Could the state wrestling championships Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center be the last year of a three-class system due to declining participation?
The short answer? No.
The longer answer? The future setup of state championships may be tweaked a bit, but championships in A, B and C are likely to remain for the foreseeable future.
Last September the Maine Principals’ Association wrestling committee voted unanimously to maintain the Class A, B and C format through the next two-year classification cycle. The chair, Chris Chessie, said the committee believes recognizing teams/athletes for accomplishments against like-size schools is “important to hold on to.”
But the committee will keep looking at how it should address noticeably reduced participation levels, said Chessie, the principal at Wells Junior High.
One possible change would be to end regional championships.
A strong case can be made that the Western Class C meet Saturday was unnecessary, at least for being a state qualifier for individual wrestlers.
Fifty-two of the 65 wrestlers qualified for the state meet. Four divisions had fewer than four wrestlers and another three had just four, meaning in seven of the 14 divisions every wrestler knew he/she was going to the state meet before stepping onto the mat.
It’s not a single-regional problem. Of the 28 total weight classes in Class B (14 East, 14 West) there were more brackets where every wrestler was state-tourney bound (four) than had full eight-wrestler brackets (3).
Even in Western Class A, where 12 teams scored points, the 106, 113, 120 and 285 weights had at least one wrestler getting a quarterfinal bye.
Maine has used a three-class system since the 1989-90 season.
What could undergo a more radical change in the short term is the qualification procedure for the New England championships.
Currently the three state champions advance in each weight class. It’s an easy format but not a perfect one. Quite often one class’ runner-up has proven throughout the season to be superior to other classes’ champions.
Chessie said the wrestling committee has had several discussions — and he anticipates more to come — about creating a separate New England qualifying tournament. The likely plan would make the top four state championship finishers from each class eligible for participation.
Asked if that tournament could be in effect for 2014, Chessie said, “we’ll see what happens at this (next) meeting.”
QUIET CHAMPION: He’s a defending state champion, he won the Western Class A regional at 138 pounds and he’s a senior captain for Marshwood, the defending state champion. But Nick Janes rarely has gotten ink in this space or much acclaim elsewhere.
“I just really care how everyone views the team, how we’re the best,” Janes said, adding that he understands why teammates like three-time state champ Tyler Davidson or sophomore Cody Hughes garner most of the attention.
“They have a lot cooler matches than me. Mine are pretty boring,” Janes said. “We have a lot of studs on our team. It’s hard to separate yourself from the other guys on the team when the team is just so good.”
Janes, the defending state champ at 145 pounds, dropped to 138 in his senior year to accommodate the maturation of the current 145-pounder, sophomore Jackson Howarth.
On Saturday, Janes and Eastern winner Kaleb Brown of Skowhegan will enter the Class A championships as co-favorites. Whatever happens at Augusta, Janes said winning the regional title was meaningful.
“It was sweet. It was my last time wrestling here under the light so it meant a lot to come in here and win in front of the home crowd and everything,” Janes said.
IF THE SEEDS hold up Saturday and the East champ meets the West champ in the final, here are some intriguing divisions:
• Class A 126-pound division: Mt. Blue senior Khalil Newbill against Massabesic junior Tyler Everett. Newbill won his fourth straight regional championship while Everett showed his mettle earlier in the year, winning a tough division at the Sanford Invitational and beating Newbill 13-10 at the Noble Invitational en route to a runner-up finish.
• Class A 170: Can two-time state champ Jared Jensen of Brunswick complete a perfect senior season or will Kennebunk senior Evan Fecko win his first?
• Class A 220: Two reigning state champs go at it. Victor Irwin of Brewer won the 195-pound title last year and Josh Andrews of Massabesic is the reigning 220 champ.
• Class B 195: Aggressive York sophomore Zach Handley against experienced Belfast senior Peter Kelley, who was third at this weight a year ago and honed his power at 220 pounds for much of the season.
• Class A 120 and Class B 132: Will there be a four-time state champ? Marshwood’s Tyler Davidson (A-120) has a tougher road than Belfast’s Brent Waterman (B-132). If Davidson’s not facing East champ Julian Sirois, that likely means a fourth match vs. Lucas Dion of Massabesic, and Dion holds a 2-1 series edge.
IF THE ANTICIPATED storm cancels Saturday’s championships at the Augusta Civic Center, they will move to separate sites at a date to be determined. Class A will be held at Sanford, Class B at Fryeburg Academy and Class C at Mountain Valley, hosted by Dirigo.
Staff Writer Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at: