New proposal would give WPIAL wrestling 5 state qualifiers in Class 3A

Wednesday, April 6, 2022 | 9:17 PM

When the PIAA meets May 18, a major change in wrestling will need to be approved.

The PIAA wrestling steering committee reconvened Tuesday and, after hours of discussions, approved a format that will decide which area gets more qualifiers for the PIAA individual championships.

Regions will receive additional qualifiers based on results, not the number of schools in a particular region.

When coaches from the WPIAL learned the current formula used by the PIAA was taking away a qualifier in Class 3A, many tried to figure out a way to keep the district’s fourth qualifier.

They went back 10 years to see how the WPIAL compared to the rest of the state in medals won. The stats proved the WPIAL dominated the state on the individual level.

So the coaches loaded WPIAL wrestling steering committee chairman Frank Vulcano Jr. with numbers for the PIAA to consider.

Things turned out better than they expected if the PIAA Board of Directors agrees to the new format. Not only does the WPIAL save its fourth qualifier, it and the Northeast Region (Districts 2, 11 and 12) will gain a fifth qualifier.

“I believe this is good for wrestling and the state,” Vulcano said. “Pennsylvania is No. 1 in wrestling in the country, and we should expect quality not quantity at the state tournament.”

Vulcano said two proposals were voted down before the committee accepted the third by an 11-3 vote.

The first proposal was to make a West Region by combining the WPIAL and the Northwest Region in 3A. That vote ended 7-7, with the District 1 committee changing his original yes vote to a no.

The second proposal was to go to four regions. That also was voted down.

The committee approved the third proposal. Each region in Class 3A — there are five — would receive three automatic qualifiers. The five remaining spots in the 20-wrestler bracket would be determined on the strength of the region using a formula.

The formula considers the top three finishers in each region and how those returning underclassmen finished in the medal count.

Because the WPIAL and District 11 arguably are the strongest in the state, the formula gave those two regions five qualifiers. South Central would stay at four qualifiers, and the Northwest and Southeast regions would receive three each.

Vulcano said counting only the top three qualifiers in each region would create a level playing field.

Based on the latest tournament, the WPIAL had 14 underclassmen medal, the Northeast 12, the Northwest and South Central nine and the Southeast six.

“This formula will be used every year, so things could change year to year,” Vulcano said. “Nothing is set in stone until the Board of Control meets.”

Vulcano said it’s encouraging that PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi and associate director Mark Byers are for the change.

Hempfield wrestling coach Vince DeAugustine and Franklin Regional coach Matt Lebe agree performances should be a determining factor.

“It’s a great day for wrestling and the WPIAL,” Lebe said. “It’s exciting for our district.”

One of the things the committee talked about is how swimming and track and field qualifying were performance based. Each district received a certain number of qualifiers, and the rest were based on hitting a qualifying standard.

“The PIAA is falling in line with the NCAA,” Waynesburg coach Kyle Szewczyk said. “Determining qualifiers should be performance based.

“It makes sense. I know there were numerous wrestlers from the WPIAL who didn’t make it to states that would have placed. At the end of the day, if you do well, you get rewarded. Hopefully, we won’t let anyone down.”

Class 2A will use the same formula. Because there are only four regions, each region will get four automatic qualifiers. The formula then will be used to determine which region receives the additional qualifiers.

Based on the formula, the Northeast will receive six, the Southwest and Southeast five each and the Northwest four.

Based on this year’s tournament, the Northeast returns 18 medalists, the Southeast 16, the Southwest 14 and the Northwest 11.

Burrell coach Josh Shields said that while the Southwest is losing one qualifier, it’s still good for the sport.

“I hope the WPIAL allows us to send eight to the regional since we added seven more schools.” Shields said. “That still gives us an opportunity to take more to Hershey. I’ll be interested to see how they split the team tournament. I wish it was by public and nonboundary schools.”

That’s not the case.

Another surprising proposal, which was rumored on social media last week but not talked about at Tuesday’s meeting, was to expand the team tournament to four divisions.

That was approved 12-0 after the group originally voted 10-0 to accept the two-division concept in the first meeting March 30.

Vulcano said the four divisions will be achieved by splitting Class 2A in half and splitting Class 3A in half.

“I’m OK with it,” Southmoreland wrestling coach and athletic director Dan Boring said. “I do agree you want quality wrestlers make it to Hershey.”

Before everyone in the WPIAL can celebrate this drastic change, the proposal needs to get one more hurdle: the PIAA Board of Directors in May.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at

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