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National trend shapes change in wrestling classes

Wrestling is a weighty sport to begin with, but mat fans are in for a slight change this season due to a national trend.

The National Federation of State High School Associations, of which the Oregon School Activities Association takes its cues from on rules changes, approved for the 2011-12 season an upward shift in the 14 weight classes.

"They monitor at the national level where we're getting more athletes and what they found was there were a lot of kids in the upper weight classes nationally," Eagle Point wrestling coach Kacey McNulty said of the NFHS. "From 170 pounds to heavyweight there were a lot of participants but there weren't a lot of weight classes so they spread out the bottom weights more and added more upper weights."

"We still have the same number of weight class but they've spread it out for bigger kids so there's not as much of a jump for those big kids," added McNulty, "because that was a big jump to go from 171 pounds to 189 pounds."

Three middle weight classes were retained (145 pounds, 152 and 160), but instead of being the Nos. 8-10 weight classes, they are each now one step lower on the weight list. The heavyweight class of 285 also remained unchanged.

The new system offers a class setup that includes 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285. The prior system rundown was 103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 215 and 285.

According to the NFHS, the last wholesale shift in weight classes occurred in 1988, when the lowest weight class was increased from 98 to 103 pounds. The only other changes since then were in 2002, when the number of classes went from 13 to 14 and the 215-pound weight class became mandatory, and in 2006, when the 275-pound class was increased to 285 pounds.

Dale Pleimann, chair of the NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee, said in the NFHS announcement of the rules changes that the goal was to create weight classes that have approximately seven percent of the nation's wrestlers in each weight class. His rules committee was able to analyze data from almost 200,000 wrestlers across the country in making the determination that a change in weight classes was necessary.

Beyond the additional upper weight classes, the overall changes to each class is minor, within a couple pounds of previous limits. Another necessary change was moving the lowest weight class up to 106 pounds. Many programs have struggled in recent years to field wrestlers in the lowest class since their wrestling rooms didn't have anyone weighing 103 pounds or less.

As has been customary, a two-pound growth allowance will be added to each weight class on the second Sunday in January.

"It'll definitely have an impact," McNulty said of the change in weight classes. "It's made some changes for us in the fact that we have a bunch of kids piled up at a bunch of those lower weight classes. We were strong in those weight classes last year so we have kids that are going to be bottlenecked in those lighter weight classes, but I think every program's going to have to deal with things like that."

McNulty said his team currently is four-deep in the first eight weight classes but only has one wrestler at each of the upper weight classes. It's the luck of the draw, really, and McNulty said such issues can come up one season and not the next so there should be no major benefit or hindrance for wrestling programs across the nation by the change in weight classes, other than an ability to keep up with national trends.


SOUTH MEDFORD SOCCER STAR Humberto Alvarez provided a source of inspiration and pride this season for his willingness to essentially forego his junior campaign so that he could donate bone marrow to his 5-year-old brother, Marco, who is battling lymphoma.

The decision was a no-brainer for Alvarez, who didn't hesitate to offer some brotherly love and support for what was deemed a successful donation in September. Several fund-raising efforts were put forth to help the entire family make ends meet through a challenging process that included lengthy stays in Portland at Doernbecher Children's Hospital and countless trips up and down I-5. Those efforts ranged from opposing teams pulling together a few hundred bucks to South Medford's own fall sports athletes collecting around $2,000 and the Rogue Valley Soccer Club supplying its own fundraiser for the Alvarez family. Marco Alvarez is also this year's Sparrow Club honoree for South Medford High.

More recently, however, Humberto Alvarez was nominated by Panther boys soccer coach Dave Kaufman for an Inspireum Soccer Award that could potentially earn the teenager a sizable academic scholarship should he be selected as a finalist. Through Inspireum, the Trusted Sports Foundation awards $25,000 in scholarships to the 12 finalists and Alvarez was named one of 50 semifinalists recently, with the announcement of the top 12 finalists set for Dec. 13. Final results will be announced on Jan. 3 by the Bend-based organization.

The Inspireum Soccer Awards program searches the nation for the most outstanding young soccer players who inspire and lead their teammates, schools and communities. The program looks beyond traditional athletic performance measures to reward heart, team-oriented values and inspirational impact that help youth succeed throughout life.

Fans are eligible to vote for Alvarez to help secure his spot as a finalist by going to www.inspireumsoccerawards.com, clicking on the "Semifinalists" tab and searching for Humberto Alvarez's nominee page. A national selection committee will be looking at such pages, and at comments left on those pages, to help determine their finalist selections.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry