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District 1 High School Wrestling

New uniform option offered for wrestlers

by Drew Markol, The Intelligencer

Posted on May 13, 2017

Article originally appeared here:
http://www.theintell.com/sports/high-school/winter/wrestling/new-uniform-option-offered-for-wrestlers/article_ceb049d2-350f-11e7-ac38-0b9017a4f888.html

Can a change of attire help change a sport?

Well, we'll have to see. But a new rule approved last week by the National Federation of State High School Associations that will allow wrestlers to choose between wearing a traditional one-piece singlet or a two-piece uniform is a positive step, according to area coaches.

"I love it," William Tennent coach Anthony Tamburrino said. "For some of the wrestlers that go out there, it's a concern, because they're self-conscious about their body type.

"We live a body-beautiful type society and, if this can help kids feel more comfortable, then it may help us get more kids to come out for the sport. That would be great."

The new uniform, which has to be issued by the school, features a form-fitted shirt and compression shorts, and is similar to what is used in mixed martial arts. FloWrestling, one of the biggest movers and shakers in amateur wrestling, also allows the two-piece uniforms to be used in its tournaments.

"If I have a kid who thinks he can win a state title wearing shorts and a shirt, guess what he's wearing?" Quakertown coach Kurt Handel said with a laugh. "I like the classic singlet, but I also like the different look you get with the two-piece uniform. I could see us using it for tournaments and for big dual meets with certain teams.

"That's what I think you'll see, especially for the first couple of years - a mix, with some teams using the singlet and others with the new outfit."

Change takes time and, in this case, getting used to a whole new look.

"I practice in shorts and a T-shirt, not a singlet," said Pennridge junior Josh Stillings, who placed second in the PIAA Class 3A tournament at 160 pounds in March.

"But I like wearing the singlet in a match. It just feels right. I'm not really for the two-piece and don't like it. On my middle school team, we had a heavy kid, and he just put a T-shirt on under the singlet. That made it easier for him."

Cost will also be a determining factor on how quickly, and whether, teams adopt the two-piece.

"The top and bottom are pretty expensive," Handel said. "You're looking at at least $150 for the set. And you may need 30 sets, depending on the size of your team.

"Schools can buy a singlet with the school name on it for 60 bucks. We get new singlets at Quakertown every four years. Programs that don't have big booster clubs will stay with the singlet. Teams will have to wear singlets until they can afford the new stuff.

"That's what I'm looking at. You don't want to have half your team in singlets and the other half in the two-piece. That doesn't look like a team."

The sport has seen a decrease in participation, dropping from just over 281,000 high school wrestlers in 2010-11 to just over 264,000 in 2015-16.

In Pennsylvania, over the same time frame, the numbers have increased by 1.2 percent.

Will the new two-piece bump up those numbers?

"You never really know what a kid might be thinking about as far as coming out for the sport goes," Tamburrino said. "But if the new uniform makes kids come to the sport and they enjoy the sport more because of it, I'll try to blaze a trail for it.

"I don't want to see the singlet go, but it's all about keeping kids happy and enjoying the sport. I'm just glad they're going to go ahead and do it."

He isn't alone. For the wrestlers who have to go out on the mat in front of their classmates, the switch to the two-piece may end up meaning quite a lot to them.

"I would much rather wear the T-shirt and shorts," said one area upper-weight wrestler who requested anonymity. "In my freshman season, I was kind of fat, and it was embarrassing wearing the singlet. And I wasn't the only one who felt that way. I know guys that wouldn't come out for the team because of it.

"I think this is going to help. I just wish they had done it earlier."

Notes

One other notable new rule approved by the NFSHSA is that wrestlers can now earn near-falls and pins, even if their opponents' shoulders are out of bounds. The idea behind this rule is to allow the sport to be more offense-oriented and stop wrestlers from trying to get out of bounds to avoid being pinned.

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