*I have no affiliation with NDUSA Wrestling, and no one within that fantastic organization shares this opinion (as far as I know). I am just a man with a small mouthpiece brainstorming an idea to make ND wrestling strong across the entire state.
By all accounts, the North Dakota State Folkstyle wrestling tournament sponsored by USA Wrestling of North Dakota and put on by Matpac Wrestling Club was an absolute success. With over a thousand entrants over the course of the weekend, it is believed to be the biggest turnout in history. Of course, there are always ways to make wrestling in the state of North Dakota better, and I have been stewing on the need to change the North Dakota State Folkstyle Tournament for some time now. You may agree, and you may disagree, so please email me and let me know where I am right or wrong.
I would like to see four regional tournament qualifiers that advance wrestlers to the state folkstyle tournament. Why change a good thing, you might ask? Certainly, the age old thought that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” comes into play here. But after a closer look, I really feel as though this tournament could be even better. Look through the brackets from this year’s tournament and from the Bantam through Novice division, you will see many that reached 25 entrants. In the meat of the Bantam and Intermediate weight divisions, weight classes were so big that they had to be split every 2.5 pounds to keep brackets under 50 wrestlers. With four regional qualifiers that each qualify four wrestlers for a state tournament, you have a consistent bracket size and ensure that a 6 year old doesn’t have eight matches over the course of an afternoon. Yes, it would lessen numbers for the state tournament, meaning it would be less likely the hosting club could afford to rent a place like the Bismarck Civic Center, but I think it it might encourage more wrestlers from rural areas to attend a qualifier near them rather than make a trip to Bismarck. It would also make seeding easy, because the first place finishers in each region would wrestle fourth place in an opposing region, with the potential for all top seeds to only meet in the semifinals.
Numbers for the state tournament were strong, but I think we can still do better! Of the 1,007 wrestlers that competed this weekend, 259 came from the Bismarck-Mandan area, or a little more than 25%. By comparison, only 76 (may have missed a few), came from from Fargo, Grand Forks, and Wahpeton combined. You can’t tell me that numbers wouldn’t be higher than that if there was a state tournament qualifier somewhere the eastern edge of the state. We all know that support for wrestling in the western part of the state is significantly stronger than that of the East, and numbers in Bismarck would still likely be stronger, but creating tournament opportunities for our friends on the eastern border may help stimulate wrestling in the area. Fargo can be a successful wrestling city, and though-with the exception of Tech Team-it has fallen on hard times, with the right support, North and South can be great again!
How can this process work if regions in the west are significantly stronger than those in the East? Make the regions open qualifiers. Any kid can qualify in any region; If a wrestler from Mandan Wrestling Club wants to travel to a qualifier in Dickinson rather than the one in Bismarck, then by all means. The other thing I really like about this is that you can make the state tournament more fan-friendly. I find the whole, “show up at your mat and wrestle the entire bracket through” method of kids wrestling tournaments to be lazy (every tournament is doing it, so this is a direct shot at no one). How do I know which match is the championship bout from the stands using this method? With sixteen man brackets you can now announce that round one will be at 9:00 AM Saturday morning, and it will be wrestled through to the semifinals in both the championship and consolation bracket. From there, take an hour for lunch and wrestle all the semifinals at 1:00 PM, with the finals schedule to begin promptly at 3:30. Now, fans of North Dakota wrestling who want to see the best wrestlers in the state battle it out for a title can show up at one designated time. On top of that, it should get the kids excited knowing they are wrestling in the all-important 3:30 time slot with he rest of the studs.
So, to review:
-Four Open Regional Qualifiers across the state
-Top four advance to the state tournament and are seeded based on region finish
-Semifinal and Final matches have set start time
What do you think?