Bracket for state wrestling's Mat Classic could expand soon

South Kitsap sent a dozen wrestlers to Mat Classic XXII last month.

That number could increase almost by default in the future.

The Washington State Wrestling Coaches Association will present a proposal to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association that would eliminate regionals and expand the state tournament. The current 16-man bracket would double for the Class 4A and 3A divisions.

WIAA assistant executive director Jim Meyerhoff said a new format could be based on the number of participants in each classification. He said it might make sense for 4A and 3A, which each have 3,000 wrestlers, to have a 32-man bracket. But for the smaller classifications and girls, which have far fewer wrestlers throughout the state, he said remaining at 16 participants or increasing to 24 might make more sense.

Meyerhoff cautioned that he does not expect changes — if any — to occur soon.

“We’re a long ways away from that,” he said, adding that because the WIAA is in the second year of a two-year cycle, adjustments might not come until 2012 or 2014.

South Kitsap coach Chad Nass and the majority of his colleagues support the change. According to a poll on the association’s Web site, 63.9 percent of the 147 coaches who responded support increasing the state tournament bracket.

Nass said the new format has raised some concerns, including the possibility of hurting the “prestige” of advancing to state with a deeper field. But he is not sure if that is significant.

“They still only give out eight metals,” he said.

Nass also likes that it would eliminate the berth shares for state. In 2009, the 4A Region III championships only sent the top three wrestlers to state. That number increased to four this year, but that left Eastern Washington’s major leagues with just three state berths. Two of the top three teams finishers at Mat Classic XXII — University of Spokane and Moses Lake — are east of Snoqualmie Pass.

“You want your best 16 wrestlers in the state tournament,” Nass said. “It gives everyone equal ground in terms of berth sharing to state.”

He said another benefit to the change would be reducing expenses. The 4A Region III championships include schools from as far south as Vancouver to Central Kitsap. The last two regionals have been held in Silverdale and Olympia.

But Meyerhoff said there are significant logistical issues with expanding state wrestling. An increased tournament likely means it would increase by 24 hours and become a three-day event. He said that means many workers would have to take another day off from their regular jobs to staff Mat Classic, which would begin on Thursday.

Another concern is parking at the Tacoma Dome. Meyerhoff said attendance for the two-day tournament was 28,700 this year, which is larger than any other WIAA event. He said parking already is an issue and the Harold E. LeMay Automobile Museum could be built on two of the Tacoma Dome’s three lots. Meyerhoff said that might mean running a shuttle bus from another location, such as Cheney Stadium, to provide ample parking.

Meyerhoff said space inside the facility with more mats and increased attendance also could be an issue.

That does not mean he is against the proposal. Meyerhoff said he likes the idea of “promoting” the sport more.

He said the next step will include a reading of the plan to the WIAA’s 13-member executive board this month. There are three readings with the final one occurring in July. The plan must be approved by a majority at each meeting to be implemented.

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