Vermont Wrestling By The Numbers A 2016-17 Perspective From Blaine Isham

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Vermont Wrestling By The Numbers

Vermont Wrestling By The Numbers by Blaine Isham; Take It From Someone Who’s Been There

Vermont Wrestling by the numbers is a collection of fact and hypothesis from someone who’s been around

Vermont Wrestling By The Numbers

Vermont Counties

for quite some time and is highly respected in the Vermont Wrestling community, Blaine Isham.

I was one of the competitors in the first official Vermont Wrestling State Tournament in 1969-70 and as we come upon the 50th (2018-19), I thought it would be fun to look at the numbers from last year to see how out numbers play out.  In these 48 years I have been involved in Vermont Wrestling in many capacities (except for a 7 year break while living in Arizona) and I have been to hundreds of meetings, tournaments and duals.  Also, I have heard all conceivable ways to make wrestling bigger and better in Vermont.  Vermont like most small states has a core of people that have a passion for the sport; many of us feel like it is one big family.

Vermont Wrestling By The Numbers

Will the new uni’s spark some interest?

Now for some numbers:  As I talk to people at mat side or I see around the State one common theme is Vermont’s numbers compared to the rest of New England.  Well, I believe that is not a fair comparison due to population and population density.   Example – Vermont has a population of approximately 626,000 people with the next closest state being Rhode Island with a population of approx. 1,058,000 people and each state has a city in the top 100 population wise except Vermont. (Our largest city has two high schools and no wrestling programs).  The State I would compare us to is Wyoming with approx. 585,000 residents with a mostly rural environment.  But, this comparison is scary because of the numbers at each state tournament.  Vermont had 128 Entries in one division; Wyoming in a smaller (Population wise) state had 643 entries in three divisions.  Wow!!


Vermont Wrestling By The Numbers


 Have no way to compare to other states, but seems relatively high.

265 wrestlers had their weight certified at the beginning of the year.  We ended with 186 wrestlers.  90 wrestlers entered the JV states, but 32 of them also wrestled in the Varsity States, so that is a net of 58 competitors in JV’s plus 128 in Varsity tournament for a total of 186.  That is an attrition rate of 30 percent due to injury, sickness, skin decease and defections from the sport during the year.

Attrition has been a topic for many years; I believe it is more prevalent in wrestling then other sports due to the nature of the sport.  Also, probably no clear way to get around it.  Later in this article I will talk a little more about attrition from year to year.

What age should a wrestler start wrestling?  

I believe this is an individual thing and each competitor is different.  Let’s look at some numbers:

Vermont Wrestling By The Numbers

How Old?

We crown 14 Champions in Vermont and I heard back from coaches that coached 12 of the 14.

Grade they started – # of Champions
K   –   4
1st  –   2
3rd  –   2
4th  –   1
5th –    1
8th –    1
9th –     1

Numbers by Division:
High School   –  186  (4 years)
Junior High    –    79 (2 years)
5/6             –  107 (2 years)
3/4                  –  112 (2 years)
K/2                 –    65 (3 years)  (Note – some schools elected not to participate – so numbers  are in reality much higher.

Note:  These numbers were taken off the various tournament brackets and were a manual count – so may be off by a few.  (I did double check my counts.)

Some Observations:

 I do not pretend to have all the answers; however I do have experience of time.  

  1. I really don’t think that there is a set age to start. However, I personally don’t think that competitors 2nd grade and under need more than an exposure to the sport. Some competitors are ready at K and some are ready at 8th grade, the hardest part is parents understanding that.  
  • I think more importantly is the amount of time in the gym for both the athlete and the parent.  I believe youth tournaments as a whole have improved time wise, however one reason is the number of competitors   at the tournament.  Rarely did a tournament in the 80’s have less than 275 competitors, plus the lack of technology for bracketing them.
  • One idea would be having tournaments by age level instead of areas.  No one takes a bus anymore on the youth level.  Also, every team seems to have ample coaches.  So for Example – all K-2 will be at one location and all 3/4 and 5/6 at another.  I understand this is outside the box, but a way to kick start some thoughts.
  1. Why do the Junior High numbers seem to be the lowest?
  • I have been told by multiple parents from multiple teams Junior High doesn’t seem to be as much fun.  Why?
  1. Is it because they are practicing the same way every year and not learning better technique?
  2. Is it because they were winning in the early years because they were a better athlete and now the weaker/slower athlete   has better technique?
  3. Is it because the State Tournament is less formal then the youth (Along with smaller awards)?
  • I believe the numbers went down when we changed the season for the JH.  The reason for changing the JH season from the youth season to the High School season was a good number of small programs needed kids in their room and by combining these two levels would help with those numbers, plus encourage more JV Tournaments.  (This has not panned out generally only 2 or 3 a year.)
  • One idea would go back to youth programs from K-8 and have the same season, from the 2nd week of January to the present ending.  One of the biggest advantages would be freeing up Christmas vacation.  I know some people say that the Vermont Principal’s office controls this.  Well, let’s look at Youth Hockey, Youth Football, Mini Metro.  They have their own leagues and make up their own rules.  (They are all growing in popularity.) I know some JH programs are funded by their school; well it isn’t that hard raising money.  Some of our youth clubs can’t spend their funds fast enough!!  USA Wrestling offers clubs with insurance, will name the school as additionally insured, will insure your tournaments (all competitors must be a member) and these cards are good all across America.

Some ideas to retain athletes:

Time in the gym.  I think this is the biggest enemy of our sport.  I submitted a proposal about changing the NVAC that would eliminate down time during the week, but it hit a road block. Need to eliminate down time both in duals and tournaments.  The only time you need one mat for the finals is the State Tournament.

Vermont Wrestling By The Numbers

Promoting Team Unity

  1. Bring back the dual meet.  Fans won’t sit for 5-6 hours at a tournament, but if a dual meet is built up and executed on time there would be more fans in the stand.  I think Coach Legacy was the master of getting fans in the stands and he continues it at Castleton.  Their dual with Norwich was packed.
  2. Find a way to stream line skin checks.  Can’t have athletes standing for over an hour in their undergarments waiting for skin check.
  3. Coaches working at their job out of season.  Go online and research new technique, take in a clinic.  You can always learn.  Young coaches don’t be hesitant to ask questions of the older coaches and maybe set up a coach’s think tank.
  4. Market your program; call the paper to put in the score – post program info on your school walls.  The papers are really shorthanded, but like the Burlington Free Press has a site you can post your scores if you can’t call.          
  5. Vermont Wrestler is a venue to post articles, results, dialogue, shedules, etc. This site was created specifically for the purpose of helping to grow Vermont wrestling in so many ways, exposure and communication being the key elements. Knowledge of camps and clinics, open mat sessions, programs, coaches and contacts, colleges and prep schools; this is critical to our growth. Not to mention exposure to the outside world that will help our wrestlers get recruited to colleges. BTW – all of the NEWA coaches are subscribed to Vermont Wrestler and Steve has frequent contact with many of them.
    Vermont Wrestling By The Numbers

    Fighting the good fight to promote Vermont Wrestling

     Although not as big a subscriber base, using Vermont Wrestler is substantially better than any other publication because it is exclusively about wrestling and it’s subscribers are wrestlers and their family, friends, fans and coaches. If everyone in the Vermont wrestling community used the resource wisely, they would be much better off.



There is a lot more ideas to be discussed, but I hope that you had some fun reading this; I enjoyed putting together and only want to see Vermont wrestling grow.

Blaine Isham







  1. Kelly Stetter on

    Some excellent points made here, thanks, Blaine. Springfield is going to be working on organizing some dual meets down here, hope we see some involvement. We hosted a JH/JV tourney last season and it was not well attended — really hope to see the roster of schools double next year! I agree whole-heartedly that less down-time in the gym at events would be a huge boost to the sport’s success and popularity, especially among new athletes and parents.

  2. Great thoughts Blaine. I always felt that the change in the Middle School season was a big factor. We always started the last week in February and finished with the Jr. High States the first or second weekend in April. That was plenty of time to introduce the sport and compete and have some fun along with prepping the next group of Otters to wrestle. This allowed for kids to do basketball and wrestle if they chose to. We always seemed to get 7-8 good wrestlers out of the 30-40 who tried out. It’s a tough sport and not necessarily for everyone but it’s good if they want to try and appreciate what it takes. I also used my wrestlers to teach our philosophy and techniques. They also enjoyed that.

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