#AskNWW Wrestling Q&A: Fixing tournament assignments, my Mount Rushmore and more …

Well, we made it to Week 2 of #AskNWW Wrestling Q&A.

If you missed out on the inaugural installment, you can view it here.

I want to extend my sincerest thanks to all of you who continue to read and engage with my content. None of this would be possible (or fun) without you.

With your help, we doubled the number of questions from the last time around.

As a reminder, you can submit your questions any time by tweeting using hashtag #AskNWW or by emailing me at nwwrestle@gmail.com

Now that everything else is out of the way, let’s get to your questions .

From Mike Koel (via Twitter):

Nate, if you were the WIAA wrestling czar for a day, how would you deal with the Northeast Wisconsin D2 sectional with No. 1 ranked Wrightstown, four of the top-6 ranked teams (not including the defending champ Freedom) where only one team can represent the region?

Great to hear from you, Mike. I know you have been a long-time follower and I appreciate your level of engagement.

This is a great question.

I am going to over-simplify here. (It’s my right as czar, after all). Personally, I would re-seed team sectionals following regionals and proceed from there.

So, in Division 2, you have 16 regional champs. Get all 16 coaches together and have a seeding meeting (very similar to football playoff meetings or regional seeding meetings in many other sports). Have a conference call, webinar, meet in person at a centralized location, whatever. Everyone gets to make their case. Then build the team sectional brackets through a voting process.

No. 1 hosts and faces No. 16 in the semis. Nos. 8 and 9 are on the other side of the bracket at the same location. Winners wrestle for a trip to State.

Continue the seeding from there, with the top seed in each grouping of four hosting.

To me, that’s the option most likely to consistently divide the talent proportionately across team sectionals on a year-over-year basis.

Is this good for travel considerations of student-athletes on a school night? In some cases, no. But that’s part of how the WIAA does things now and plenty of people seem to take issue with it. In my book, we can’t have it both ways.

Oh, and one note of caution when it comes to seeding: it doesn’t fix everything.

When most people cry out for seeding (particularly as it pertains to state tournament wrestling) they are actually asking for someone (or some computer) to seed the tournament the way they feel it should be done.

But the fact is: there is no method of seeding that will make everyone happy. Look at the WIAA football playoffs, they seed the whole freaking thing and folks constantly complain about their school getting hosed.

Coaches sometimes collude or have flat-out bad judgment when making seeding decisions. Many times coaches, who spend their lives immersed in the sport, see things differently than the average fan or parent. Wrestling is not and will not be immune to this, should seeding be utilized more broadly.

Does this mean we shouldn’t try it? Heck no. But we all need to be aware that seeding is not the silver bullet it is often made out to be.

From Brian Walters (via Twitter)

Why won’t the WIAA make simple, common sense changes to the D2 sectionals to balance them out better? Their changes to the Northeast regionals actually exacerbated the problem, making that sectional tougher. The issue was the drastic imbalance between the Northeast and the very weak Southeast sectionals.

Hey Brian, great to hear from you. Appreciate you following along, reading, and being willing to chime-in on the Q&A.

You and Mike are on similar wavelengths this week.

I cannot speak on behalf of the WIAA (and they probably wouldn’t like it very much if I could/did), but I will take a stab at what they might be thinking.

In my mind, the WIAA tries to be extremely calculated about when they do or do not intervene in perceived competitive balance issues. There’s a fine line to walk here.

If the WIAA acts too often on such matters, schools and programs will constantly come whining about needing to be moved to different regionals, sectionals, conferences, etc., at the drop of hat. It’s a pretty slippery slope. All of a sudden the WIAA would spend more time doing that than governing other matters they deem more important or impactful.

However if the WIAA doesn’t do enough when it comes to these situations, they lose credibility and these things can spiral out of control.

The other factor is that, with the inherent turnover of athletes in high school programs, making lasting changes that will still hold up even a few years down the line is difficult.

Yes, there are a handful of programs that are generally elite on a year-in-year-out basis. But those are the exception, not the rule.

And while it may seem like forever when a program you care about is stuck in a situation like this, the balance eventually shifts.

The schools in question here aren’t the first to experience this and they won’t be the last. I agree that it is unfortunate and I think this can be fixed, at least partially (see above). But sometimes, I think the WIAA relies heavily upon the pendulum eventually swinging the other way and uses that as a justification for inaction.

From @CityWrestle (via Twitter): 

What is the high school tournament you’re looking forward to most in Wisconsin

Thanks for the question. This one is easy: The Cheesehead Invitational in Kaukauna.

It’s my favorite tournament of the year. I affectionately refer to it as the crown jewel of Wisconsin wrestling.

Nationally-ranked teams and wrestlers. Division 1 college recruits. Many of Wisconsin’s top programs.

Add all of that to the fact that this event is incredibly well-run and you have yourself a winner.

I believe the sport has come a long way in our state. But Cheesehead gives fans here a little taste of how insanely tough high school wrestling is around the country.

If you love wrestling. Or even if you just like it a little bit, you need to add this tournament to your bucket list. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

From Steve Clark (via Twitter)

Who is on your Mount Rushmore for wrestling programs in Wisconsin?

Hi Steve, thanks for this fabulous question and thank you so much for all your support over the years.

I had a ton of fun thinking through this one. It’s tough. I wish I had one or even two more spots on this mountain, but hey. Here are my four (in no particular order):

  • Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln – 21 Team State titles, the most of any school. Having 44 individual state champs is nothing to shake a stick at, either.


  • Stoughton – How can you not put the school with the most individual champions on this list? Fifty-one is a huge number. The Vikings are also enjoying a renaissance of sorts on the team front with back-to-back Team State titles. They have nine, in total.


  • Luxemburg-Casco – Twelve team titles at 40 individual champs. This program has been the cream of the crop for a long time. They just find a way of turning out incredibly solid wrestlers in bunches on an annual basis.


  • Mineral Point – The Pointers have this awesome balance of total team titles and total individual champions. Mineral Point was long the standard for most individual champs with 50. Only recently were they passed by Stoughton. Combine that with 11 team titles, the third most all-time, and you have a tradition that can’t be ignored.

From @jasonmcg (via Twitter)

This past weekend we saw Freedom drop two dual matches. Is this cause for concern? And aside from this, what other teams surprise you after the first weekend? 

As cliche as it is, I will preface my answer by saying it is extremely early in the season. And we are talking about teenagers here, after all. As someone who coaches sports at the high school level, I will say it is difficult to consistently get optimized performances at the beginning of the year.

That said, I think it is fair to say this isn’t the same Freedom squad that won a state title last year. The Irish were extremely good last season and that is never easy to replicate. With a decent number of new faces, this team will need to find its own identity and ways to win duals. But there is certainly some talent there.

As for the rest of the field after the opening week, I must say that nothing absolutely shocked me. We are still getting the lay of the land.

In the spirit of, at least kind of, trying to answer your question I will say that it surprised me to see Waunakee take a tumble with a season-opening loss to Baraboo last week. The Warriors were a top-10 team in Division 1 in the Wisconsin Wrestling Online preseason team rankings. However, they have now fallen to honorable mention.

From Luke Louison (via Twitter):

What percent of flexes this season will be docked for unsportsmanlike conduct? 

First of all, thank you Luke. I truly appreciate all of our wrestling conversations as well as the information and insight (along with your willingness to correct my terrible math).

For those of you who don’t know, Luke has often provided me with some wonderful wrestling statistics that I sometimes incorporate into my work. While I do my best to give him credit, I wanted to take second to give another hat-tip. The dude is a whiz.

Anyway, this question made me laugh out loud. The moment I read it, I knew this puppy had to be the closer.

If you somehow missed this last season, Luke is referring to a high-profile incident involving Waterford’s Hayden Halter. I’ll try to be brief in my rehashing of this:

Halter flexed after a big victory at his conference tournament and may or may not have used a few choice words. He was ultimately charged with unsportsmanlike conduct and disqualified from the tournament, which cost him the ability to compete in the state tournament series.

However, Halter’s family hired legal counsel and filed a temporary restraining order against the WIAA. Halter was able to compete in the postseason. He ultimately won a championship, his second consecutive.

Given the legal precedence set here, I would say zero percent of flexes get called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Not in any meaningful situations, anyway.

On a related note: it is interesting to see how the world of law is beginning to creep its way into high school sports. In a world where it may soon become illegal to “harass” a sports official, I am fascinated by how the WIAA plans to handle the legal fallout that could ensue. Especially given how they essentially got it handed to them in court in the Halter case.


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