Wrestling to begin despite fears of COVID-19 spread

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IHSAA Wrestling Website

As a close contact sport, health officials are wondering how they can keep wrestling safe for athletes while still allowing them to compete during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taze Wilson, Lead Editor

The Pleasant Valley wrestling team begins practicing this month despite rising cases of COVID-19 in the Quad Cities, leaving many to wonder if the sport can continue safely. 

Across the nation, high school wrestling programs have responded to the pandemic by changing the dates of their seasons or cancelling for the year all together. The Illinois High School Association moved the state’s wrestling to the summer season, the only sport changing dates, citing it as being a higher risk sport under COVID-19 guidelines. 

Despite other states’ actions, Iowa wrestling is continuing undeterred by the virus. The Iowa High School Athletic Association has announced a number of guidelines in response to the pandemic, including taking a break every 15 minutes to wash hands/sanitize and splitting athletes into practice pods. 

Varsity wrestling coach Jacob Larsen says that the program will closely adhere to the IHSSA’s guidelines. “A lot of the stuff we already do, keeping them and small groups and rotating them more frequently,” says Larsen. “Wrestlers already practice in 10 foot circles, so they’re already spaced out from each other. The only really new precaution is the drinking fountains and sanitizing hands every 15 minutes.”

Every high school sport has adopted new measures to keep athletes safe, and wrestling is following many of those same guidelines. Coaches and athletes must monitor systems, avoid sharing equipment and reduce gatherings of people.

One of the wrestling program’s strengths in combating possible spread is its access to two wrestling rooms. The varsity and junior varsity wrestling teams are split up already, making it easier to do contact tracing and continue the season if infection were to occur. 

However, wrestling differs in mask requirements for its athletes. “I don’t know what mask would stay on during wrestling,” says Larsen. “Even headgear, strapped on and tight, rolls around and can come off. Someone can attempt to wear one, but I don’t know how they’d do it.” 

As a close contact sport, it is difficult for wrestlers to follow CDC guidelines while competing. With cases rising across the state of Iowa, health officials fear that the sport may contribute to the virus’s spread. 

PV’s nurse Pam Cinadr has a number of concerns with the continuation of the wrestling program. “It frightens me to think what it’s going to do to the numbers in the building that will be directly caused by wrestling,” says Cinadr. “When you’re in a room as confined as the wrestling room, covered and mats and heated, it’s a petris dish.”

Despite these concerns, the program is confident that it can keep its athletes safe. “If something were to come up, I’d have to report it and I wouldn’t hide anything,” says Larsen on reporting cases. “If you’ve got a cold, you can function with that. It would be better safe to tell them to go work out on their own and their own space, or even just not come to practice.”

Nevertheless, the wrestling season is progressing full steam ahead. The first wrestling competition is scheduled for later this month, on Nov 30.