The dual was completed in less than 10 minutes.

When the Davenport Central and Davenport Assumption wrestling teams met last month, there was one bout lasting 3 minutes, 38 seconds.

The other 13 weight classes? Forfeits.

Yes, that is an extreme case but the rising number of teams unable to field a full lineup in high school dual meets is troubling.

There has been only one dual this season in the Mississippi Athletic Conference where both teams had a representative at all 14 weights — Clinton versus North Scott.

Even perennial power Assumption has had two open weights for the majority of its duals.

"Dual meets are what grow the sport, getting a packed house and getting after it," Pleasant Valley coach Jacob Larsen said. "What people don’t want to see at those dual meets are forfeits."

And spectators have seen an abundance of them this season in eastern Iowa.

Exclude the Central dual, there still has been an average of four forfeits per dual in Assumption’s remaining eight league matches.

During Thursday night’s tilt against PV, neither team had wrestlers at 106 or 113.

Camanche and Wilton, two of the better teams in the surrounding area, combined for three forfeits in its dual 10 days ago.

More than 150 miles from the Quad-Cities, Clear Lake and Fort Dodge St. Edmond had 11 forfeits in its dual earlier this month.

It begs the question: Are 14 weight classes too many in high school?

"Personally, it is too many," Larsen said. "I think we need to go to an odd number, 11 or 13, so you don't have to worry about ties in dual meets. It is hard to find 14 varsity-level athletes to put out at one time.

"Less weight classes, you're going to bump up the competitiveness and you're going to grow the sport."

Iowa added a 14th weight class, 215 pounds, in 2001. Eleven years later, a lower-to-middle weight class was subtracted for the addition of an upper weight.

Participation, though, has declined nationwide each of the past five seasons. It has gone from 273,732 individuals in the 2010-11 season to 250,653 last year.

What initially might have been a concern primarily for smaller schools is just as problematic for Class 3A programs, particularly ones starving for success.

Central, North and Muscatine all have multiple open weights. Bettendorf has more than 50 wrestlers in its program but has had to forfeit 285 recently following an injury.

The majority of open weights in MAC duals have been at 106, 113 or 285.

Even in some weekend tournaments, several of the lower classes have gone from a bracketed division to a round-robin format due to fewer than five wrestlers at the weight.

“Sure, 14 weight classes provides more opportunities for kids to participate but if they’re not showing up, we need to get to a 12-man weight class,” Assumption coach Pete Bush said. “It looks bad for the sport.

“This sport is not as attractive to some of these kids as it used to be. That is unfortunate because if you do take advantage of what this sport has to offer, your life in the real world will be much better.”

Not everybody is an advocate for eliminating a weight class.

“I don’t want to give in and lose a weight because you’ll never get it back,” Bettendorf coach Dan Knight said.

The era of specialization has hindered participation. In some communities, the football and wrestling programs aren't in conjunction with each other.

But more than that, Knight points to the difficulty of wrestling.

In football, basketball or baseball, there are teammates to assist an individual if he or she stumbles. In wrestling, there is no place to hide.

Also, the day-to-day grind in a steamy wrestling room is a tough sell.

“It takes a special kind of kid to put it all on the line out there," Knight said. "Some kids just don’t have that mentality.”

Bush understands there are going to be peaks and valleys, but admits something must be done if this trend continues the next four to five years.

If a weight class would be trimmed, which one? One possible solution is making 170 to 195 just two weight classes as opposed to three (170-182-195).

Knight would be in favor of the lowest weight class becoming 98 or 103 again.

"The little kid has lost another sport because often times those 106-pounders are 115, 120 in the offseason," he said. "I'd love to have 98 or 103, and I love we added 220. That is a good way to get the football players out."

College has found its niche with 10 weight classes.

"Those guys want to be there," Bush said. "The high-school kids, you have to convince them to be there.

"It is a very uncomfortable sport in a society that we're trying to be as comfortable as we can. It goes against the human nature of kids today."


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.