In the past 17 years, South Dade’s wrestling program has been either state champion or runner up 15 times, crowning 49 individual state champions to date. They’ve dominated the mat — and the map — when it comes to accolades and accomplishments.
But northern powers Columbus, Southwest, Braddock and Palmetto are on a mission to alter that landscape.
“By no means are we the powerhouse this year that we have been in the past,” South Dade coach Victor Balmeceda said. “I have seven returning state qualifiers and four placers, but we are not that far ahead of everyone else. But I like that, the competition.”
With a veteran South Dade squad yearning to not only contend, but win as usual, most believe this year’s team race is wide open. It might come down to the most significant changes in weight classes in high school wrestling in 23 years.
In its early April meeting in Indianapolis, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Wrestling Rules Committee approved an upward shift of the weight classes, beginning with the 103-pound class moving to 106 pounds, which resulted in new weights for 10 of the 14 classes.
“They’ve taken away the most populated weight class  and combined two others,” Balmeceda said. “And adding a heavier weight class changes things because kids at 195 pounds play football or basketball and we may not find a kid to fill that weight class. The middle weight class is just an average size high school kid.”
But Southwest coach Joel Mendez doesn’t agree: “It creates more of an opportunity for the upper weights, which I like.”
The 14 weight classes approved by the committee for 2011-12 are as follows: 106 (pounds), 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285. Three middle weight classes — 145, 152 and 160 — were retained, although they are 7-8-9 in order now rather than 8-9-10. The largest weight class (285 pounds) remains unchanged as well.
“We’ve got a No. 1 team coming in, and we just hope we can be No. 1 coming out,” Balmeceda said.