Monday, January 26, 2015

Wrestling: NJSIAA, power points just don't add up

Well, here we are again. For all of the coaches, wrestlers and fans who were hoping we'd have this mess with the power points straightened out, I have bad news.

It seems we're even further away than a week ago.

The third installment of the rankings for the upcoming sectional tournaments were released on Monday afternoon. And after a quick review, and in many discussions with local coaches, the latest points seem to be incorrect -- again.

How does this keep happening? Last week, we were told that last year's preseason chart was mistakenly used to calculate the points through the first two weeks and thus they were incorrect. This week's problem? It's anyone's guess, but it appears that the points were never corrected from the beginning of the season. Instead, the attempt was to merely to amend last week's point totals.

Again, it's just a theory.

But take a look at last week's points compared to the latest version. Teams' totals were actually lower than a week ago, when in fact they should be on the rise. At this point in many cases, we are throwing out the lower totals and using the 10 best scores. No team in the state right now has 30 points, another red flag, as most of the top schools would have at least that many. Strength of schedule is also not reflected. Take Newton for example.

The Braves (4-8) are sitting ninth in North 1, Group 1, several points behind the likes of Mountain Lakes (6-9) and Boonton (5-6). This is despite the fact that the Sussex County school has competed against Howell, South Plainfield and Warren Hills -- all ranked high in their sections.

The even bigger problem is that this week's point totals is the most crucial set since it's the one that the final rankings will be derived off of next week. The cutoff date to qualify was to be this Saturday, but the NJSIAA pushed it back to Wednesday, Feb. 4. The reason?

Well, executive director Steve Timko said the recent rash of snow that forced numerous cancellations over the weekend and on Monday has left teams scrambling to either reach the 70-percent rule or the new 10-match minimum vs. NJSIAA opponents -- a rule that a number of coaches up this way either misinterpreted or did not understand was in place.

Make no mistake, the decision to push the cutoff back had nothing to do with the weather, at least for the most part. It had everything to do with the state not wanting to look bad come the Group championships in Trenton on Feb. 15, if such top teams like Phillipsburg were ineligible to participate. The loss of other top seeds such as Bound Brook, North Hunterdon and Warren Hills would also impact ticket sales. Money, folks. That's the key here.

Don't forget, the state has also taken a beating for this whole Group 5 deal, which forced the tournament to move from Toms River North -- a successful and fan-friendly venue -- back to Trenton. It can't afford another PR nightmare on that front. There will be enough empty seats down there as it is.

P'burg (9-1) entered this week with only seven matches vs. NJSIAA opponents, having wrestled three Pennsylvania teams -- Northampton, Easton and Parkland. Coach Dave Post's squad had three matches scheduled this week -- Hunterdon Central on Wednesday, Warren Hills on Thursday and Southern on Saturday, before it secured a Friday date against High Point. Which, by the way, also is under the gun at 4-3.

To say 'Cats coach John Gardner should be a little ticked over the cutoff shift is probably an understatement. Remember, it was his No. 1 ranked team in 2009 that was ruled ineligible to compete in the North 1, Group 3 sectional tournament because it fell under the 70-percent rule. Now, that mistake wasn't weather related, but regardless, the state said it had absolutely no recourse to change it. Tough luck coach, was the gist of it.

Why even have rules if we are going to change things midstream. It seems like every year we are dealing with this nonsense of improperly worded state regulations, incorrect seeding, the list goes on and on.

Take this sentence from the regs in regards to the cutoff:

"Any meet wrestled after the cut-off date will NOT count toward qualification or seeding, regardless of the reason, even if the cause is an act of God."

So I guess we are now to assume that snow is not an act of God. No, the game is changed when money is involved and the NJSIAA is looking bad. The coaches who didn't have their teams in line with the rules to this point certainly did the state no favors, but it's time to get this stuff straightened out. And fast.

After all, it may take several weeks to figure out these points. And wouldn't that be par for the course.

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