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When the 168 wrestlers representing schools from Alconbury to Ankara gather for the 2007 DODDS-Europe championship Friday and Saturday, they’ll find something different in place of the traditional brackets.

“This year, we are going to wrestle in two groups of six in each weight class, guaranteeing every wrestler a minimum of five matches,” DODDS-Europe athletic coordinator Karen Seadore wrote in an e-mail announcing the new format. “… [I]t’s a big change, but one long overdue in this sport.”

The schedule for the tournament, held at the new gym on the Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Germany, has every wrestler going four times on Friday and once on Saturday morning, with the top two from each group squaring off at lunchtime. The winners advance to Saturday afternoon’s championships, with the losers wrestling for third place just prior to the finals.

Each semifinalist, therefore, will wrestle seven matches, and some non-semifinalists will have a sixth match, when group third-place finishers wrestle for fifth place on Saturday.

“That’s a lot of matches,” Giessen 171-pounder K.C. Brown, the Western Sectional champion, said Monday. “I wrestled five matches in divisionals as a sophomore, and the next day I was pretty tired.”

Former European champion Stephen Hopkins, now coaching at Würzburg, disagrees with the new format. He thinks a 12-man field is too small and a two-day time frame too short for the round-robin system.

“If there were 32 wrestlers per weight class like it is done in some places in the States, it would make sense to me because it would simplify advancements,” he wrote in answer to an e-mail query. “The difference, however, is that it is also done over three days and not two.

“I do not agree with the new format because our wrestlers rarely wrestle more than three, much less four, matches in a day.”

Wiesbaden coach Steve Jewell thinks the schedule will bring out DODDS-Europe’s best.

“I like the round-robin format,” he said by phone last week. “It gives a clear advantage to kids who are conditioned. It’s fairer to guys who worked harder during the season.”

The 12 wrestlers in the 14 weight classes were determined by results in last Saturday’s sectional qualifying meets. The top two advanced, as well as some third- and fourth-place finishers selected Monday on the basis of their season-long performances.

Sixteen enter the tournament unbeatenn. Among them is Chris Campos of Naples, one of three 2006 champs — James Ricks of Patch and Trey Fortunato of Ramstein are the others — back to try for another title.

The top four seeds in each weight class were determined by draw on Monday, with two of the top four assigned to each group. While a draw might seem to undermine the purpose of seeding, which seeks to have the perceived top two performers meet in the final, Seadore said that the crossover method for the semifinals preserves that goal.

“… [T]he top four seeds in each group will be from a different sectional,” she wrote. “With group rounds, the two best wrestlers [in any weight class] can be in the same group and still meet in the finals.”

For example, take Giessen’s Brown, 17-2 and on a 17-match winning streak. He drew the No. 2 seed and landed in the same group as AFNORTH’s unbeaten Brock Blankenship, the Northern Sectional champion who drew No. 3. They’ve never wrestled before, and one of the two will see his winning streak end in the round-robin.

Although both could make the semifinals and, with victories there, earn a rematch in the final, Hopkins thinks the situation puts the best wrestlers in unnecessary jeopardy.

“It is all too easy for two undefeated wrestlers or two clear finalists to end up in the same pool,” he wrote.

“Yes, they can move out as the Nos. 1 and 2, but the best of their energy has been used and puts them at risk [in the semifinals] against someone they would normally beat fairly easily.”

DODDS-Europe high school wrestling championships

When: Friday and Saturday. Round-robin matches begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday. Semifinals are 11:30 a.m. Saturday, third- and fifth-place matches 1 p.m., championship bouts 4 p.m.

Where: Wiesbaden Army Airfield gym, Germany

What’s at stake: Individual championships in 14 weight classes and divisional team championships

Admission: All-tournament tickets are $8 for adults; $5 for students. Daily passes are $5 and $3. Booster club and PTSA membership cards will not be honored.

Sweet 16

Wrestlers entering the tournament unbeaten this season

103—Jerry Arculeta, Bitburg

112—Christian Somera, Naples

119—Chris Campos, Naples; Chris Spencer, Wiesbaden

125—David Crow, Baumholder

130—Kris Higgins, AFNORTH; Andrew Moon, Heidelberg

140—Brandon Foster, Wiesbaden

145—Jon Peden, Ramstein

152—Dameon Odum, Hohenfels; Kyle Stammer, Vicenza

160—Eric Vandal, Hohenfels

171—Brock Blankenship, AFNORTH; Kiko Bratcher, Naples

189—Corey Targos, Ramstein

215—Eric Oyan, Ramstein


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