Desktop Sportsman - Jan. 12, 2010Desktop Sportsman is exclusively on the Pierce County Herald website this week
By: Sean Scallon, Pierce County Herald
The National Federation of High School Associations (NFHSA) just announced the results of a poll it took of its members asking whether prep wrestling should cut back to 12 weight classes like before or stay at 14. The overwhelming result was keep the same number of weight classes. The head of Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association says that prep grappling teams should focus their efforts on getting more kids out for their teams not on hoping for a cutback in weight classes.
That will be easier said than done. Before anything like that can happen perhaps the state's wrestling community and the WIAA can more fully embrace team wrestling rather than treat it as an afterthought. There's no reason the state team tournament can't be wrestled at the same time as the regular individual tournament. To hold it the weekend after in the UW Fieldhouse in a two-day tournament (one-day for Division 2 and 3 schools) only makes it easier for those schools not involved not to pay any attention to it. Not to mention the fact its usually the same schools involved in it the meet year after year.
Obviously the only way to change this is for coaches recruiting the hallways looking for kids to come out for wrestling. At small schools below 175 students putting together a full team may be a lost cause but not at those above that number. But more than just getting kids out, the concepts of team wrestling and the strategies involved have to be taught and emphasized as well. And dual meet have to mean something instead of just schedule filler. The Middle Border Conference, for example, should institute a point system for winning dual meets that coincides with the season-end for winning the conference title like it does for volleyball. Or it can just junk the tournament altogether and let the team at the top of the dual meet standings be the conference champion.
Whatever is done, its clear both the area and the state need to make it clear to wrestlers what's important, winning dual meets or winning tournaments. This hybrid way of doing things isn't working.
John Ball has announced his retirement as New Richmond baseball coach and will be replaced by Tiger freshman coach Chad Fehrman. He'll have his work cut out for him as Ball and the school district didn't exactly have a favorable parting of the ways. Ball coached at NR for the past 33 years and was the school's athletic director as well. He wanted to coach two more years but, like Bobby Bowden, was shown the exit door earlier than he had planned.
The Packers recent loss once again shows that the playoffs, regardless of the sports, are an entirely new season. Just because you're the hot team at the end of the regular doesn't mean you're going to burn you're way through. The Packers certainly didn't look like a team that won seven out its last eight games in the first five minutes of the wild card game at Arizona. In fact they looked more like the team that lost to Tampa Bay in their accursed throwback uniforms. That's what cost them more than Aaron Rodgers' kick-ball that led to a defensive touchdown. Arizona played like a veteran playoff team led by a veteran playoff quarterback. Green Bay was not and that's why they lost.
A Packers-Vikings game in the playoffs would have been perfect karma for this NFL season but now that it's not going to happen, it's a big boon for the Vikings. Now they don't have to worry about playing in another emotion-filled rivalry game and can just focus on making the Super Bowl. To get there will depend upon who can shake off their playoff jinx first, Brett Favre or the Cowboys.
Could the Badgers still win the Big Ten title without Jon Leuer in the line-up? It's possible but it's not something I would bet a lot of money on. A lot of reserves will have to step up their games and often times injuries can crew up a system-team like Wisconsin. Still, it should be pointed out that in the Badgers big Big Ten wins over Ohio State and Purdue, UW won with Leuer in foul trouble. And UW has enough of a resume to put it in the Big Dance even if they would finish 9-9 in the league.
If UW stumbles then the way is clear for Minnesota to take advantage. The Gophers have the talent to win the title. They certainly have the depth to win. Whether they have the mentality to win on the road in a hostile environment, something they have not done it, remains to be seen. Beting Michigan State tonight in East Lansing would be a good indicator.
Good end to a good season. That's a lot better than disappointing end to a disappointing season for the UW football team or wretched and to a wretched season as I've used in the past. If you criticize a man when he does poorly you should give him praise too when he does well and certainly Brett Bielema earned his salary this past year with better play all around and better staff work. UW's win over Miami, Fla. in the Champs Sports Bowl shows the Badgers have pretty solid team and program once again. With a good recruiting class coming in and many returning starters back, UW has a good shot at a Big Ten title or at least at BCS bid. But while the Badgers don't have to replace a lot of players, they do have to replace the senior leadership provided by players like O'Bryan Schofield and Chris Maragos. That's something that's harder to replace than a lineman or a safety.
When Wisconsin announced they had signed Minnesota high-school all-star Beau Allen from Minnetonka, a Gopher fan on a website mused that because Minnesota, or at least the Twin Cities metro area, had become such an economic and regional hub, it's harder for the Gophers to get some in-state players to attend the U because their parents may very well have attended school in Iowa, Wisconsin or North Dakota for that matter. Indeed, he posted, you can find a lot of Badger window stickers and car flags in the western Twin Cities suburbs. I'm sure some searching will also uncover Iowa Hawkeye flags flying at homes and NDSU bumper stickers on vehciles in the Twin Cities suburbs too. Allen's family in particular was filled with UW grads. That's one of the reasons why the U football job is so tough, probably a lot tougher than Tim Brewster realized when he took the job. Even chartering a helicopter and flying in to watch Allen play one Friday night wasn't enough. Perhaps he should think himself lucky he wrung a contract extension out of AD Joel Maturi. Given the way the Gophers have cashiered coaches over the years, he could easily be unemployed right now.
After watching the Wild get hammered by the Kings (and spoiling what was an enjoyable New Year's Eve)I looked at their schedule and figured they were do for a fairly extended losing streak. Losing to former coach Jacque Lemaire's Devils's team that leads the Eastern Conference Falling behind 5-1 to the Western Conference leading Blackhawks only confirmed my suspicions. Well kudos to them for having the heart not to give up and the system which allowed it to score as many goals as it did to win an exciting 6-5 shoot-out over the Blackhawks. If nothing else happens for them the Wild have already have their highlight of the season. And with more talent new coach Todd Richards open offense may make the Wild a Stanley Cup contender. But that's the rub isn't it? Would it be better not to make the playoffs this year and get high enough draft picks to stock up with? The West maybe be too tough and the Wild too far behind from a bad start to make it but if the ride is enjoyable and fun watch, then the fans won't mind a lean year or two if it means better times ahead. After the Chicago win, they're starting to file back into the Xcel Energy Center again.
The race for the McNaughton Cup in the WCHA maybe one of the closest in league history. Wisconsin is a top notch team but they have one of the toughest schedules in January traveling to Colorado College and playing Denver and UMD back-to-back week followed up with the outdoor game with Michigan at Camp Randall Stadium on Feb. 2. Indeed, UMD has the easiest schedule of all the contending teams (UW, Denver, UMD, North Dakota, CC and St. Cloud State). All six teams are ranked in the top 15 of college hockey.