DES MOINES - Agree to disagree.
Although the Iowa High School Athletic Association State Duals Championships does not seem ideal with its competition on the eve of the traditional state tournament for an individual sport, it is hard to find fault with the various approaches by coaches. The different decisions were on display Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena.
“There’s no right or wrong answer,” said Linn-Mar coach Doug Streicher, who has fielded mainly a team of reserves for the second straight year.
Some are in it to win it. Others refuse to jeopardize wrestlers’ personal goals, since it is an individual sport at its roots.
More power to teams like West Delaware that value team goals. The Hawks have reached the finals two straight years and have made this event a priority. West Delaware coach Jeff Voss doesn’t mind the current structure.
“I like the way it is,” said Voss, whose team is also a contender for the traditional tournament team title. “It gets our guys a chance to get in the arena and compete before the traditional tournament.”
The Hawks, Alburnett, Davenport Assumption and others have wrestled state qualifiers. They have devoted their effort for a title. Southeast Polk wrestled state qualifiers, switching their approach from last season.
Many, even teams who rest their best, leave the choice sit or not to the wrestler. Streicher did. Cedar Rapids Prairie coach Blake did as well. Voss said his wrestlers don’t want it any other way.
“They know they’re here for the team,” Voss said. “They know if we don’t need them we won’t wrestle them, but if they didn’t and we lost they would feel they let the team down.”
On the other hand, coaches and wrestlers who place an emphasis on the traditional tournament performance have the right to participate on their own accord. Streicher has said he doesn’t like the risk of the team competition in Des Moines at the expense of wrestler’s effort and the numerous hours and resources devoted by family members over the years.
The biggest dilemma is not necessarily which decision a coach makes, but that they have been forced into a situation, demanding that choice. Now that numerous non-regulars have competed in State Duals for a second straight year, Streicher has hopes the tournament timing is adjusted by next year.
“I certainly hope so,” Streicher said about a change. “There a lot of reserves being used today. It wasn’t just us.”
Williams hasn’t provided a ringing endorsement of the event, which used to be the weekend after the traditional tournament. He does not like the predicament it causes, but the Hawks have made sure state qualifiers receive at least one match during the duals.
“Coaches and wrestlers shouldn’t be put in that spot,” Williams said.
Streicher and Williams both confirmed that during a teleconference on Feb. 7 with the coaches and Athletics Directors from participating teams, the IHSAA softened its stance on wrestling reserves during a state competition.
A memo distributed to Class 3A regional dual participants mentioned possible sanctions against teams that did not wrestle as many starters as possible. The email was one of the first things discussed.
“It was said that they understand there are strategic moves, guys are hurt or sick, or guys who may not wrestle someone you may face in the week or may not wrestle in the consolation rounds.”
The strict stance mandated in the earlier correspondence did not win any favor with coaches. It may have been an overzealous effort to avoid some of the practices last year that resulted in lopsided finals duals, including the 3A championship that Bettendorf won 75-6 over West Des Moines Valley.
“It was almost a 180 (degree turn),” Williams said. “I don’t think it had any affect. I think it showed they understand people’s struggles with that email.”