Standing on the awards podium at a wrestling tournament can be an awkward moment.

There is usually a fair amount of time in between the competition and ceremony, but the wrestlers are still standing next to or near the guy they just tried to whip for six minutes.

Apparently it is going to get weirder at the state tournament.

Each division will place six wrestlers at each weight class for team point purposes, but only the top four will receive medals.

It's not the usual protocol, but it also isn't limited to wrestling.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association put together an awards committee before the school, that went hand-and-hand with scaling back the number state tournaments, and it reviewed every sport.

For example, cross country went from the top 28 individuals receiving medals to 14 and golf went from top 10 to top five.

"I wasn't part of the committee but I think they were fair and consistent across the board," said the AIA's Dean Visser, who is the tournament director for all three sports. "That's where we are and what we needed to do at the time."

It is the sign of the times and it falls in line behind other cutbacks in Arizona that have been in the news a lot of the last few school years.

For example, last February the Yuma school district announced athletics teams wouldn't travel outside its immediate area other than for the postseason and then a recent ruling came down to cut all Eagar Round Valley sports, starting this spring in order to balance its deficit.

It's clear there are a lot of problems out there so in comparison 112 wrestlers not getting a medal isn't all that significant.

In reality, with the sectional placers getting medals there are more awards than ever being given out.

The bogus part of it is that fact there is someone in the field - not one of the elites - who has dreamed and worked his butt off for four years to work himself into a state placer like Desert Vista's Sam Schoepf at 171 pounds. He finally makes it. Finishes fifth or sixth, makes his way to the podium, gets a handshake and nothing else.

Clearly the actual medal - what could it cost at a bulk rate? - isn't much but what it signifies is everything to some.

That's what stinks. All that work and no hardware. Just seems criminal.

There is a rumor that the U.S. Marine group that often shows up at wrestling events with info pamphlets and chin-up bar challenges is interested in becoming a title sponsor and paying for all of the medals in exchange for the chance to setup at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley for the state tournament.

That would be perfect. The cost would drop to zero and everyone gets some hardware. What's not to like.

I also asked Visser about the elimination of the state dual meet tournament and he thinks it might have been too ambitious of a venture to start.

"We maybe should have scaled it back to eight teams instead of 16 from the start," he said. "We didn't do it for every classification so that was a problem. The lower classification schools couldn't always field an entire lineup so it would have made it difficult.

"Who knows what the future holds, but I think we have it right with the sectionals in place. This is the first year so we will see how it goes and adjust if we need to."



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