Dual Meet Rivalry
I hope everyone is enjoying the growing excitement as another wrestling season rapidly approaches. The purpose of this blog is to substantially raise awareness of the importance of dual meets and dual meet rivalries in our sport. Our sport is unique in that it has both an individual and team component to it (much like track and swimming). With this in mind, we are seeing a national trend away from “dual meets” (and particularly home dual meets) at the scholastic level and there appears to be many more regular season individual tournaments being scheduled. In fact, our records indicate that the average number of home dual meets for high school wrestling teams across the nation today is only around 3 or 4.
So why are home dual meets so important to scholastic wrestling. For starters, I believe home dual meets, particularly between cross town rivalries, are absolutely critical for reversing the participation trend for high school wrestling (boys). Please keep in mind that scholastic wrestling participation (nationally) has fallen 6 straight years and it fell by over 10,000 two years ago and by approximately 7,500 this past year. The average roster size has shrunk from 37/team to 23/team since 1975. Here are what I believe are the most compelling reasons to get back to a primary emphasis on regular season home dual meets:
- Exciting, cross town dual meet rivalries make wrestling more relevant in the schools and in the communities. This excitement will most definitely help to recruit and retain wrestlers in our sport because the students will perceive wrestling to be important by their peers and community.
- In a dual meet, the performance of every wrestler contributes to the success of the team. The hero of the night could be the wrestler who lost 15-0 and didn’t get pinned. The one point saved by not being pinned could be the difference in the overall dual meet.
- We live in a sport culture that values team sports (my team vs your team, my town vs your town). The average fan can be excited about a 2 hour dual meet but is unlikely to sit through a 2 day individual tournament.
- With respect to dual meet state championships, this provides many students with an opportunity to have a state championship experience who would never otherwise ever advance to the individual state championship.
- Exciting home dual meets will attract new fans (thus building our fan base) at the school level during the regular season. As the institutional fan base grows, it will lead to increased fan bases at the state tournament level.
To the contrary, too much emphasis on regular season high level individual tournaments will most likely benefit the 2-3 super star wrestlers on the team but it will often discourage the other members on the team. Many of the wrestlers with “average to below-average ability” typically lose their first two rounds and then have to sit around for 2 days with nothing to do. We believe this phenomenon most definitely contributes to our declining participation trend.
From an educational perspective, most teachers would never just “teach” to the 3 smartest students in the class. If they did so, the majority of students would grow frustrated very quickly and lose interest. The best teachers design their lesson plans to meet the needs of the 85% of students in the class and then they figure out how to routinely challenge those students on the two extreme spectrums in their class (gifted students and struggling students).
With this in mind, we recommend that coaches follow this same educational principle. They should design their practice and competition schedules to meet the needs of the 85% of the wrestlers on the team while always looking for ways to engage the handful of very talented and “not so talented” wrestlers on the team (maybe you can just take your 2-3 super star wrestlers to the high level individual tournaments). This is particularly important when scheduling dual meets. It is imperative that the majority of dual meets are competitive if at all possible so the wrestlers don’t feel like they are routinely put into impossible situations where they can’t have any success (sometimes mandatory league competition makes this challenging).
In summary, the #1 threat to the future of scholastic wrestling is the “forfeit” and the declining participation trend. Be sure to create and promote those exciting cross town dual meet rivalries this season in the spirit of reversing this trend. Good luck with your upcoming season!!
NWCA Executive Director