The Saturday before Christmas Day, I drove to a large, Charlotte public high school to catch the second day of its wrestling tournament. When I drove into the parking lot, I realized that I was due a new experience: vehicles parked in the standard spaces, on sidewalks, grassy areas, and next to painted curbs, but I finally found a legal handicapped space next to the baseball and football fields. But the parking lot was little compared to the gymnasium I entered.
One side of the seats was closed, and the opened side crammed “cheek to cheek” with parents, coaches, friends, and wrestlers. What floor space not used by the four mats was taken by scoring tables, chairs, and more sitting people. Later I would be told that two other mats were being used in an auxiliary gym. When I arrived, there was a brief lull in mat action, then girls began wrestling. At first I thought I may be watching the wrestle-backs, but no, I was told by a mother that these were wrestlers in the girls’ division. I watched the action on mat 4 because I have learned that, from watching the NCAA D-1tournament, one cannot “see it all.” So, pick a mat and watch the action on it. I did this and then some boys began to compete, but not in the usual weight class order. I asked and was told that these matches were some of the junior varsity wrestle back matches. Oh, I thought. Now, I was growing impatient because I had come to see my favorite varsity team, Mooresville, compete. Finally, some of the varsity Blue Devils competed, and I enjoyed those matches before leaving at 4 in order to return home. After all, six hours at Mat 4 was enough.
High school wrestling has changed so much since I competed in 1961-’64. For instance, my two-year varsity record (high school then was 10-12 grades) was 33-1. I lost my second varsity match as a junior but remained undefeated after that. Today, a 9th grader who attends the same church I do and wrestles varsity for Mooresville, has already wrestled more matches than that by Christmas. In 1973, to continue with one more example of the changes, the Christmas break was a long time without wrestling for high school wrestlers in the D.C. area. So, I began the Bishop Ireton Holiday tournament which had eight teams and covered two days. My! Yet, that is the way we had to do it then. What would I do today as a coach .or wrestler? I don’t know, but I have doubts that what we are doing today in wrestling and so many other sports is the best.
Across our culture we have come to believe that more is better. The standing philosophy is that, if it is big, it is good. Beginning tomorrow in Charlotte is the 11th annual Holy Angles Tournament, which uses ten mats over two days to manage a junior varsity, girls’ and varsity divisions for wrestlers. It is billed as an invitational tournament, but any school willing to pay the scaled entry fee is allowed to attend. When I last checked, over 100 schools were listed as attending.
More is not better. Sure, it helps any athlete to be exposed to different skills and abilities but attending tournaments such as the two mentioned will not, I think, improve the over-all quality of wrestling. However, an experience against quality competition which sharpens skills will make any athlete better. In fact, I think such tournaments are determents because they, by their size, have needless down time for wrestlers and fans. It is a long day spent waiting in a gym or arena for some outstanding matches to watch or compete in.
For me, this bigger is not better. In fact, this bigger may, in the long run, be damaging.