Whitehall and Fort Ann’s wrestling teams will be one and the same.
The Whitehall Board of Education formally approved a request from Fort Ann officials to consolidate the wrestling programs beginning next season.
The merger will occur on a one-year trial basis and administrators from both schools will meet and evaluate the arrangement after next season before determining if it’s something each side wishes to continue.
The two neighboring districts have been exploring the arrangement for the last two months after Fort Ann asked their counterparts from Whitehall if they would consider merging the two teams.
Fort Ann’s wrestling program, which has been in existence for only a few years, has struggled to field a competitive team.
Keith Redmond, Whitehall’s athletic director, said Fort Ann typically gives up nine forfeits during any given match because the team has so few athletes. Even, Whitehall, a traditionally strong program, has been forced to give up a handful of matches because it too can’t fill all 13 weight classes.
“I think with the combination of the two teams, we will be able to field a competitive team that can fill all 13 weight classes,” Redmond said.
The merger will change the team’s classification. Redmond said Whitehall must include 20 percent of Fort Ann’s senior class as part of its own student population when it comes to determining the class the team will compete at next season. That means Whitehall will be a Class C team next year instead of Class D. The team will continue to compete as Division II small school at the state level.
Bob Diekel, head wrestling coach said the change in classification could prove to be beneficial.
“I actually think it could be easier,” he said.
Watson said the merger will result in a cost savings for both districts. The schools would share evenly in the cost of officials and entrance fees. Whitehall would continue to pay Diekel’s coaching stipend, who would remain head coach and Fort Ann would pay the salary of the assistant coach. The schools would share the cost of a modified coach.
All practices would be held at Whitehall. A bus from Whitehall would pick up Fort Ann’s wrestlers on its return from BOCES. A bus from Fort Ann would then pick up modified wrestlers and return them to Fort Ann. Varsity wrestlers, who would practice at 4:30 p.m., would return home with a coach from Fort Ann.
Watson said the team is tentatively slated to host four matches, three of which will be held in Whitehall with the fourth in Fort Ann.
Wrestlers from each school would continue to wrestle in their school’s respective singlets, at least for the first year. A name for the combined team will be determined in the coming months.
Although rare, the move would not be unprecedented. Hadley Luzerne and Lake George have combined their wrestling teams and Schoharie and Duanesburg will compete as a single football team this year.
The public was given a chance to provide input on the merger before Monday’s vote but no one spoke. The proposal was passed 6-0 with three members absent.
A number of parents addressed the board about incidents of bullying they allege have occurred at the high school.
“There have been some issues during the 2012-13 school year that haven’t been addressed satisfactorily,” Lorraine Westerman said. “My granddaughter was assaulted but we were told it wasn’t classified as assault.
She was grabbed by the throat and thrown to the ground. What’s it going to take before you people do something?”
Westerman said she has attempted to contact officials about the incidents but they had not been addressed and that the abuse was continuing to happen.
She said efforts by staff to mediate the situation had failed.
Danielle Jones said her child has also been the target of bullying and if the abuse continued she was going to advise her son to defend himself.
“There’s a lot of bullying going on in the school and we’re sick of nothing ever being done about it,” Jones said.
Watson said the board would take the comments under advisement and would discuss the situation in executive decision. Officials are then expected to contact the parents personally.
The board denied a request from the senior class to take an overnight trip to a Six Flags Resort in New Jersey next month.
The board did give the class permission to take an extended day trip to the resort.
The class was not allowed to take the overnight trip because it’s been the practice of the board to deny any overnight trips because of “improper student-chaperone” conduct a number of years ago.
Christine Hoagland, class co-advisor, asked the board to reconsider the policy in the future.
“These kids need to experience time outside of Whitehall,” she said.