DURHAM — Even if there had been a planned Southwest Wake Athletic Conference wrestling tournament, chances are the snowfall last week would have forced its cancellation. Just to close out the conference’s regular season, teams had to face each other in head-to-head duals on Saturday.
In previous years, the importance of the conference tournament had diminished, and none was scheduled this season for the first time in more than 30 years.
The tournament once determined who the conference’s true team champ was – which is how Cary kept a streak of 27 conference titles going despite a dual loss to Apex in 1990 – but that changed over time. It didn’t affect who was voted all-conference.
But some SWAC coaches were sad to see it go.
The tournament was a point of pride for Holly Springs coach Brandon Inge. His Golden Hawks were heartbroken when they came up two points short in 2011 and rejoiced last season when they ended Cary’s streak of 30 straight.
“Dual matches are different. You can get different match-ups. You can adjust individual match-ups for team purposes,” Inge said. “(The tournament) proves who the top dog is, but the other argument is that’s what regionals are for too.”
There are two takeaways from having a tournament – the pride shared by the winners, and the tournament’s wins and losses are calculated into individual regional seeding. Wins and losses compiled in the individual tournament are added to the season total and used for regional seeding – which is based on overall winning percentage with a minimum of 15 matches wrestled. If a wrestler was near the cutoff, a conference tournament loss might push him out.
Athens Drive coach Sean Finkbeiner said the tournament would have been better if each individual’s conference tournament finish – instead of the wins and losses – had an affect on regional seeds, which is the case in tennis.
“I wish they would make the conference tournament count for something,” Finkbeiner said. “Either way, it’s additional competition to get the kids ready for regional and state competition.”
Green Hope coach Steve Gursslin noted that playing those same teams can hurt the seeding of wrestlers in tough weight classes.
“I was actually not opposed to not having the tournament,” he said. “A lot of the times we wrestled the same guys two or three times. Especially if another team has a stronger wrestler, that’s another two or three losses going on your record and affecting your (winning) percentage. ... You might have three losses and they all be to the same kid, and that can affect your seeding.”
Still, some sided with the nostalgia of keeping a tournament that had been around since Triangle high schools first took up the sport.
“I’d rather have a conference tournament just because it’s historical,” Apex coach Mike New said. “It just helps promote the sport, I think. ... There needs to be more celebration into what these kids are doing.”
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