Maryland could have a new method of crowning team wrestling champions if North Carroll coach Dick Bauerlein's plan is approved.

Bauerlein's plan would feature a week of dual meets at the region and statelevels to crown a team champion. The current state tournament would remain in place.

If the plan is approved, Maryland would join a growing number of states -- most of them in the Midwest -- with a similar championship format. It still must be approved by the state wrestling committee, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association board of control, the state's superintendent and the state Board of Education.

"I think it's exciting," said Edward F. "Ned" Sparks, executive secretary of the MPSSAA. "If we could pull it off, it would be a boost to wrestling in the state."

Bauerlein said his plan would use the week before the existing regional tournament -- an off week for most state teams -- to crown the dual-meet team champs, using a format similar to that used in other sports.

Wrestling still would be contested in two classes -- 3A/4A and 1A/2A -- instead of the four used in most sports. Teams would earn points for regular-season dual-meet victories, just as they do in other sports.

The top eight teams in each region, based on points earned in regular-season matches, would qualify for a regional, with matches on three nights -- quarterfinals, semifinals and finals -- to crown champions. The four regional winnersin each class would advance to state semis Friday night, with those winners meeting for the title Saturday.

Bauerlein said he'd like to have all of the state semifinals and finals at one site. Sparks said he hoped gate receipts could cover the cost of the event.

Wrestlers would have six days to prepare for the individual regional tournaments.

"I've always felt that dual-meet, head-to-head competition determines your champion," said Bauerlein.

Teams can win a state title under the current format with as few as five or six good wrestlers, assuming two or three advance to the finals in their weight classes. Under Bauerlein's proposal, the team champion would need a solid lineup from top to bottom. And precedent exists for crowning two teamchamps. Both the county and Central Maryland Conference determine dual-meet (based on regular-season matches) and tournament team champions.

Often, the same team wins both titles. But two years ago, Francis Scott Key earned the county dual meet title, while North Carroll won the tournament crown.

Fritz McGinnes, associate director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, said severalstates, including Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee, use the dual-meet format as at least part of their state wrestling tournament format.

"Team tournament concepts are relatively new (at the high school level)," McGinnes said. "It truly tells you who is the team champion."

Skip Peltier of the Minnesota state association said the tournament there includes both a dual-meet and an individual tournament that run concurrently at St. Paul Arena. While the larger Class AAschools are conducting their individual tournament, the Class A schools contest dual-meet team events. Midway through the three-day affair, the classifications switch.

The key, he said, is having a facility large enough to handle eight mats during the first two days of the event and six mats the final day. He said attendance last year was 56,000, or an average of more than 9,000 for each of the six sessions. He said attendance more than doubled 16 years ago when the state switched from a two-day tournament (similar to the one now used in Maryland) to the three-day dual-meet and individual event.

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