Through all of the excitement and anticipation surrounding the first state wrestling dual tournament this weekend in Kearney, there’s a question most have forgotten to ask.
What do the wrestlers think of it?
You know, the ones who are actually doing the work. Cutting the weight. Putting it on the line again after giving everything at last weekend's individual tournament.
Saturday, I went on the closest thing to an investigative mission that a high school sportswriter typically gets, asking kids around CenturyLink Center their thoughts on another week of wrestling.
“Just have to get back to the grind,” Omaha North junior JaVaughn Perkins said. “It's going to be different.”
Perkins, it should be noted, said he was looking forward to being involved in the maiden voyage of the tournament. But, as an admitted “year-round wrestler,” he is used to not taking much of a break after the individual tournament.
The extremely informal poll showed that a majority are excited about the opportunity, but it wasn't a large majority.
Plenty of wrestlers admitted that it will be tough to get up again for another week.
“Their heart and soul is in this one,” Pender coach Dennis Oliver said.
Most coaches agreed that they won't really be sure what they're going to get out of their teams until practices later this week.
Omaha Burke coach Wes Boehm said he'd be taking his team bowling Monday. Boehm coached for years in Iowa, where the dual tournament is a fixture, and said it was important to give guys something of a breather before getting ready again.
“You've got them coming out of this tournament beat up, guys coming out of it high, low, in between,” he said. “You can't beat them up for another week.”
That point brings into question the timing of the tournament. Different states do different things with their dual tournament, but holding it the weekend after the individual tournament is typically the most common.
It's the way Iowa did it for years before a recent shift that became big news. When the dual tournament was moved to the day before the individual tournament, some coaches used their junior varsity or held out stars to avoid the risk of injury.
The individual tournament is still the Super Bowl for high school wrestlers. Getting excited and prepared for a full week after that usual finale is going to be the biggest challenge to the dual tournament.
“This is still the granddaddy,” Nebraska School Activities Association Assistant Director Ron Higdon said before Saturday's final round.
Higdon is a former UNO assistant coach, is the tournament director for both the individual and dual tournaments and has been the driving force behind changes to the sport the past couple of years — including the addition of the dual tournament.
Higdon said he'll send out a survey to participating coaches following next weekend's duals to get thoughts, complaints and suggestions.
What many of those coaches told me during the weekend is that they'd like to see it moved to the middle of the season, a la the college dual tournament. Issues with qualifying — the current formula is derived from district finishes — would come with a midseason dual tournament.
Higdon said he liked having it around that time during his days in the NCAA.
“I'm going to have to experience this one first,” Higdon said when asked which he'd prefer.
Almost every conversation I had on the subject Saturday ended with a couple of words that put a tidy bow on the anticipation of the inaugural dual tournament.
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