Less than two weeks ago, the Seymour wrestling team battled in one of its six dual meets this season.
Over the years, the weekday wrestling dual has gone by the wayside in favor of the daylong, multi-team weekend invitational. Yes, they have their overwhelming benefits, especially for teams that aren’t able to fill out a 14-person roster, but there are still a few reasons to hold dual meets.
One of the biggest is that it still give schools the chance to attract fans to their venues to see their wrestlers. Most casual fans or family members aren’t going to want to spend a Saturday at various high schools to see a single participant wrestle four or five times during a day where more than 100 matches take place.
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A Tuesday or Thursday gives them a chance to do that in a nice and neat hour-and-a-half time frame.
“The value in having dual meets is you get to have people come to your school and cheer your team on instead of Saturday where you’re spending eight hours someplace,” Seymour wrestling coach Todd Weaver said.
One of the best things about high school sports is seeing a community come out and support its team. A packed gym on a Friday night for a boys basketball game doesn’t have to be the only time a city or town rallies around its athletes. Thursday night girls basketball games or Tuesday night swimming or wrestling meets are another great way to support your local school.
Yet for wrestlers, dual meets are another day they have to make weight. Responsible weight cutting is an issue that has been a chief concern for the Indiana High School Athletic Association and Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association.
Wrestling teams are required to have six dual meets a year — an increase from four a few seasons ago — and one of the biggest pushbacks from coaches when that number increased was having kids needing to make weight two more times a season.
It wasn’t that long ago teams scheduled eight dual meets a year.
“That was the big issue when we went from four duals to six duals. A lot of coaches said, ‘Great, we have to make weight two more times this year,’” Weaver said. “I really wouldn’t care if we went back to eight duals a year. The only problem with it is now, kids have to make weight more.”
Even in spite of weight concerns, trying to garner excitement for wrestling in basketball country is a tough business. It’s especially hard to pack the stands at a gym the size of Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium, which seats more than 8,200 people.
On Dec. 5 when the Owls hosted perennial southern Indiana power Columbus East, the one stand that was pulled out was packed with fans.
Had the Owls and Olympians been ranked highly, more wrestling fans would have undoubtedly shown up and more bleachers would have been needed.
“There’s definitely value in these, especially if you get two teams that are really good,” Weaver said. “If we were ranked eighth and Columbus East was ranked third, these stands would be full. We’re just not in a spot to compete with East like that right now.”
Weaver also was quick to suggest attendance has dropped across all sports.
“At the same time, we have a lot of sports here where our attendance is low,” he contended.
Some schools have tried to give wrestling dual meets the state finals treatment by shutting off all the lights and spotlighting just the mat. A few teams, like top-ranked Brownsburg, have even gone as far as hiring disc jockeys to help pump in the excitement for a dual match.
For coaches like Weaver, those gimmicks are nice, but they only stand to work once in his mind. They are especially useless unless a team starts winning. Winning is the only surefire way to put people in seats.
That and doing so in pleasing-to-the-eye ways.
“That stuff works once, and if it’s not that exciting then, it’s a really good idea that won’t work again. Really, you’ve just got to start winning … and when you win, you make it exciting,” Weaver said. “You can put together some good combinations, and that’s what makes people excited about your sport. People come to see two gladiators just battle it out. That’s what people want to see.”
There will be several more chances to see the Owls this season, but the next home match won’t be until Jan. 23 when they host Jennings County on senior night.
It’ll be the last time to see the Owl wrestling team at home this season.