Hate to say we told you so, but the reality is that Group 5 for wrestling is seemingly here to stay.
The sad experiment that was implemented last season as a one-year pilot program was adopted again for the 2015-16 season -- and likely beyond -- by the NJSIAA voting members.
What's next? Expansion from six to eight qualifiers in the sectional tournaments? Don't scoff, they're discussing and voting on that as well.
In another unsurprising but favorable move, the Group championships are shifting back to Toms River North after a disastrous return to Trenton last season. To be fair, poor weather contributed to the low attendance figures, but the lack of marquee matchups did little to entice even diehard fans to make the trip to dreary Sun Bank National Center.
As for Group 5, well, this is a sign of the times in wrestling and most high school sports. Pressure to win trophies -- which is being cultivated on the youth level -- has become a factor in decisions to put what is best for the overall sport on the back burner. Group 5 has watered down the postseason playing field and robbed us last season of a Brick Memorial-Phillipsburg showdown for the Group 4 title, since Brick was housed in Group 5.
"It helped us last year, but it's not what's best for the sport," said Newton coach Eric Bollette, whose Braves have a much easier road a year ago in the North 1, Group 1 section with five groups. The Sussex County school will be in North 2, Group 1 for this season.
The closeness of the voting in the Northwest Jersey Athletic and Skyland conferences was at least a bit encouraging moving forward.
In the NJAC, the vote 18-14 in favor with seven abstentions. Sadly, West Morris, did not cast a vote either way. Of the seven abstentions, only Delbarton and Hackettstown have wrestling programs. You can understand Delbarton not voting since it does not have a dog in the fight with Group 5 not impacting the Non-Public ranks. But Hackettstown not casting a vote is a real head-scratcher. Why not vote on something that could affect your program?
Boonton also suggested having eight qualifiers instead of six for the sectional tournaments, something that lasted just one season in the early 1990s before going to six. Prior to having eight, just four teams qualified in each section.
Here's the breakdown of votes:
Five groups -- Hanover Park, Hopatcong, Lenape Valley, Madison, Mendham, Montville, Morris Hills, Morris Knolls, Morristown, Mount Olive, Mountain Lakes, North Warren, Parsippany Hills, Pequannock, Roxbury, Sparta, Vernon, Whippany Park.
Four groups -- Boonton, Butler, Chatham, Dover, High Point, Jefferson, Kinnelon, Kittatinny, Morris Catholic, Newton, Parsippany, Pope John, Randolph, Wallkill Valley.
Abstentions -- Academy of St. Elizabeth, Delbarton, Hackettstown, Morris Tech, Morristown-Beard, Sussex Tech, Villa Walsh Academy.
Over in the Skyland Conference, the vote was 10-8 in favor of keeping Group 5, according to Skyland vice president and Voorhees athletic director Al Stumpf, who curiously could not provide a school-by-school breakdown of the votes.
Apparently, in talking with some area coaches, votes were cast by the ADs, who did not necessarily consult with their coaches.
Belvidere and Phillipsburg are the only known schools in Hunterdon-Warren to vote against Group 5.