Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wrestling: Region 6 seeking statewide realignment (UPDATE)

Bound Brook moving to Region 4? Phillipsburg to Region 5?

Change can strike fear in some, while others embrace it.

Raritan coach Rob Nucci feels change is necessary to level what he and other Region 6 members, including president Scott Ferris, feel is an uneven playing field. Citing a huge disparity in number of schools per region, the group is seeking to realign districts and regions to ensure an equal number of schools among the eight regions.

Currently, Region 6 houses 44 schools -- the most among the eight regions. Region 1 has the fewest with 34. Region 7 has 41, while Regions 5 and 8 have 40. Region 4 has 39, Region 3 has 38, while Region 2 has 35.

The goal, according to Nucci, is to make sure all eight regions have 39 schools. There is a section in the state rules and regulations that calls for consideration of district realignment every five years starting with 2015.

"We [members of Region 6] just want what's fair. And we want to do it with as little change as possible," Nucci said on Wednesday night. "We just want an even distribution. Right now, it's very bottom heavy. It really needs to happen."

Region 1 seeding chairman and wrestling committee member Brad DiRupo told Open Mike on Thursday that a meeting is scheduled for July 14 at NJSIAA headquarters in Robbinsville to outline and formulate proposals for the realignment.

Over the course of several discussions and meetings, and many man hours, any proposal for realignment is still a very fluid situation, according to Nucci. As of now, most of this is being written on paper using pencil in theory, with numerous additions and subtractions taking place.

"We're looking to push teams up [north] not down," Nucci said.

Among the many rumors floating around have scenarios where several schools would leave Region 5, which is more or less the hub in the middle of the state and is likely to be the most impacted by realignment.

One of the Region 5 schools potentially affected is Bound Brook, which is being considered for a move to Region 4. The Somerset County school is one of 10 in District 18, along with Bernards, Bridgewater-Raritan, Franklin, Hillsborough, Manville, Montgomery, Pingry, Ridge and Somerville.

Others are Voorhees shifting from Region 5 to Region 1, and from District 17 to District 1, but sister schools -- North Hunterdon also is in District 17 and Region 5 with the Vikings -- are exempt from a move unless the superintendent signs off on it.

Surprisingly, Phillipsburg would be willing to make the move from Region 1 to Region 5. Stateliners coach Dave Post said he's in favor of it because of the distance between his school and Wallkill Valley, which has hosted Region 1 since 1983. Hunterdon Central is the Region 5 host.

"We've expressed that we'd like to be in Region 5, just for the fact that it's closer," Post said. "Not that we don't see Voorhees, North Hunterdon and Delaware Valley enough already, but the travel [to Hardyston where Wallkill Valley resides] is not conducive to performance. We've always performed pretty well in Region 1, but we always look to do what's better for our kids. Hunterdon Central is 30 minutes down the road.

"I like Region 1 and Wallkill Valley. I wrestled there [for P'burg]. But I don't know that it's ever going to happen."

The road block to a potential move for P'burg is the fact it's involved in a three-way rotation with Mount Olive and Warren Hills as a District 1 site. Any school that currently hosts a district must continue to do so, even with a move. We're not likely to see P'burg wrestlers competing in District 17 while back home the Warren County school is hosting the District 1 Tournament.

Delbarton to District 1 and Region 1 was a hot one going around in March, but that proposal, if true, never originated from the Region 6 group. Green Wave coach Bryan Stoll said he had not heard anything from what he considers a reliable source, but did not hesitate to say he'd love to bring his wrestlers to Phillipsburg for the postseason once every three years.

"Any chance we can wrestle in The Pit, we'll take it," Stoll said.

Boonton moving from Region 3 to 1 and Lenape Valley moving from District 2 to 1 are others being bandied about. Kinnelon from District 4 to 3 is another. As far as Region 5, District 18 schools are among those moving, including Bridgewater-Raritan shifting to Region 3, where Watchung Hills, another Somerset County school, competes.

Geography is skewed all over the place as it stands now, especially in Region 1.

Hopatcong and Lenape Valley compete in District 2, while the rest of Sussex County is in District 3. Mendham, Mount Olive and West Morris -- all Morris County schools -- are in District 1 rather than 2, which has 7 other Morris schools.

In Regions 3 and 4, there are six Newark-based schools spread over three districts -- Weequahic (D9), Barringer (D10), Newark Central and Shabazz (D11), along with East Side and West Side (D14).

In addition, there is an unbalance in number of teams across the 32 districts, ranging from eight (as in D1 and D3 for example) to 12 (D32). In taking the top three wrestlers from each weight class to regions, an uneven number among districts seems a bit unfair, especially down south where the district sizes are the largest for the most part.

Nucci said all of the discussions are still in the early stages, but he said the goal is to have something more concrete to be voted on Aug. 1 by the executive wrestling committee. First, any proposal must pass through a 30-member panel comprised of the eight region presidents, eight ranking chairmen and eight region administrators, along with New Jersey Coaches Association president Dan Smith of Watchung Hills, vice president Frank DiPiano of Nutley, seeding chairmen, tournament directors and wrestling chairmen.

Article F, sub-section D also states that: "Consideration must be given to even distribution of schools, geographic location, balance of the strength of programs, and the wishes of sister schools competing together."

Nucci realizes that no matter what the plan is, there will be some resistance.

"It's a tough thing. But our rules and regulations state there to be an even number of teams," he said. "We want to separate based on geography and strength for competitive balance. We've spent a lot of hours on this. We don't want to make drastic changes. We also realize that we're not going to make everyone happy."

Stay tuned as this is sure to spark some debate across the Garden State.

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