It amazingly is a mystery to many in the high school wrestling community as to what the new proposal will fully look like, but the NJSIAA wrestling committee is set to vote on Wednesday in the next step to bringing what several sources say could be radical changes statewide to the current district and region landscape.
The proposed realignment will begin with the regions. Once the eight regions are in place, the 32 districts will be formed. Attempts to acquire copies of what seem to be two new -- one containing very dramatic changes -- realignment proposals were unsuccessful.
Watchung Hills coach and New Jersey Coaches Association president Dan Smith said that even if one of the new proposals passes, it would still have to make its way through several other committees before becoming official. Smith did say there is a push to implement this for the 2016-17 season.
"Only because if the Region 9 (all Non-Public schools together) proposal had not been shot down, we'd be realigning anyway," Smith said.
In previous months, the topic of realignment picked up steam. Initially, there were multiple proposals being reviewed before being whittled down to just two. Smith said the committee has been tasked with looking at what's best for the entire state, not just one or two regions.
"I can tell you, the proposal I am voting on will be the most balanced and fair of any structure for district and region realignment," he said. "There are some very dramatic and some with little change. The pros and cons have been discussed."
According to sources, the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area could be greatly impacted as will most of the north and central parts of the state. Phillipsburg, which has been a part of several reconstructs to Region 1 over the years, could be on the move. Stateliners coach Dave Post said he spoke with Smith at the Hunterdon Duals in June about realignment. Post also said he petitioned unsuccessfully in the past to move to Region 5, strictly from a geographic standpoint. Wallkill Valley, which hosts Region 1, is over an hour ride from P'burg, where Region 5 host Hunterdon Central is merely 20-25 minutes.
"The hotel rooms [in Sussex County] are a big expense," said Post, whose team stays overnight on Friday for Region 1. "That's $3,000 each year which uses all of our budget. Our club pays for our rooms in Atlantic City [for the state tournament]. Saving money for regions would ease the burden."
When potential realignment first gained serious traction a year ago, Raritan coach Rob Nucci, one of the proponents, said the goal at that time was to give each district and region an equal number of teams and do so with as little movement as possible, while also taking into account geography and traditional rivalries. However, it appears at least one of the new proposals is simply geared at eliminating any of the politics.
The inequity in number of teams per region (Region 1 has 34 schools and Region 6 has 44 for example) was the initial and main reason given for necessitating change. But Post is among those who feel that focusing strictly on the number of schools is an unfair way to go about it. Regions 1-4 combined for 63 individual state medals, while Regions 5-8 had 49 this past season. Region 2 led the way with 21, while Regions 1 and 5 were next with 17. Only Region 3 with 11 and Region 7 with eight had fewer than Regions 6 and 8, which each had 12. Region 4 had 14 and Region 3 had 11 placewinners.
"I'm not opposed to moving. I'm not for it or against it. But they're not taking into account quality," Post said. "Look at the number of state placewinners [from this past season] in the north as opposed to the south. It's not even close. Just balancing the numbers [in each region] isn't fair."
In addition, the continuing divide and animosity between Public and Non-Public schools has driven the desire for realignment with state powers Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco Prep both housed in the current Region 2.
Under the new proposals, Non-Public schools would move south to north, while Public schools would go north to south. A system using a school's northing number and an average of its power points totals from the past five seasons will be used to construct the regions for one proposal. The second would use just the northing numbers -- like in other sports -- which would make a dramatic changes. One potential problem using this method is that it would create a rugged region comprised of some teams in what is known in circles as the "78 Corridor," where powers Phillipsburg, Bound Brook, South Plainfield and others, all near Route 78, would wind up in the same region.
In Region 5, which now includes Delaware Valley, Hunterdon Central, North Hunterdon and Voorhees, all of the Mercer County schools could potentially move there.
Needless to say, a radical realignment won't be welcomed by a lot of coaches and fans. Another sticking point with coaches is the lack of information that's being shared. Most in this area were unaware that a vote was even scheduled to take place. One source said that the NJSIAA is pushing for realignment to take place for the 2016-17 season, despite schedules already being made and the likely need for new district and region representatives.
"It would be nice to be able to see things up front," Newton coach Eric Bollette said. "It seems like the coaches don't have much say in it. It will be interesting to see where we all fall."
Taking Phillipsburg, which by far brings the most fans to Wallkill Valley, out of Region 1 would be a major hit from a competition and monetary standpoint. The biggest thing that has kept that region at Wallkill, besides it is a fantastic host, is that it sends the largest gate check of any region to the NJSIAA each year. But without that gate and the fact Wallkill Valley can only fit two mats, there would be a tremendous chance of Region 1 heading elsewhere for the first time since 1983, presumably to Mount Olive, if the Morris County school stays in Region 1.
There is also the potential for several new schools hosting the district tournaments once the region alignment is finalized. However, the move to send the top four qualifiers from each region to the state tournament and the expansion of the sectional tournaments from six to eight teams will indeed apply to the 2016-17 season, according to sources.