DES MOINES, Iowa — The list of all the high school wrestling champions since the IHSAA began hosting the tournament in 1926 is long–thirty-four pages long, to be exact.
The 1,940 athletes crowned champion all have one thing in common: the singlet.
“That’s what it has been for such a long time. I don’t really see a point in changing it because there is nothing wrong with the singlets themselves,” said Carlisle wrestler Dez Hammel.
This past May, the National Federation of State High School Associations approved two-piece uniforms. They consist of a compression shirt and smaller, wrestling-specific style shorts.
State tournament wrestler from Des Moines East, Matthew Jordan jumped at the opportunity. He said, “The two-piece, I feel like I’m just at practice. It’s just more comfortable and I can walk around in it all day. I can’t just walk around in my singlet, I’d look goofy.”
It is still an uphill battle against traditionalists. Steve Bellon from Knoxville said, “My son did, my grandson is here today, and they wear the one-piece, and that’s the way I’d like to see it, the way I grew up watching it.”
Some naysayers took a technical approach.
Hammel said, “The real baggy trunks, I think, could hinder the other person wrestling because they could potentially get a finger caught on it and it makes it harder to grab a leg or do a certain move.”
Tammy Berenguel was busy watching West Des Moines Valley wrestlers and said, “It looks more official. The other uniform looks more difficult to wrestle in, I think.”
Other opinions, like that of ninth grade Ankeny student Sydney Brenning, were a bit more simple. “I prefer the singlet because I think the boys look better in them. I just really base it off of the guys looking good. That’s why I’m here.”
Jordan said it is helping boost turnout for the Scarlets, which is one of the reasons behind the NFHS approving the option in the first place. He said, “They are getting more kids to wrestle at our school because they don’t want to wrestle in singlets, so they feel more comfortable.”
The majority of athletes still choose tradition over trend, but Matthew Jordan admits his successful run to the state tournament run has gained a lot of positive attention.
“If I keep winning and say I make it to a state finals some year and a bunch of kids are looking at me and the younger kids want to make state finals when they are older. They may be looking at the two-piece and think it’s cool, maybe they’ll put one on and try it out,” said Jordan.