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Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sectionals out, league tourneys in

This column was originally published on Jan. 13, 2012, in the print edition of The Mercury.

If wrestling ever needed a proverbial shot of enthusiasm in its collective arm – especially after the controversial change in weight classes prior to the current season – it got one Wednesday.

District 1 got one, that is.

The District 1 Wrestling Steering Committee approved a proposal to eliminate the current six sectionals and replace them with league championships, which will determine the qualifiers for two – or possibly three – district tournaments beginning next year.

The change, announced by steering committee chairman Dennis Kellon, still has a few minor issues to be addressed, namely the number of qualifiers from each league. However, it has become apparent coaches and administrators from around the district strongly support the move.

“The steering committee presented the proposal to the District 1 Board of Directors last year,” Kellon explained. “The board’s response was that it needed time to look at it, to review it. Our only concern was that we wanted to get it done before this month.”

Kellon, along with several coaches who helped develop the proposal, met with the board this past fall. The board supported the proposal and gave the steering committee the opportunity to move forward.

The idea of changing the first step in the postseason grind – which includes districts and regionals prior to the state championships – shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone affiliated with or a fan of District 1 wrestling. Declining attendances and rising costs at sectional tournaments in recent years have been a major concern.

“Every year we sit down at the end of the season and talk about all the tournaments,” Kellon said. “We’ve come up with all sorts of ideas in the past, like realigning the sections, going with two big sectional tournaments…

“We also look at the financial reports, which are part of our review every year but not a big part of it. Yes, attendances have been down, revenues have been down. At no time did (District 1 officials) say, ‘change.’ But we felt we had to look for ways to rectify those situations, too. We thought this was a time that we could be proactive.”

Upper Perkiomen head coach Tom Hontz, who along with Spring-Ford head coach Tim Seislove was instrumental in creating the new postseason proposal, sees the change as a positive one.

“I’m sure some people will groan about the lost tradition of the sections, but change can be good and I think fans will come to appreciate this new format,” Hontz said. “Also, I think you’ll see some of the great league rivalries become even more intense.”

At one time, like when Hontz wrestled for Quakertown High School back in the early 1980s, most of the sections consisted of league rivals. Through the years, due to occasional realignments within most of the sections, members of leagues have been moved around.

In the PAC-10, for instance, eight of its current AAA teams are split up in Section Two (Phoenixville, Pottsgrove and Upper Perkiomen), Section Three (Methacton and Perkiomen Valley) and Section Four (Boyertown, Owen J. Roberts and Spring-Ford).

“Because of the realignments, a lot of the league rivalries have become lost, and some of the fan interest has been lost, too,” Hontz said. “This is a great way to liven up the first round of the postseason.”

The tentative league championship formats – tentative being the operative word – are as follows:

* Pioneer Athletic Conference would get four qualifiers; the Central League would get five qualifiers; and the Ches-Mont League would get six qualifiers. The three leagues would advance their respective qualifiers to the District 1-AAA South Tournament.

Nine of the PAC-10’s member schools are Class AAA, with Pope John Paul II – by virtue of the new enrollment classifications released last week – being Class AA. The Central League has 12 teams, all AAA. The Ches-Mont League will have the option of running two tournaments (one each for the National and American divisions), in which each division would get three qualifiers. If the Ches-Mont would run one tournament it would get six qualifiers.

* The Suburban One Conference would get 11 qualifiers – four each from the National and Continential divisions and three from the American Division. The Del Val League would get two or three qualifiers. Suburban One and Del Val would advance their respective qualifiers to the District 1-AAA North Tournament.

All 23 of the Suburban One’s member schools are Class AAA, as are the five in the Del Val League.

As previously mentioned, the officials’ plan is for 16-man brackets in each of the district championships, so adjusting the number of qualifiers for each league – or possibly having first-round byes for the individual top-seeds in each weight class – is one of the issues to be further discussed and approved.

“The number of qualifiers would be adjusted,” Kellon explained. “We’re looking for that balance. We’re looking at the number of teams in each league, the number of wrestlers they’ll bring to districts.

“But strength of schedule, for one thing, will have nothing to do with how (we adjust the qualifiers). We have to make it fair for everyone.”

Kellon also said returning to the three-district format – North, South and Central, which ran for three years from 2007 through 2009 – has been discussed as well.

“It’s a possibility,” he admitted. “But I know most of us prefer to go to with two districts, two sites … six (qualifiers) from each, along with the four coming in from District 12, to give us the 16-man bracket for the (Southeast Regional).”

Kellon did not know when all the “Ts” will be crossed and all the “Is” would be dotted on the new format. But his excitement was already noticeable.

“Very honestly, we anticipate the attendances to be good and the enthusiasm to escalate at the league championships,” he said.

The District 1 section tournaments were first held in 1971. There were eight sectional tournaments the first three years, but beginning in 1974 that number was reduced to six – and remained unchanged through the current 2011-2012 season. … Ridley (19), Conestoga (17), North Penn (17), the former Downingtown High School (15), and Methacton (15) own the most section team titles.



Anonymous Rick Mortimer said...

I think that its really a great news that Sectionals out, league tourneys in. I think that it would be a great wrestling fight. I am really excited to watch the great wrestling fight of the season.

February 16, 2012 at 3:49 AM 

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