Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wrestling: Who has power when it comes to points?

Seems like the fun is just beginning when it comes to figuring out what went wrong with the power points used to determine the sectional tournament qualifying teams.

The story centering on incorrect totals, as first reported by Open Mike, is starting to gain steam with other media outlets across the state and Pennsylvania. And it seems to be getting more bizarre by the day.

Apparently, there's an issue with the new chart used to calculate the points. In an email from longtime tabulator Larry McMillan that was recently sent out to all of the Region 5 coaches, McMillan sheds some light on why the numbers still appear to be off -- even after he mistakenly used last year's chart to tally last week's incorrect point totals.

According to McMillan, the new chart is penalizing teams that seek out better competition and rewarding the teams that do not. That's a startling revelation considering the points were revised some time ago to reflect the exact opposite.

"The adjustments made to the table were NOT minor adjustments," McMillan pointed out in the email. "They were huge SLASHES in the bottom four columns of the table."

The question begs: Who changed the chart and why? According to one wrestling source, this falls on person(s) on the wrestling committee. The reasons for this are still unknown, but this issue has created a firestorm over the last week.

Newton coach Eric Bollette is among the area coaches that I have spoken with who seem to be in the dark as to why the points chart was changed in the first place. Furthermore, it seems the coaches were unaware of these alterations.

"If the system was changed, then how come no one was informed of this? What's the big secret," said Bollette, who strongly feels that teams should be at least .500 to qualify as was the case for years. "Ultimately, the system is what it is."

The system clearly has major flaws. How can we start penalizing teams for wrestling top competition and rewarding those that do not? In Newton's case, the Braves are ranked ninth in North 1, Group 1 with seemingly no shot to move up into the top six to qualify before the cutoff date on Wednesday, Feb. 4. That date was pushed back from Saturday, Jan. 31 by the state to help out some teams -- as a result of the recent snowstorms -- that were on the cusp of gaining the necessary 10 matches against NJSIAA opponents or meeting the 70-percent rule vs. in-state competition.

Phillipsburg, North Hunterdon, High Point and Warren Hills were among the local teams under the gun to qualify -- either under the 70 percent or the 10-match minimum.

"It would appear that after last year, when we were told that wrestling top teams would not necessarily hurt you, it would appear that is," Bollette said. "In an effort to prepare [our wrestlers] for the individual tournaments, we have sought out some of the top teams in the area. Obviously that is hurting us as teams ahead of us have winning records, but they have not seen near the competition. Maybe we should seek out the same level of competition, and as a result, out power points would be higher."

To clarify, the 70-percent rule which requires teams to wrestle that percentage of its schedule vs. NJ teams was created for Phillipsburg, which used to compete in a Pennsylvania-based conference prior to joining the Skyland Conference for the 1995-96 school year.

In a story that appeared Tuesday night on Lehighvalleylive,com, writer Brad Wilson stated that the rule was "created by people jealous of the Stateliners' success in football and wrestling." That rule was instituted because P'burg, when it was in a Pennsylvania conference, would wrestle only a handful of New Jersey's top teams and gain a ton of power points that enabled the Warren County school to host the Group championships at home in The Pit -- an unfair advantage in the eyes of the coaches.

Case in point of the current flawed system is Howell, which is ranked No. 2 in the latest New Jersey Writers Association Top 20. The Rebels, despite being 17-0 with wins over No. 3 Phillipsburg, No. 14 Christian Brothers and No. 19 South Plainfield, is receiving a lower power-point rating because three of their best 10 matches used to calculate their points are against unranked opponents -- for which the Shore Conference school now only receives 24 points instead of 26, as it did in previous years.

In essence, Howell only has seven "good" matches. If you look at the point across the board, no team has more than 30, which would be the case in years past among the top teams, while a total of 24 gets you into the top six in all sections.

McMillan also seems confused as to what happened with this year's chart and apparently even he was never consulted on the changes prior to the season.

"I don't remember being asked to run any simulations," he said in the email. "This is just the way it is. Clearly, some coaches felt other teams were getting too many points for just wrestling unranked or very low ranked teams, and this is the result."

Our source also said there is some discussion of scrapping this new chart and reverting back to the old one. In any case, this is a disaster when you consider that there are teams now thinking they are in the tournament. Should they go back to the old chart, those teams may very well be out.

Stay tuned as this story is not going away anytime soon.

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