West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on Officiating Smallfry Tournaments

Many years ago, I "wrote off" refereeing smallfry tournaments after the regular mat season for various philosophical reasons. In 1987, however, a friend needed a pee-wee official, so I reluctantly said, "Okay." Furthermore, since this was the only post-season tourney my youngest son, Dan-E., asked to compete in, I figured I could compromise my principles just once. Never again!

Right from the start, I could sense a bad day in the making. To begin with, the parents of one of Dan-E.'s opponents had their coach challenge the legitimacy of our son's age. Fortunately, my wife understood the callous nature of such people and had a copy of Dan-E.'s birth certificate in her purse. As far as I am concerned, these individuals questioned the integrity of Bill and Peggy Welker, which is impeccable. And I, personally, wanted them to know that we didn't appreciate it at all!

Next, I observed little tykes running to make weight, wearing garments that would be considered illegal to use in the junior and senior high-school ranks. Now, that's "child abuse," for lack of a better label!

During the competition, I deducted more team points for coaching misconduct in "one hour" than I did the entire scholastic season, including the West Virginia State Wrestling Tournament that year. The problem: Too many "parent-coaches" living their lives in their sons!

Finally, the awards were ludicrous. Why there were team trophies taller than me. (Not that I'm a giant, but over five feet is a bit much!) And the fourth-place individual awards were bigger than the first-place trophies presented at most high school state championships. But the parents love "their" trophies, and it's a good way to sell one's tournament to all those "smallfry fanatics" out there.

In conclusion, I thought it would be interesting to hear what Joe Paterno, who needs no introduction regarding athletic sportsmanship, had to say about pee-wee sports in his newest book, Paterno: By The Book, co-authored by Bernard Asbell. "I detest Little League baseball and youth football. No matter how they piously pledge otherwise, too many coaches who run those teams apply terrific pressure to win before kids are ready. For every kid who feels his oats as a winner, there may be a dozen who are made to feel like losers, wearing lifelong marks."

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Updated September 3, 1997