Friday, February 15, 2013

Wrestling: Sectional snafoo wasn't one for the books

By now, everyone is aware of the confusion this past week surrounding the actual criteria to be used for seeding the NJSIAA sectional tournament participants.

There was a hefty debate as to whether or not the top eight teams (as opposed to six) were actually taken into consideration for head-to-head results to be applied for a final set of pairings in each section.

As it turned out, the state's regulations were never updated from 2010 to reflect an alleged change in the process that was supposedly (or not depending on with whom you speak to) voted on by the wrestling committee to take the top eight into account following the 2008-09 season.

The NJSIAA issued a response on Friday, Feb. 8 after four teams -- originally in the tournament -- were replaced when the final pairings were released on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

The following statement was made by Steven J. Timko, executive director of the NJSIAA, related to a series of media reports regarding the rules and regulations of the team wrestling tournament:  

“The 2012-2013 NJSIAA Wrestling Tournament regulations -- approved and posted on the NJSIAA Web site ( on December 14, 2012 -- clearly state on page 6 that the top six teams are selected only by using their Power Points totals. PowerPoints, not head-to-head results, are used to establish the teams that participate in the tournament. Movement in seed may occur only one step at a time, based on head-to-head results. Seventh and eighth seeded teams will gain entry if a seeded team is unable to compete.

“The posted regulations are the rules. Our sports subcommittees are encouraged to consider options for all of our tournaments, but unless a vote is taken and a procedure ratified and approved according to protocol, they will not be incorporated into tournament regulations. In the past the wrestling committee discussed changing the rules to allow a seventh seed to participate if it had beaten a sixth seed, but that change was never formally agreed to or ratified by the committee.  The wrestling tournament regulations, as posted, are correct and accurately reflect the will of the committee and the organization overall. 

“Certainly, there’s been some confusion regarding official tournament rules. The NJSIAA regrets any misunderstanding”

Timko told me and several other media outlets that he thought this change had been applied the last few years -- when he took over wrestling from Bob Baly for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons -- but for some reason it was never reflected in the regulations.

On Thursday, Timko reiterated that it was never put in the regs and that it was "applied misappropriately" to this year's seeding process. He did say that eight teams had been seeded in previous years in the event of a team(s) not being able to compete, so the school(s) below could then move up the ladder. But all of this seemed a bit hazy last week as to whether there was a formal vote, and if the top-eight rule should let Nos. 7 and 8 move into the top six.

The email with final rankings for 2010
Open Mike recently discovered an email from 2010 with the final seeding totals, where it clearly states at the top that: "per Wrestling Committee vote after 2009 season, the top EIGHT are given consideration for head-to-head matchups to determine the SIX teams in the Sections. In South, Group 2, this resulted
in Burlington Twp. overtaking Cinnaminson."

So apparently in 2010, this new rule change that was never entered into the state regs was applied and Cinnaminson was denied entry. In the previous four years, this was the only case I could find where a team was replaced by another below it in the points totals. I don't recall Cinnaminson ever disputing this, which makes it more strange that no other teams before this year challenged the state's regs on this supposed new rule that was never formally ratified.

Region 5 chairman Ron Mazzola, who has been involved with the seeding process since 2011, says he is certain it's happened in the past where a seven or eight jumped into the top six based on head-to-head results, but could not recall exact instances for an example. What's even more bizarre is that no record of a vote or change in the rules was documented in any of the NJSIAA executive meeting minutes.

Even Timko, who was not in charge of wrestling in 2010, was at a loss to explain it.

"We researched the last two years and it hadn't happened," he said. "I can only tell you what I'm aware of. I can't tell you why it was implemented [in 2010]. It was never put in the regs and it never proceeded on. We have a program review committee and it wasn't in the changes at the time."

How something that was never ratified or placed into the regs to reflect a change in the process, yet was implemented in at least one case in 2010, is apparently just another one of life's mysteries.

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