#AskNWW Wrestling Q&A No. 7: A big matchup, the Badgers future, changing rules and toughest tournament assignments

This week’s edition of #AskNWW Wrestling Q&A is, without a doubt, the most detailed one so far. Thank you all for great questions. ‘

As always, you can join-in on the conversation by emailing me at nwwrestle@gmail.com or via Twitter by using hashtag #AskNWW.

I hope you find this banter interesting enough to power through the next 2,000-plus words.

From Jason (via Twitter):

Can you break down the potential matchup between Mukwonago and Stoughton this weekend? 

Hey Jason, thanks for the question. I will certainly give this my best shot.

So, for those of you who haven’t been following: Welcome to the WIAA Division 1 team race. It’s a doozy.

There’s a chance that No. 1 Mukwonago and No. 2 Stoughton cross paths at Zelinski Memorial Duals this weekend in Greenfield.

Should that happen, the dual would feature seventeen wrestlers that appear in the latest edition of the Wisconsin Wrestling Online rankings.

Stoughton edged Mukwonago 42-24 in last years Division 1 Team State Championship Final. However, the complexion of these teams has changed a bit since they last met in a dual setting.

Mukwonago (5th) out-placed Stoughton (9th) at the Cheesehead Invitational a few weeks back. To be fair, the Vikings only brought nine wrestlers to the tournament and their top competitor sat out all of Day 2 with a back injury.

So, now that we’ve set the stage a bit, let’s dive in.

I feel Mukwonago is significantly deeper, but Stoughton’s top guys are way better.

The Indians have 10 ranked wrestlers, the Vikings just seven. The kicker is that four of Stoughton’s seven are ranked No. 1 in the state. All seven are in the top-7 at their weight.

By contrast, just six of the Mukwonago’s ranked wrestlers are in the top-7 and no one is ranked higher than fourth. However, that’s been the Indians’ calling card of late. They are deep and they are going to “out-depth” (I made that term up, you like it?) the crap out of you.

I took a stab at what the lineups could look like based upon recent duals.

That said, this one is going to be all about matchups. The ability of the coaching staffs to shuffle their lineups and the level to which their athletes are able to execute is going to be key here.

I think you have to favor the deeper team in a match-up based dual, don’t you?

From Darin Miess (via Twitter): 

Barring transfers, who do you think will step in at 141 and 149 for the Badgers next season? 

Hi Darin, thanks for joining us this week. Really appreciate this question.

I’m probably stating the obvious here, but UW has been spoiled at these two weight classes, particularly the last couple of years.

Tristan Moran (141 pounds) was an NCAA qualifier last year and almost certainly will make it again. Cole Martin (149) is a three-time national qualifier who is in line to make it to the big dance for the fourth straight season.

Next year, it appears Bucky is going to be starting from scratch.

My guess is: neither starter at these weights will have much, if any, starting experience. That’s a huge departure from Moran and Martin.

141 is the bigger question mark of the two. Mostly because two of three guys in contention are coming back from injury and the third competed at 149 this season.

True freshman Trey Escobar has a nice pedigree. He was Junior Freestyle National Champion, National Runner-Up in Greco, multiple-time All-American in both disciplines. Arizona state champ in folkstyle, the list goes on.

He was 6-3 wrestling unattached as a true freshman this season. But had to medical forfeit out of a tournament on Nov. 9 and didn’t compete for the rest of his portion of the season. It doesn’t mean the kid has been wiped off the face of the earth, but not an ideal situation.

Jeremy Schoenherr strikes me as a Chris Bono type of guy. A Wisconsin native (Stratford HS), Schoenherr is physical and I think his style translates well to the college level. He went 22-6 last year as a true freshman competing unattached. However, he was sidelined this year due to a significant injury and I’m not sure what the timetable for his return is.

But don’t be surprised if he’s in the lineup a year from now.

Dan Stilling seems to be a ‘tweener. The Elkhorn, Wisconsin product is listed at 141 but competed at 149 as an unattached true freshman. He was 10-5 overall and 3-4 against NCAA opponents.

Assuming he’s healthy, I’d pick Escobar to kick the season off at 141.

I think Nick Termini is going to be the guy at 149, at least to start. This year, as a true freshman, he went 8-4 while competing unattached. This includes a 4-3 mark against NCAA competition.

This all occurred while competing at 141 pounds, though the roster lists him at 149.

Termini was a 4-time state place-winner in Illinois during his prep days. He won 2A state titles his junior and senior seasons. He was also a freestyle All-American.

The other option I will float out there (albeit with, admittedly, a limited amount of knowledge) is that it would make a lot of sense for one of the plethora of 157-pounders to try to make the cut down, if able.

I don’t see Drew Scharenbrock or Gavin Model moving, due to their time in the lineup at 157. Patrick Spray competed all the way up at 174 on a couple occasions last year, so I’d say he’s out.

I guess that leaves us with Devin Bahr, who competed at 149 for a bit last season as a redshirt freshman on an unattached basis.

I don’t know if he is still actually allowed to cut down to 149. However, if he can, it may behoove him to consider this option. Just my two cents.

From Brian Walters (via Twitter): 

What are the top-three rules in wrestling at the high school level that need to be changed, listed in order of priority? 

Hey Brian, thanks for this awesome question. I apologize if the answer I’m about to give isn’t quite what you had in mind. But I want to give you an honest and thorough response. I am many things, but a certified wrestling official is not one of them.

Truth be told, very few things about the rules of high school wrestling, at the granular level, bother me.

But I do have some “rules” I’d change. Or, at the very least, enforce differently.

1) I’d drop the number of weight classes to 12. 

In the past, I’ve explored this topic ad nauseam on Twitter and have been met with a decent amount of pushback. To an extent, I get it. People generally associate cutbacks with lack of growth and no one who follows this wonderful sport wants to entertain any idea that has something to do with the potential of wrestling not growing.

But let’s look at some facts.

Last season, only 24.6 percent of high school wrestling teams in Wisconsin had full lineups at regionals. That’s less than one in four. That’s not healthy and it’s not OK. That fact is not up for debate, in my mind.

When I point this out, I hear all kinds of crazy responses. Some people say I hate wrestling because I bring these facts to light, others say cutting weight classes will discourage more kids from trying the sport, while more folks say reducing weight classes hurts the state’s top teams.

I hope I’ve proven that the first of the three criticisms is ridiculous, so I’ll just quickly address the latter two.

I don’t think fewer weight classes will mean fewer kids trying wrestling. Think about it, the whole reason we have this debate is because there aren’t enough kids wrestling in the first place! If more weight classes are the answer, then where are all the athletes?

You know what really hurts numbers? A two-hour bus ride to Timbuktu knowing your team is down 30-0 as soon as you step off the bus.

Secondly, a reduction in weight classes would not hurt the state’s premier programs. If anything, it would make them stronger because it condenses the talent. There’s even less opportunity for weak links to emerge.

That’s the beauty of wrestling: the best wrestlers compete. No politics. Anyone who would give up on the sport because they had to actually earntheir place in the lineup might want to take up a different activity.

2) I’d change the out-of-bounds rules to be more like college

So I wouldn’t change the rule per se, but I would change how it’s enforced.

Wrestlers, at every level, anticipate the edge. Many athletes don’t exert as much effort or stop looking for opportunities to score and compete because they plan on hearing a whistle when near the boundary. This is often subconscious, but sometimes intentional.

College wrestlers are given significantly more leeway on where “out of bounds” actually starts. Nearly every inch of the mat gets used. This, in theory, has the potential to lead to more action.

Most high school matches see quick whistles on the edge. While some of that is for safety, I think we’re often giving up real estate that should be used to encourage action and progression.

If at least one wrestler has a foot in-bounds, we’re still live.

Slight tangent, but I think a step-out rule in college would be awesome. It kind of takes away from the “true folkstyle” element, but I think we’d see way more action if wrestlers were giving up a point every time they were forced out.

Personally, I think most high school wrestlers aren’t ready for that extreme. The happy medium would be a more lenient interpretation of boundary rules.

3) Unsportsmanlike conduct infractions could not automatically result in suspension from the following event 

I know, I know. Weird hill to die on, right? But hear me out.

If done correctly, this is a change that could help officials and athletes alike.

Under current rules, essentially, if a wrestler gets hit with two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties during an event, that athlete is barred from competing in the next event.

In instances where the next event is part of the state tournament series (as was the case with Waterford’s Hayden Halter last season), the wrestler’s season is effectively ended.

No single official should have that kind of power.

… I can feel some of you turning on me. Hang in there.

How about, instead of automatic disqualification, these instances are reviewed by some sort of panel that is commissioned by the WIAA?

That way, both sides are able to discuss their perspectives on the issue and an independent (well, relatively independent) third party can make the final ruling.

Look, wrestling is an emotional sport. I understand we are giving kids two strikes under the current rule. But sometimes, it’s hard to ask a teenager to flip the switch from maximum aggression to clear-headed thinking at the drop of hat just because some person with a whistle told them they had to.

You know what else? Sometimes officials get whistle happy after the first unsportsmanlike conduct and make less than ideal decisions.

Refs are also humans that can’t always switch emotions on and off.

Solving issues outside the confines of the event in which the infractions occurred would help tensions on both sides to ease. Hopefully, this could allow for calm discussion and decision making regarding the best course of action.

To be clear, suspension from the next event is still completely on the table. It just wouldn’t be a forgone conclusion.

From Steve Clark (via Twitter): 

100 wins is still a milestone accomplishment in high school wrestling and something to be proud of, if achieved. But with the increase in matches athletes can wrestle in a season, what do you think the new “100 wins” should be?

Hi Steve, thanks for chiming in.

You are absolutely right that 100 varsity wins is something to be proud of. That’s an incredibly difficult feat to achieve.

I had two varsity wins back in my day. They were both forfeits. No lie.

However, you are also correct in saying 100 wins ain’t what it used to be.

In yesteryear, 100 wins was a sure sign you were a well above average varsity wrestler for at least three years, probably four.

Now, we have some sophomores who get to 100. There are plenty of juniors who are at 100 by mid-December of their third varsity season.

So what’s the new 100-win plateau? I think it’s 150. Not as clean of a number as 100, but I think it’s much more accurate.

150 wins in a career means over 37 wins per season for a four-year starter or 50 per for a three-year varsity guy. I don’t care how many matches you wrestle a season, that’s tough. And it should be. This is meant to be a mark of a great wrestler, not a very good one.

From Luke Louison (via Twitter):

What are is the toughest regional and sectional in each division?

Luke knows I try my best to pretend to be a numbers guy. So this was a good excuse to start doing my postseason legwork and get a better grip on how the landscape is shaping up across WIAA wrestling.

I’ll save my full spreadsheet for a later date. But …

Statistically, here are your toughest regionals:

Division 1: Kimberly and Oak Creek – 23 ranked/honorable mention wrestlers

Division 2: New London – 23

Division 3: Mineral Point – 29


And the toughest sectionals:

Division 1: Ashwaubenon – 43 ranked/honorable mention wrestlers

Division 2: Osceola – 71

Division 3: Edgar – 67

Numbers don’t lie, baby.


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