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Taylor: GHSA still has to address how to best classify wrestling programs
Governing body could combine smallest classifications
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Last Tuesday, coaches and athletic directors from across the state converged on the Macon Centreplex to ratify the new reclassification for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years.

The meeting happened just a few days before the state wrestling duals got underway in the very same complex, an event that could look very different in the next few years after a decision handed down by the Georgia High School Association's executive committee.

In a move made to appease a number of Class A public schools, the committee voted to split Class A public and private schools for all state championships.

These schools, mainly in South Georgia, had decided to form their own association if something wasn't done about what they saw as the private-school dominance of championships in Class A.

They had a point, especially with the most visible sport, football, being dominated in Class A by private schools in the 2011 state playoffs.

But the decision would have unforeseen consequences for the very sport that took over the Centreplex later that week.

Splitting Class A leaves public school wrestling programs with a tough decision: whether or not to join with Class AA (like volleyball) to be able to continue to compete at the state meet.

The GHSA will meet over the next few months to decide to do with sports, like wrestling, that don't currently have enough representation.

The GHSA requires 16 teams to compete in a sport to hold a state championship, and there aren't enough Class A public schools with wrestling under the new classification plans to fill that quota.

Commerce, one of the few Class A schools that does have wrestling, along with Jefferson, the top program in the Class AA, were both unhappy with the possibility of a combined state championship.

"We're only seven miles apart, so there's always been a rivalry," said Jefferson coach Doug Thurmond.

The two schools are rivals who root for each other unless they meet on the same mat.

A likely scenario that could happen at the traditional and duals state meets as soon as next year.

Thurmond and his former assistant and now Commerce coach Kendall Love are in agreement: It's not a good idea.

"Personally I don't like it," Thurmond said. "The small schools are at a disadvantage and I feel for them."

The Tigers, who have finished as high as second in the state duals, finished fourth last week after falling in the semifinals to Holy Innocents, a private school which won't be facing Commerce after this season.

Instead, the Tigers would probably have to get through Jefferson to win their first state duals title, and with the Dragons showing no signs of letting up, that doesn't appear very likely.

"I'm not a fan for obvious reasons," Love said. "It's a big disadvantage going against schools twice our size."

It's true that some Class A wrestling programs, including Commerce, might still be able to compete in the postseason.

But instead of Jackson County possessing a pair of wrestling teams who each have a shot at state titles year in and year out, combining Class A and Class AA for the postseason could dull the tremendous impact of wrestling programs in Jackson County.

It's just one potential solution to the problem caused by the GHSA's decision to split the Class A schools for the postseason.

For many schools without wrestling, it's probably not even an issue.

But, like GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin said at the meeting last week in Macon, just days before the wrestlers arrived, there's still a lot of work to do.

If the classes do merge for wrestling, Commerce, and the other Class A wrestling programs, will have a new challenge next year in Macon.

Private schools like Holy Innocents will be gone.

But in their place could be the likes of Jefferson and the other top-notch Class AA programs.

And a class A public school, not all that different from the schools that proposed the public, private split, is in a difficult situation because in Jackson County, wrestling is not a secondary sport, as Love will attest.

The GHSA's decision may have made sense for Class A football, but where does that leave wrestling?


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