012 season.

Randolph – has won three straight CCAA Div. 2 titles. The Cardinals are 18-0 on the current league win streak.

Pioneer – undefeated in league duals for the fifth straight year. The Panthers are 37-0 over that time with three ECIC Div. III league titles and two ECIC Div. II titles.

Newfane – the Panthers under first year head coach Miguel Pereira pushed their Niagara-Orleans league title streak to five straight last season while boasting a 25-0 league record in that time. The Panthers will be led by a new head coach in 2018-2019.

Section VI Dual Meet Championship

The first two Section VI Dual Meet tournaments have featured four different championship teams. Niagara-Wheatfield was the large school champion in 2016-2017 while Pioneer won the small school title.

Last season, Lancaster added a dual meet tournament title to the record books with a large school championship and Falconer won their programs’ first small school dual meet title. And, Lancaster and Falconer represented the section at the first ever NYSPHSAA Dual Meet Championship in Syracuse.

Will Wheatfield or Pioneer reclaim the team titles this season? Will Lancaster and Falconer defend theirs? Or, will a new team capture its first ever Section VI Dual Meet championship?

McDougald trio eyeing state championships

The McDougald trio of Justin, Warren, and Willie McDougald are no strangers to the pressure and bright lights at the state tournament in Albany. Brothers Justin and Warren of Niagara-Wheatfield are cousins with Willie, who wrestles at Niagara Falls. Willie, the defending NYS large school champion, became the first Section VI large school state champion in six seasons.

Between the cousins, they boast six place finishes at the state tournament. Willie of course is the defending champion. He also has a sixth place finish from 2017. Justin has two second place finishes as he has made it to the state final in 2017 and 2018 only to meet top 5 nationally ranked wrestlers in each finale. Warren placed sixth in 2017 and took third in 2018 after storming through the wrestlebacks in one of the tournaments’ most impressive and gutsiest performances.

While Justin and Willie are both juniors, this will be Warren’s last chance at a state title as he’ll graduate in the spring.

We could very well see not one, not two, but possibly three McDougald’s standing at the top of the podium in Albany in February 2019.

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