For the past several years the numbers have declined at the state tournament held in Columbia at Mizzou Arena. There could be many different reasons for this. Some people have been pushing for a move to either St. Louis or Kansas City others have said that pricing could be an issue. Some people have said there needs to be fewer classes and a higher amount of state medals handed out. Wrestling in this state is floundering and needs help. MSHSAA needs to take a different approach to how they run the state tournament.
Most teams will get to Columbia on Wednesday to pick up passes and shed a few extra pounds. For the athletes, all of their rooms and food is taken care of by the school. But, for the families, it is a different story. The hotels around the city raise their prices and the restaurants have horrible wait times. Most families will spend over $500 on their rooms alone. The prices to get in to see their child compete it will cost them $9 per session. That will add up quickly for any family. Every school aged child is $9. Every senior citizen is $9. MSHSAA should have lower ticket options for children and seniors. Also, instead of making you purchase a ticket for individual sessions there needs to be an all session pass that will be sold at a discounted rate. This will sell a higher number of tickets and still show a profit. The food options inside Mizzou Arena are a joke. $10 for a hotdog and $8 for a popcorn are thieveries even at the professional levels of sports. Schools are allowed to bring a cooler to be kept underneath the stadium but families can do no such thing. It would help immensely if families would be allowed to bring in a small soft sided cooler. Even though this is a tournament for the kids at the end of the day it is a business and needs to make money. If MSHSAA would make it more fan friendly than more casual fans with no rooting interest will want to make the trip. In today’s financial environment most families are on a budget. Now for the kids who have been state champions and state medalist every year in USA wrestling and have won Tulsa Nationals 5 times than their parents know the drill by now and have budgeted out the weekend all year. But what about the kid who upsets a couple state ranked kids in his district tournament and sneaks into the state tourney. Their parents aren’t expecting this large financial burden. Wrestling has also been a great sport because anyone can compete and win. However, there is not a single athlete that doesn’t want their parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends to be cheering them on. But some families can’t afford a $2000 weekend to make that happen.
Missouri has been a four class state for several years. There are 14 weights per class and 16 wrestlers per weight. That means that there are almost 900 state qualifiers per year. That is 900 different families that will be paying entry into State and almost 400 of them getting medals ensuring that they stay all weekend. However, there has been conversation about people wanting to revert back to a three class system and having a larger state bracket. If we would move back to three classes and double the size of the brackets and award the top 8 then that means there will be over 1300 state qualifiers and 336 medals handed out. However, this would almost have to add another day to the tournament, but, if the tickets would be sold at a discounted rate then everyone would still be coming out better than before. With the biggest problem being the hotel rooms since there is a handful of decent hotels in Columbia and they will be allowed to manipulate the prices of them.
This leads to the other solution of moving the tournament to one of the larger cities that have many more hotel options and dining options. However, if MSHSAA would move the tournament to one of these larger cities than it would have a larger bill to rent out the arenas that it would need and it would result in increased ticket prices. Also, it would require families to have to go to the bigger more congested cities to see their child wrestle. The great thing about Columbia is that it is centrally located and the city is not that large. There isn’t 4-hour traffic jams or a “dangerous” part of town. Moving the championships to a different city is not the answer. However, something that could be added to the state is a Dual State Championship that could be rotated from Kansas City to St. Louis every year. This would add importance to the dual season and would give the best dual team in the state a championship. This would be a smaller version of the individual tournament. Having the top 6 teams of each class battle it out at the end of January. It would provide a revenue stream for MSHSAA and would be able to cut the cost of the individual tournament.
As a community, we need to approach MSHSAA with solutions for a change. If you go to them scream like a mob with pitch forks then nothing will happen and solid ideas will fall on deaf ears. Looking over the Facebook posts, it seems that most people like it being in Columbia and have been outspoken about the USA State Tournament being moved to St. Louis. If you have an idea we encourage everyone to voice it! The time to change is now and we need everyone to come together for change.