Weight Class Eligibility: Revisited
By Bill Welker, EdD
"A Ball of Confusion"
(Author's Note: In this two-part series, I will attempt to demonstrate how the NFHS wrestling rules committee is in error and needs to rethink their casebook ruling. A ruling I will discuss in part two.)
There has been some confusion regarding a wrestler's "weight class" eligibility for years, especially when weight allowances are given throughout the season. Let's begin by first reading the rule.
"A wrestler who weighs in for one weight class may be shifted to the next highest weight class, provided it is not more than one weight class above that for which the actual weight qualifies. The exact weight of all contestants shall be recorded and submitted to the official scorer." (found in Rule 1 of the NFHS Wrestling Rules Book) Keep in mind, a wrestler can only wrestle ONE weight class higher than the weight class he is eligible to compete at, during that particular match. In other words, a wrestler is only permitted to compete in two weight classes, and no more, during competitive events (i.e., individual and dual-meet tournaments). This is a very significant point during multiple-day competitions and when the two-pound growth allowance comes into play.
To clear up the confusion surrounding the weight allowance issue, consider the following wrestler's dilemma involving the various weight-class scenarios.
The Wrestler's Profile
Johnny Doe wrestles for Mat Town High School. His natural weight is 103 pounds. Johnny is a good wrestler, but he can't beat the more experienced varsity wrestlers both at the 103-pound and 112-pound weight classes. However, since there is no 119-pound wrestler on the team, Johnny has decided to wrestle there this season.
Weigh-Ins at Base Weight
When base weight is in effect at the beginning of the season, Johnny has to weigh over 103 pounds for him to be qualified to wrestle at the 119-pound weight class. If he weighed 103 pounds or less, he would not have been allowed to wrestle at 119 pounds in dual meets, one-day individual or dual-meet tournaments.
Furthermore, should Johnny be wrestling in a tournament that is two days or more, weighing in becomes even more difficult for the official to interpret. For example, if it is a two-day individual or dual-meet tournament, an additional pound is given on the second day. Thus, Johnny must weigh over 104 pounds if he wants to compete at 119. Likewise, should it be a three-day event, Johnny must weigh over 105 pounds to continue wrestling at the 119-pound weight class the third day of the wrestling competition.
Weigh-Ins after the Two-Pound Growth Allowance
Each state has its own weight allowance policies, and the date of the two-pound growth allowance varies from state to state. When the two-pound growth allowance is in effect, Johnny must weigh over 105 pounds if he wants to continue to wrestle at the 119-pound weight class in dual meets, one-day individual or dual-meet tournaments.
Multiple-day tournaments with the two-pound allowance present an additional problem regarding Johnny qualifying to wrestle at 119 pounds. If it is a two-day competition, on the second day Johnny must weigh over 106 pounds. Should it be a three-day event, Johnny must weigh over 107 pounds at the third weigh-in to compete at the 119-pound weight class.
To further illustrate this point, consider the following. On the third day of competition, Johnny weighed-in at 106.8 pounds. Could he compete in the 119-pound weight class? The answer is a definitive "NO." If by an oversight of the official, Johnny was allowed to wrestle at 119 pounds - that would qualify him for three weight classes: 103, 112, and 119. That can't happen.
In truth, over the years even many experienced coaches and referees across the nation have misinterpreted this weigh-in rule for weight-class qualification, especially with additional weight allowances. And they have been honest mistakes.
To paraphrase the NFHS rule, a wrestler can only qualify for two weight classes. Whenever weight allowances are given, you must think of it as an entirely new weight class. In doing so, you will have a better understanding of proper weigh-in procedures and where a wrestler is permitted to compete.
(Editor's Note: Part II of Weight Class Eligibility will appear next week.)