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By Anthony Jones
For the first time in 41 years, the Illinois High School Association announced the dropping of a state series.
Both boys gymnastics and debate state events were eliminated after falling below the threshold of seven percent of IHSA member schools participating.
IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in the announcement, “After years of decline in participation, boys gymnastics and debate no longer meet the threshold required by IHSA Policy to conduct a State Series. Boys gymnastics and debate both dipped below seven percent several years ago, and to our Board of Director’s credit, they provided a grace period in hopes that both might experience a rejuvenation after the pandemic, but unfortunately, that has not occurred at a level that allows either to meet the Policy.”
Following the pandemic, debate saw a drop in participation and only had 39 schools in the 2021-2022 state tournament. This fell short of the 58 school threshold to account for seven percent of the IHSA’s 817 member schools.
Boys gymnastics had similar figures, totaling only 40 teams in their most recent postseason. The sport’s state series had also run at a deficit in recent years, costing the IHSA $8,964 in 2022.
Both of the discontinued state tournaments had been a part of the IHSA for several decades. Debate was introduced in 1941 and boys gymnastics debuted in 1952.
The IHSA also announced changes for boys and girls soccer series, with all three classes being moved to the same weekend. Previously, Class 1A’s State Finals were held a week prior and at a different site than 2A and 3A.
In the new format, Class 1A will play their semifinal matches Thursday evening. Friday’s action will begin with the third-place game before semifinals are held for Class 2A and 3A. Saturday will now start with the third-place games for 2A and 3A, followed by the championship game in all three classes.
Hoffman Estates will remain as the hosts for the boys state finals and North Central College will retain the girls state finals.
The IHSA also announced that girls wrestling will add Regional rounds to their 2024 state series, with two per Sectional. Previously, the Sectional round served as the opening round of the postseason for girls wrestling.