Path to state title all about breaksPublished 9:01am Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Column: Second Thoughts
The best individual wrestler in each weight class will win a state championship Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. You can’t argue otherwise.
The path to a state title is so tough (wrestlers often have to beat four ranked wrestlers) that the last one standing is the best regardless of who was rated No. 1 all season. It’s that simple.
But looking over the individual state tournament brackets Sunday, I noticed some wrestlers had much easier paths to a semifinal or championship match. And that’s not fair.
The current system assigns each section champ to a spot in the 16-wrestler bracket. It’s predetermined that the winner of Section 1 wrestles the runner-up of Section 4 and that the runner-up of Section 1 is on the opposite side of the bracket. An advantage is given, and rightfully so, to the winner of each section. They always wrestle a second-place finisher in the tournament’s opening round — but that’s as far as the advantages go.
While it seems like an all right system problems do arise — including one big one.
Since the individual brackets are not seeded like the team tournament (Albert Lea is seeded third), often the top seeds find themselves playing each other too early.
This is a big problem in the Class AAA 119-pound bracket where the No. 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-ranked wrestlers in the state are all on the same side. Only one of those four wrestlers can get to the finals while the No. 5- and 7-ranked wrestlers are on cruise control on the opposite side. (Maybe not cruise control. I’m still sticking to my guns that winning in the state tournament if difficult for everyone whether their opponent is ranked or not).
The Albert Lea wrestler this flawed system affects the most is N0. 3-ranked 103-pounder Dakota Wangsness. Four of the top five ranked wrestlers are on his side of the bracket. His first round opponent No. 5 Nathan Stebbins, of North. If he gets out of that match alive he’ll see No. 2-ranked Seth Gross, of Apple Valley in the quarterfinals. Wangsness worked too hard this season to receive that difficult a route.
An easy fix would be to seed the top four wrestlers just like the team tournament. It may be more of a headache for coaches but it’s only fair to the wrestlers.
Follow state wrestling at AlbertLeaTribune.com
For complete coverage of the Albert Lea, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and United South Central wrestlers at the state tournament visit AlbertLeaTribune.com tonight through Saturday.
I will be live blogging all three of Albert Lea’s team matches online beginning at 11 a.m. Thursday. You will be able to read play-by-plays, see a live scoreboard and post comments.