The reasons against football are compelling: risk of injury, the transition in conditioning from fall to winter, the need to focus on wrestling as the ticket to college.
The reasons for playing football are interesting as well: being versatile, attracting the attention of coaches who like multi-sport athletes, and just plain fun.
Consider two of this year's state champions, Holland Patent's Alex Herringshaw and Sherburne-Earlville's Jack Buell.
The road to the Division II title at 195 pounds, and his school's first state title since 1969, did not lead through football for Buell this year. Injured at times from football, where he was a linebacker and running back, he spent the fall with his mind on wrestling.
"Football shape is different -- you're bulked up and kind of slow," Buell said at Section 3 Media Day at C-NS before the state tournament. "I decided to focus on one sport." Said his coach, Bim Palmer: "Summer and fall is when you're really seen by coaches."
Herringshaw made a different choice: playing football for the first time since sixth grade. He started at nose tackle and running back, and said football was his fun sport, where wrestling was work.
"Football was a break from the stress of wrestling, because it didn't have the same intensity," said the three-time state champ, before winning the Division II title at 170. He and teammate Hunter Richard, state champ at 145, said they consider tackling to be wrestling while wearing pads.
"If you had a football team made up of wrestlers, I'd be scared," said Richard, linebacker and running back. "I don't even think about it, I play football and I will play it again next fall."
A trio of Section 3 runners-up agreed. Sandy Creek sophomore Joe Benedict, second to Buell in both the section and the state at 195, said he never even thought about it. He said the difference in physical conditioning is "huge," made more for quick bursts in football where wrestling is "more continuously moving."
Benedict, first-team All-CNY at linebacker, with more than 1,700 yards rushing at running back, said he'll play baseball this spring: pitcher and first baseman.
Camden senior Brett Finch, Section 3 Division II runner-up and fifth in the state at 182, said he also never thought about skipping football. He did injure his shoulder in football but said he let it heal and headed into wrestling season. (He is pictured above left during the Section 3 Duals.)
Central Square junior Isaac Havens, Section 3 Division I runner-up at 195, said wrestling helped him with tackling and mental toughness at linebacker.
Havens, on the right in the right-hand picture above (with coach Bob Coppola and teammates Max Emond, left, and Phoenix Webb, center) said his body is ready for wrestling two weeks after football season.
Havens's father, Bruce, said the family moved to Central Square from Ohio, where football and wrestling are both huge sports. He supported his son's wish to
Coaches seem divided on the football question. Some said they wish high school students didn't have to make such a choice but favor a focus on one sport, aiming for college. Others say no, college coaches such as Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer look for multi-sport guys.
"I have always thought that high school guys should do all they can, play every sport they can," said Bob Coppola, long-time Central Square wrestling coach.