Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wrestling: Region seeding format misses the point

Seems like we have these discussions at this time each season, but those that follow this blog know that I have never been a fan of the way regional tournaments are seeded in this state.

Well, after once again sitting in on the process at Region 1 on Monday, it's high time for the powers to be to start recognizing what a disservice they are doing to the wrestlers and this great sport. One look at the way things shook out at 120 and 138 pounds tells you that the current way is not the best way, and it's not even close. The system, which was created by wrestling committee member and former coach Doug Bower, possesses inherent flaws that arise each year in a few classes.

At 120, all three wrestlers from District 4 wound up in the same quarter of the draw. Wayne Hills senior Mojahed Hamdeh is the No. 1 seed, while Lakeland's Dan Kee and DePaul's Damian Maver will battle on Wednesday night in the opening round at Wallkill Valley Regional High School. The season ends for the loser of that one.

Just a few days ago, Hamdeh, a returning Region 1 champ, won the district title, beating Maver, 4-2 in overtime. Maver reached the finals with a sound 7-0 win over Kee, a Region 1 runner-up last season who reached the second round of state wrestlebacks in Atlantic City.

So after battling it out on Saturday and establishing a pecking order, the trio is forced to bang heads again in the first two rounds of regions. Totally unfair.

At 138, Mendham's Eric Friedman and High Point's Jared Kobis are on a collision course for the semifinals on Saturday. Two of the best kids in the state -- Friedman was an eight-place finisher last season -- and who are both unbeaten, are the Nos. 1 and 4 seeds, respectively. DePaul's Cory Doebel and Pequannock's Alex Zangrilli are above Kobis, despite having 15 and six losses, respectively.

So how does this happen?

For those unfamiliar with the seeding process, the seconds and thirds from each of the four districts in the region are listed on the board and seeded 1 through 8. The top four based on points and criteria (previous advancement plays a huge role here) are then moved over with the four district champions. Only now, the points are out of the picture and those eight wrestlers are seeded on previous region and state advancements, as well as any head-to-head meetings in that group that have taken place during the season. Best wins and winning percentage serve as criteria when a wrestler has nothing else on merit.

The pre-seed at 138 with prior furthest advancements was as follows: 1. Friedman (state 8th), 2. Doebel (RWB2, R 2v3)), 3. Kobis (RWB2), 4. Nigro (RWB1, R 2v3), 5. Zangrilli (R2v3, twice), 6. Wissing (best win over S8), 7. Liberato (best win over RWB2), 8. Minter (best win RWB1).

Zangrilli jumped up to No. 2 after decking Doebel in the District 4 finals, pushing Doebel to No. 3 and Kobis to No. 4, since Doebel and Kobis did not meet this season.

Oddly, this process in many other cases has rendered the district tournaments virtually meaningless, Case in point at 120, where Maver's win over Kee on Saturday was lost in the shuffle.

What's the answer?

My whole argument for years is to just seed everyone based on their point totals, which include prestige totals for previous placements and have already factored in head-to-head results. And the big thing is, the higher a wrestler's total is results from being better against stronger competition over a season or career. Prestige points are built into the total, taking into account the furthest advancement resulting from any state, region or district medals.

"Pennsylvania uses [strictly] points," said Newton coach Eric Bollette, who serves as a District 3 representative at the Region 1 seeding meeting. "We are rewarding kids twice for beating someone."

During a phone conversation on Monday night, High Point coach John Gardner said he would vote for seeding based on points alone. The disturbing thing is that the point totals this year were off due to missing information on Track wrestling or incorrect prestige points. For example, Lenape Valley's Sam Palumbo was in the system as a Region 1 fourth-place finisher, when in fact he only got to the second round of wrestlebacks in 2014. That means every one of his opponents got the wrong points for those matchups.

Seeding strictly on points won't cure every bad draw or seed -- someone will always have a gripe -- but I believe it's the fairest way and it's certainly better than what he already have in place. We went to this format some time ago because coaches were circumventing the old format of seeding the four district champs, and then placing the runners-up and thirds on the opposite side of the bracket. In a case of a strong district, the runner-up to the No. 1 for example, could come out against the No. 3 seed unless the coaches' votes dictated otherwise. Well, coaches cut deals for votes and there was a lot of underhanded activity on that front.

Based solely on points, here is how 120 and 138 would have shaken out on Monday:

120 -- 1. Dylan Luciano, West Morris; 2. Nick Klinger, Kittatinny; 3. Troy Stanich of Roxbury; 4. Joe Renne, Hackettstown; 5. Trevor Morales, Newton; 6. Kee; 7. Hamdeh; 8. Connor Meytrott, Montville; 9. Maver; 10. Tyler Agans, Phillipsburg; 11. Ryan Luchs, Pope John; 12. Max Halkenhauser, Morris Hills.

138 -- 1. Friedman; 2. Kobis; 3. Zangrilli; 4. DJ Wissing, Phillipsburg; 5. Michael Nigro, Morris Knolls; 6. Doebel; 7. Sean Siek, Wallkill Valley; 8. Joey Ioffredo, Hopatcong; 9. Dylan Minter, Kittatinny; 10. Elijah Navarro, Wayne Valley; 11. Daniel Jin, Montville; 12. Matthew Liberato, West Morris.

As you can see, things are a little different. At 120, Maver is still in the 8-9 matchup, but he's away from Hamdeh and Kee. It's a tough weight, so there isn't a place to hide. But the coaches of those three wrestlers would be a little more accepting of this bracket than they were on Monday.

At 138, Friedman are Kobis are the 1-2, which they should be. That is a potential state semifinal type of bout that will likely go off in the Region 1 semis. Zangrilli decking Doebel in the District 4 finals is the result that mucked things up here. Kobis was penalized because he just one region appearance and no state criteria after battling injuries the last two seasons.

Kobis (27-0), a recognized elite talent, has a point total of 316, while Zangrilli's is 206. Doebel is at 182.5. They have a combined total of 21 losses. Kobis is 67-4 overall, with three defeats directly attributed to injuries. As a freshman, he dropped a heartbreaker in the ultimate tiebreaker to two-time state placewinner Ryan Pomrinca of North Hunterdon in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex finals.

It's a travesty that 138 is the way it is. Nothing can change that now, but let's get this right for future tournaments. Use the points and bag the rest. If we're about getting the best guys separated in the draw, which is the goal, then do the right thing. These kids deserve it.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea, but you still have to give the district champs the bye. I think that head to head has to come into play. You should reward a wrestler for beating someone.