IHSA adjusts rules in 3 sports

IHSA adjusts rules in 3 sports

Wrestlebacks are back.

A cut day now exists in golf.

And a mercy rule is in place for basketball season.

Those are among the notable IHSA rule changes for the 2018-19 academic year that will affect the state wrestling and golf tournaments, as well as lopsided regular-season basketball games.

The organization announced a variety of rulebook updates earlier this month at its latest board of directors meeting, where all of them approved suggestions from different sports' advisory committees.

In wrestling, the state meet at State Farm Center in Champaign will follow a modified wrestleback format next February.

Previously, grapplers who dropped their opening bout at state would be eliminated if their first-round foe went on to lose his next match — deemed a "follow the leader" setup.

Now, all competitors are guaranteed at least one Thursday match and one Friday bout.

A youngster who loses his inaugural match could wrestle his way into third place, at best, even if his first-round foe slips up in his next match.

This format already was being utilized in regional and sectional tournaments.

"I've been fighting for it for years," Mahomet-Seymour coach Rob Ledin said. "You could lose a match and be out, and it's happened to numerous very good wrestlers of ours in the past. It's just crazy."

The wrestling advisory committee noted that this change in format would add approximately four hours to the state meet — two on Thursday and two on Friday to accommodate for added matches.

Ledin said time and mat space were primary concerns for avoiding this setup until now.

"I think it's something we've all wanted for a long time," Ledin said. "We never did like follow the leader. I think we're the only state in the nation doing follow the leader format."

Over in both boys' and girls' golf, a cut line will be added to both state tournaments. After the first round of the two-day event this October, the leading eight teams and top 24 individuals outside those squads will advance to Day 2. Previously, everyone who qualified for state was guaranteed two days of golf, playing on both Friday and Saturday in the Bloomington-Normal area for the boys' state tournament and in Decatur for the girls' state tournament.

The sport's advisory committee detailed this recommendation would cut the second-day fields by approximately one-third, bettering pace of play and allowing for more flexibility if weather becomes a hazard.

"I don't like it," Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin coach Terry French said. "I think it's a bad decision. With golf being down as a general, here we are trying to promote it, and now we tell the kids, 'Work all year long to get (to state) and then go home after Friday.'"

French, who has helmed the Blue Devils for 18 seasons, said he's spoken with 10 to 15 of the state's coaches and reported none of them showed support for this change.

Instead of this change, French prefers the IHSA being more stringent with its current pace-of-play rules.

"Maybe I'm speaking too harshly, but as a coach helping kids learn the game," French said, "at least you're playing with a chance to move on (in the old format)."

Then there's boys' and girls' basketball, which is implementing a mercy rule for regular-season games.

The sport's advisory committee recommendation involves the use of a running clock in the fourth quarter if one team holds a 30-point lead at any time. This would not apply to postseason games.

Schlarman girls' coach Keith Peoples, whose Hilltoppers won 20 tilts by 30 or more points during the 2017-18 campaign en route to a Class 1A state title, said he's uncertain of how to feel about this change.

"There are a lot of situations where you are trying to work on a lot of things, especially if you take a long bus ride ... to play a game, but end up with a 30-point lead going into the fourth quarter," Peoples said. "I don't know if I agree with it 100 percent. It just depends on the situation."

Not unlike some other coaches, Peoples would use blowout games' later stages to allow his non-starters to further develop on the court. The mercy rule cuts down the amount of time coaches would be given for that matter.

"I think it takes away from teaching moments," Peoples said. "Regardless of the score, they can get better."