Shore Conference Wrestling Tournament returning to dual-meet format for 2022 season
From 1975 through 2017, the Shore Conference Wrestling Tournament was a dual-meet tournament that often culminated with two of New Jersey's best teams clashing for conference supremacy. The team format was scrapped in favor of an individual tournament starting in 2018, but for the 2022 season, the team format will now return.
Due to logistics issues, the tournament will shift back to a dual-meet tournament for the upcoming season. The move is expected to be temporary with a return to the individual tournament for the 2023 season, according to tournament director and Point Pleasant Boro Athletic Director Chris Ferrone.
The host venue for the individual SCT has been Red Bank Regional, which has the largest gymnasium in the Shore Conference with a floor that can fit eight mats, which is essential for the first two rounds of the tournament. Red Bank is unavailable to host this year, however, meaning the tournament has to move to a smaller venue. To compensate, the number of wrestlers in each weight class was going to have to be cut in half to 12.
That would have created another issue if teams had only a small percentage of their lineup competing in the tournament. NJSIAA rules prohibit teams from competing in multiple events in one day unless it has been approved as a special event, i.e. The Beast of the East. Teams would have had to make a choice between allowing their top wrestlers to enter the tournament and having the rest of the team not compete that weekend, or not entering the tournament at all.
"We put in a facilities request and it was denied, and the chain reaction to that is if you can't go there where you can put down eight mats, where can you go?" Ferrone said. "Toms River was also not available. We were then looking at Middletown South and using both gyms but it would have had to be a 12-man bracket."
Covid uncertainty also played a role in the decision.
"Bringing everyone, all 40-plus teams into Middletown South's gym that holds about 1,000 people, the coaching committee was not on board and the Shore Conference Executive Committee thought the team tournament would be a better option at this time."
In the 2022 SCT, there will be 20 teams in the tournament, which will be seeded by a committee represented by one coach from each division. Teams seeded 13 through 20 will wrestle in a preliminary round on Jan. 25. The round of 16 and the quarterfinals will take place on Jan. 27 with each of the top four seeds hosting matches. On Jan. 29, the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and championship match will be held at Middletown South.
The SCT was not contested last season due to the schedule change caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's a big tournament, a great tournament, and we really wanted to have it, but we just ran into roadblocks," Ferrone said. "The conversation was let's do it as a team tournament for this year and then reevaluate and find a facility to hold us next year. That's our priority."
Howell is the reigning SCT champion from the 2020 season and also won the last dual-meet SCT with a 36-24 victory over Raritan in 2017.
Brick Memorial has the most SCT titles in Shore Conference history with 15, including 10 consecutive championships between 1985 and 1996. Jackson Memorial has six SCT crowns, including four ina. row from 2004 through 2007 under current Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale. Toms River South won the first four SCT titles from 1975-1978 and Long Branch captured three consecutive championships from 2008-2010.
The dual-meet format was changed because the tournament had become stale with the same teams in contention every season and the tournament being very top-heavy with mostly uncompetitive matches in the first three rounds. Class A South teams like Southern, Brick Memorial and Jackson would sometimes wrestle three times a year with their regular-season match, an SCT dual, and an NJSIAA Tournament match.
Early contenders for the 2022 SCT title include Howel, Brick Memorial, St. John Vianney, Ocean, and Christian Brothers Academy. Southern Regional would be in that group, as well, but the Rams have not entered the SCT in either the team or individual format for several years.
The Asbury Park Press was the first to report that the SCT would be changing formats.