A pilot program will have the coaches picking weight order.
By Gary R. Blockus | Of The Morning Call
When Lehigh hosts No. 5 Penn State in wrestling at Stabler Arena on Friday night, the 96th meeting in one of the oldest wrestling rivalries in the nation will feature a new twist.
The National Wrestling Coaches Association, in cooperation with the NCAA, Penn State and Lehigh, will feature a never-before-used format to determine the order of matches.
And any fan who can predict the exact order of bouts has the chance to win two tickets plus hotel accommodations to the 2008 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships that will be held in St. Louis in March.
Since the 1998-99 season, coaches have conducted a random draw for a starting weight, and matches proceed in order from that weight. Under rare circumstances, a few bouts have been contested out of order.
Mike Moyer, the executive director of the NWCA, said this approach to modifying the traditional wrestling format is a pilot program.
''The concept in most every other sport is that when the momentum goes a certain way, a coach can call time out, substitute or try something to strategically change what is occurring. In wrestling, once the lineup is set, there is very little a coach can do to swing the momentum. We're trying to introduce different things to put more emphasis on dual meets to grow our spectator base.''
On Friday night at Stabler, Penn State coach Troy Sunderland and Lehigh coach Greg Strobel will conduct a coin toss, and the winning coach will have the choice as to which weight class goes first. The coach losing the coin toss will select the second weight class.
''The reason we're trying this is it might be another concept to keep things interesting,'' Strobel said. ''Why do the boring 125, 133, 141 routine. I can be kind of strategic to shake it up. Our guys don't seem to mind.''
''This is a great rivalry,'' Sunderland said. ''We always have intense battles no matter who is favored on paper. Our fans and their fans go after each other on the Internet and compete that way, too, so it ties into the program that the NWCA is doing with the fan interest and selection of weight classes and order of competition. It makes a lot of sense to do that with Lehigh and Penn State to further ignite the enthusiasm for all of our fans.''
To make sure that each wrestler has proper warm-up time, the third weight class will be chosen by the coach who won the coin toss at the conclusion of the first bout. The coach who lost the coin toss will choose the weight class for the fourth bout at the conclusion of the second bout, and the weights will be called that way through the end of the match.
Fans are encouraged to bring signs or shout out their choices for the next weight class.
To enter the on-line contest, log on to http://www.intermatwrestle.com and click on the link near the top of the page referring to Fan Interaction Night with Penn State and Lehigh.