Our good friend Frank Dimon broke some big, if not totally unexpected, District 4 Class AA wrestling news in the Milton Standard Journal the other day.

The District 4 wrestling committee has reduced the number of sectional tournaments from four to three, with more teams in each section and the top four wrestlers in each section advancing to the district tournament instead of the top three.

First and foremost, fans probably want to know the makeup of each new section. They are as follows:

- South - Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech, Danville, Lewisburg, Line Mountain, Midd-West, Mifflinburg, Milton, Mount Carmel, Shamokin, Southern Columbia, Sugar Valley Charter.

- Central - Benton, Bloomsburg, Bucktail, Central Columbia, Hughesville, Loyalsock, Montgomery, Montoursville, Muncy, South Williamsport, Warrior Run.

- North - Athens, Canton, Northeast Bradford, North Penn, Sayre, Sullivan County, Towanda, Troy, Wellsboro, Williamson, Wyalusing.

The South tournament will be at Mifflinburg next season, the Central at Benton and the North at Sayre.

Getting rid of a sectional tournament is both a cost-saving and money-making ploy by the committee, according to Dimon. Revenues from all district athletic events last school year were down by more than $20,000, and athletic chairpersons in the various sports were asked to look for ways to both cut costs and make money. The hope is that cutting the expense of one sectional and drawing larger crowds to the other three will make a difference. It's no secret either, that of the four sectional tournaments, the West was having the most problems in terms of participation and attendance.

Second, the four sectional tournaments were having a tough time filling their weight classes. Dimon wrote, "Last year, of the 52 combined weight classes of the four sectional tournaments, only nine weights boasted full eight-man brackets. Six (including consecutive weights 182 through 285 at the West tournament) had skimpy four-man brackets."

"We did an analysis of the weight classes at the sectional tournaments and, frankly, we were alarmed," District 4 wrestling chairman Steve Gobble told Dimon. "There were too many four- and five-man brackets. Also, the district turned just a tiny profit last year, maybe $150. With this alignment, I think we'll have better crowds and full brackets. There were some mixed emotions from the coaches, and I understand that, but I think this is going to help the sport."

Not that much change

At first glance this change seems fairly radical, especially for hide-bound District Four. But Southern Section chairman Dave Campbell of Line Mountain alerted people to these possible changes last year, and

actually, if you take a close look at the new alignments, there really isn't all that much difference. The South lost East Juniata last year when the Indians co-opted with District Three's Juniata and will add Vo-Tech, previously in the East-Central section, and Sugar Valley Charter, previously in the West Sectional. The Central section will get Bucktail, Loyalsock, Montoursville. Montgomery and South Williamsport, all previously in the West Sectional, although Montgomery was an East-Central participant from time to time. Sullivan County will go from the East-Central to the North, and Canton and North Penn will move from the West to the North.

There is some concern as to whether Benton's gym can handle a larger crowd from more schools, but I don't think that will be a huge problem.

The biggest downside may be in the top four advancing format. That's great for the individual wrestlers, but one of the strengths of the top three format was that the third-place bouts at the sectionals were very hotly contested. With third and fourths automatically advancing, there may be some dancing around in those bouts.

Another change affects the district AA team tournament. District Four rightly got a third qualifier to the PIAA team tournament last year, and the district just paired the semifinal losers to see who it would bee. Starting this year, the eight-team tournament at Milton will be double elimination, meaning more meets for fans.

As far as AAA is concerned, District Four teams will again wrestle with District Nine at Clarion University next season, with District Nine teams coming to a District Four site the next two years.