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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013: NYSPHSAA lends a hand to combined teams

   Leading off today: What would happen if shrinking rosters inspired a couple of school districts -- let's say Southwestern and Panama in Section 6, for argument's sake -- to discuss combining parts of their athletic programs?

   With a BEDS enrollment figure of 156, Panama sits near the high end of Class D in most major sports such as soccer, basketball and baseball. At 340, Southwestern is near the low end of the current Class B cutoff.

   Put the schools together, though, and the total BEDS figure of 496 starts getting uncomfortably close to the current Class B maximum of 524. It wouldn't take much -- each district adding a few students and/or the trend of lowering the cutoff levels continuing as the NYSPHSAA seeks to balance the number of teams per class -- and all of a sudden the combined programs could quickly find themselves in Class A in a variety of sports.

   More often than not, that mathematical reality would be the end of talks about combining, especially with the NYSPHSAA announcing that the Class B ceiling for the 2013-14 school year plunges to 479. Any number of proposals for interdistrict cooperation in sports such as wrestling and hockey have died for that very reason in recent years.

   Well, it turns out that Panama and Southwestern actually are talking about combining some sports -- and they're no longer worried about being pushed into a higher class. For now, the plan concerns combining wrestling and boys swimming. A day after Panama's school board OK'd further consolidation discussions, the Southwestern Central School District's board approved the proposal on Tuesday after being reassured by a New York State Public High School Athletic Association measure to soften the blow with a graduated enrollment scale for combined teams.

   The NYSPHSAA's Executive Committee adopted a proposal on Tuesday that calls for no more than 50 percent of the smaller school's enrollment to be lumped in with the larger school's enrollment for purposes of determining the class that the combined team competes in.

   "If we were to merge with Panama, as it used to sit, you took 100 percent of our BEDS numbers, 100 percent of their BEDS numbers, crunched them together and whatever classification you landed in, that's where you played," Southwestern AD Kevin Salisbury told his school board. "The proposal (to the NYSPHSAA) was to, instead of taking 100 percent, take certain percentages based on that school's classification. We just found out today that was voted on and passed."

   Using data from the current school year, a combined Southwestern-Panama squad would have a BEDS figure of 372, safely in the middle of Class B. Nothing else is on the table, but had other sports been involved in the consolidation proposal, the lack of a graduated scale could have pushed Jamestown's cross country, girls volleyball or football teams from Class C to B.

   A win for wrestling: Sectional singlets are back, just in time for next month's state wrestling tournament.

   NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas told New York Wrestling News that his organizations reversed a previous vote by deciding Tuesday that sectional uniforms will be allowed in all individual state championship sports “as long as no cost is incurred by the student, school or section.”

   So, as long as the money can be raised, wrestlers can continue the tradition of wearing a singlet representing their section rather than their school at the state meet. To a civilian, that may seem trivial -- and perhaps even be viewed as an insult to the schools.

   However, competitors view earning the right to wear that singlet as an honor, with the uniform itself becoming a cherished trophy after the season. More practically, a streamlined set of colors makes it infinitely easier for

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athletes, coaches, officials and spectators to keep track of the action at the state meet while multiple matches are taking place at once.

   Zayas said the 12-10 vote followed “a high quality discussion” including cost and tradition.

   "I enjoyed seeing the passion in New York for wrestling and the strength and interest of the wrestling community,” Zayas said.

   Support for restoring the sectional singlets came on several fronts, but it's indisputable that editor Tim Herman played a big role. Herman started an online petition with a goal of gaining 2,500 supporters. He only ended up with 1,297 online signatures, but numerous media outlets and wrestling organizations took note and began pressing the issue locally.

   “I’m not sure if the petition had anything to do with it, but it certainly spread like wildfire and must’ve turned some heads," Herman said. "Thanks to a passionate wrestling community, we reached 1,000 signatures within a few days. Not long after, rumors of a revote began to circulate."

   Milestone: Batavia Notre Dame used a 14-2 run late in the first quarter to pull away from Kendall and earn coach Mike Rapone's 600th boys basketball victory.

   “For me, it’s a culmination of working with a lot of great young players and a lot of longevity,” Rapone told “I hope that I impacted their lives in a little way as they matured into young men.”

   Since becoming the head coach in 1980, Rapone has won 29 league titles, eight Section 5 championships and two NYSPHSAA Class D crowns.

   Tommy Prospero scored a game-high 28 points and added eight rebounds.

   That's all for now: I've got a bunch of interesting items piling up, but I'm out of time for now and may not get a chance to start catching up again before Friday night.

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