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Why It Should Be Much Easier For High School Athletes To Win A State Championship

It’s no secret that the pinnacle of athletic achievements in America, regardless of age or competition level, is the coveted high school state championship. Every youth athlete dreams of winning a state title one day, and every former athlete either gets to proudly flaunt that almighty ring for the rest of their life or shamefully stare at their ringless finger in disgust until the day they die.

“Like fighting in a war or battling a terminal illness, you don’t simply win or lose a state championship. The outcome defines your entire existence.” 

Up until now, there has been little to no research on the potential psychological damage that can come with failing to win a state championship. It’s the morbid reality that thousands of young athletes are forced to deal with on a yearly basis, and medical professionals are finally starting to speak out about its serious, long-term dangers.

“As a teen boy or girl who still doesn’t have a fully-developed brain, it’s not safe or healthy to experience something as traumatizing as losing a state championship.” — Dr. William R. Brasky, University of California-Berkeley

While the extreme shortage of state champions is undoubtedly a nationwide crisis, it’s far worse in certain states than it is in others. Corrupt governing bodies like the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) are currently under fire for only having one division at their state wrestling championships. “It’s absurd how they can just continue to get away with this mistreatment. There’s way too many good wrestlers in each weight class for there to only be one state champ,” said the frustrated father of a young man who tragically lost in the pigtail round.

Something needs to be done to stop this corruption and oppression, but what is the next logical step?

For starters, the entire country should be making it significantly harder for high school athletes to lose a state championship by multiplying the number of divisions or classifications.

The heroic Virginia High School League (VHSL), which recently doubled the amount of classes for its wrestling state championships from three to six, seems to be one of the few organizations that’s on the right track.

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But even with six classes, many experts are arguing that it’s still dangerous and unfair for athletes from schools with an enrollment of ~800 students to compete against athletes from schools with an enrollment of ~850 students. More classes should be added to not only decrease that disparity but also decrease the likelihood of athletes facing the irreversible trauma that comes with not winning a state title.

One admirable parent of a Virginia wrestler even went as far as starting a change.org petition to double the amount of classes at the VHSL state tournament from 6 to 12.

The Georgia High School Association (GHSA), which recently made the jump to 7 classes at their state tournament, is another pioneer in the movement against the persecution of high school athletes.

With 7 classifications and 14 weight classes, a total of 98 wrestlers get the unique opportunity to win an individual Georgia state title each year. It’s only a small step forward, but it’s refreshing to see that some states are starting to care about the emotional well-being of its adolescent athletes.

West Virginia, a state that only has a handful of total high schools, seems to also be heading in the right direction by proposing a fourth classification for boys and girls basketball.

But still, more needs to be done. Even with a fourth class, at least a dozen hard-working athletes will be left without a state title at the end of each season.

“It’s just not fair to the kids. What does it teach them? That you can bust your ass and sacrifice blood, sweat, and tears all year just to end up losing a state championship?”

One anonymous West Virginia delegate allegedly proposed that there should also be a separate “Class G” for teams with gay or bisexual athletes.

Fortunately, activists all across the country are finally starting to lobby to make a change. Lawmakers and coaches in Vermont are arguing that, with up to 9 teams in each of their three high school divisions, competition is too intense, and it’s far too difficult to win a state championship.

“Imagine how these kids feel, going into the season knowing there’s only an 11% chance they’ll win a state title. It’s heartbreaking. No wonder so many young athletes are becoming discouraged from even trying out for the team.” — Vermont politician Bernard Sanderson

In a perfect world, every student-athlete who was talented enough to make the varsity team would be rewarded with a state title. But for now, the only thing we can do is continue to raise awareness and speak out against the injustices.