PORT ANGELES — Mat Classic XXXI, slated Friday and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome, will be the biggest in the history of the state wrestling tournament.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association canceled yesterday’s boys and girls regional wrestling tournaments around the state due to snow fall Friday and the threat of future snow this week.
State tournament officials and the WIAA are working to alter the format of Mat Classic XXXI with a move to 32 wrestler per weight class brackets for all six of the state’s wrestling classifications (girls, B, 1A-4A) from the traditional 16-wrestler brackets, doubling the number of competitors at the already-crowded event.
“Once we determined about 6:30 this morning that we could do it at the [Tacoma] Dome, and started doing all of our necessary communication, that group was able to start hunkering down to look at logistics,” WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese said to the Tacoma News Tribune.
Several options are being considered, such as earlier weigh-ins and start times.
With growing interest in the sport from girls’ wrestlers, the WIAA already had planned to split Friday’s session up into two parts: a morning/afternoon session from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the girls tournament and 1A and 4A wrestlers and an afternoon/evening session stretching from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for Class B, 2A and 3A wrestlers.
“That place is going to just be jammed,” Forks head coach Bob Wheeler, a Washington State Wrestling Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame member said. “Even though they wanted to split it into two sessions, I don’t know how all those pieces will fit.”
“The details of the [Mat Classic] schedule will be released by early Monday,” the WIAA said in a news release.
Port Angeles head coach Rob Gale said that only sub regional winners and runner ups will receive a seed into the 32-man brackets.
“The kids that were third and fourth won’t be seeded at all, they’ll be placed right into the bracket,” Gale said.
“This year I expect to see more upsets than normal. You’ll see kids that are hungry. Hungrier than normal after not wrestling for two weeks.”
With so much fallen in the Port Angeles area and snow again in the forecast today through Tuesday, Gale is worried about carving out mat time for his athletes.
“Yes, I am hugely concerned about that,” Gale said. “I am trying to work something out if school is canceled. Len Borchers, the CFO of the YMCA, is a former wrestling coach in Port Angeles and Sequim and a former Stanford wrestler. He loves the sport, so if we don’t have school and our athletic director allows it, maybe we can have a practice at the Y.”
School remained in session Friday in Forks and Wheeler said the team would practice as normal Friday and would wait and see what happened before school is back in session Monday.
Forks is no stranger to bringing a big contingent to Tacoma, so the Spartans should be all set when they arrive on Thursday. But Wheeler is concerned for schools that haven’t made arrangements for lodging for additional wrestlers.
“We had a pretty good chance of taking everybody from regionals to state, maybe missing one or two. We were expecting a big group, “Wheeler said.
“But this doubles up the number of competitors, and now regional alternates are alternates to state, so you take them anyway. If you were expecting to bring five kids and now you have 10 and you’ve only booked rooms for five, you’ll find out everything is booked and they could end up being at different hotels. Supervising and transporting the kids becomes an issue.”
Gale said he booked a number of rooms a few months out, and is glad to have hung on to them.
But with the threat of snow looming he booked a night of rooms in Bremerton, closer to the Riders regional at North Mason.
“That’s $600 out of our wrestling budget and the hotel won’t refund us,” Gale said.
Despite the monetary setback, Gale said he was looking on the bright side about the whole thing.
“I’m more on the positive side, things are meant to be,” Gale said.
“Yes, It’s going to be crowded, it’s going to be nuts.
“But we have some young kids that can get that feeling from the state meet as competitors and as alternates.
“I’m really happy that sophomores like Jason Kibe or Adam Borde, who each got third at league [Sub regionals], will get to wrestle at state. That’s huge for them to experience that going forward.”