Wrestling is in the precarious position of being as much a team sport as it is an individual sport.
At a wrestling tournament, it's the individuals who are working to place and win medals. But a team can bring back hardware, too.
Like at the wrestling state tournament two weeks ago, if a team has two or three individuals who can make it far and even win championships, that goes a long way toward helping the team's overall score.
But those scores are misleading in determining which teams are truly better.
Take Andale, for example. The Indians had won back-to-back team titles before settling for third this year with 90.5 points. Andale had two finalists and one winner. Augusta had a champion as well. Andale had two other placers. Augusta had none, so it's fair that Andale earned more team points than the Orioles.
Earlier in the season, though, Augusta beat Andale in a dual to win the AVCTL Div. IV league title. In fact, the Orioles finished 14-1 in duals, and the only loss was to Kapaun in 5A 34-28. Oh yeah, and Augusta beat the Indians in duals both years they won the state title.
So how should the best team truly be determined?
Simple. KSHSAA needs to add a dual state tournament.
There are so many reasons why this makes sense. Duals are more fan-friendly. It's easier to know the timing and schedule of when teams will wrestle. Duals are usually 1 to 2 hours long, most of the time being an hour and half. It'd be more enticing for a parent, student or fan to watch an entire dual when all Augusta kids get to wrestle than to wait anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes (or even longer depending on how your team is doing) in between Augusta matches.
Duals give every wrestler and every match an equal value. At a state tournament, one team could have just a few kids reach the finals to score more points than a team that has seven or eight qualifiers and even a handful of placers. How is that fair in determining the better team? Especially if one school has more wrestlers than another?
Duals simply have far more complexity and strategy. Wrestlers have to be more conscious of the score. Winning by one point doesn't equal winning by 15. Coaches have far more to consider than just letting his guy go out there and win. A wrestler might have to get a few more takedowns than just one and riding out on top or bottom the rest of the match.
A dual state tournament isn't simply a clash of two teams. It's a clash of two programs. Two styles. Tournament teams wouldn't be able to rely on the one or two kids who probably learned more from their offseason workouts than they do during the school year, anyway. Duals are about an entire lineup of teammates working for each other all season long.
Duals can provide some pretty exciting finishes, too. Augusta led Andale 28-13 at one point, but Andale rallied to win 4 of the next 5 and force the dual to be decided in the final bout. Needless to say, there was a lot of intensity from both benches during that match.
Other states already have all this figured out. In Nebraska, there was a dual state tournament for the first time, and it was a huge success. A little more than 3,700 people were in attendance for the one-day event, according to The Grand Island Independent newspaper in Nebraska. That's not bad.
In Illinois, team points aren't even tallied at an individual state tournament. The Illinois Board of Athletics decided it didn't want to award two team state trophies in the event that one team won twice. That's brilliant. Why even bother giving a team trophy at all?
Oklahoma has dual state tournaments, as well. There, the Class 6A (Edmond North), 5A (Collinsville) 4A (Tuttle) and 3A (Perry) state tournament championship teams did, in fact, sweep the dual state titles, as well. Sometimes that will happen. Other times, it won't. In Kansas, the top six 4A teams were separated by a mere 26.5 points.
For other sports in Kansas, like golf or bowling, entire teams can qualify in addition to the top individuals. Why shouldn't this be the same for wrestling? The top teams from wrestling regionals should be able to advance to a state tournament, too. An argument could be made that, since all other sports only have one state tournament, why should wrestling get two? The reason is because it isn't feasible to have both wrestling tournaments at once. There would be far too many matches for the individuals, so it makes sense to separate them.
Here's how it'd work: take the top four teams from each regional (based on team score, which gives more meaning to every match) and have a 16-team dual state tournament per class at separate sites. That would require only four rounds of duals to determine a champion. With four mats (the amount available at the state tournaments now), four duals could be run at the same time. With eight duals in the first round, the four mats would be used twice. In Round 2, all four mats would be used once. In the semifinals, only two mats would be needed, which also allows for consolation semifinals. After that, the championship and third-place duals would cap off the day. Even if every dual went two hours, this schedule easily would fit into one day, even with half-hour breaks in between rounds.
This makes too much sense and would be too much fun not to do this.