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Wrestling: Local athletes able to get back on mats as Season B participation decision is reversed

Boulder County Public Health meets sport’s community in the middle

Liam Laughery, of Skyline, beats Benny ...
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
FREDERICK, CO – JANUARY 12, 2020: Liam Laughery, of Skyline, beats Benny Hyman at 120 lbs. during the Frederick Warrior Wrestling Invite on January 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

One week after withholding approval of variances that would allow local high school programs to compete in Season B, Boulder County Public Health decided on Tuesday to meet the local wrestling community in the middle.

Prep wrestling is back on, but there will be strict guidelines to follow.

The new rules are: every wrestler must be masked at all times during competition, wrestlers must remain in remote learning if they choose to compete, and regular COVID-19 testing is strongly suggested for competitors. Under those conditions, BCPH has approved variances that will allow for high school wrestling teams at schools under its jurisdiction to begin practicing along with other Season B sports on Jan. 18.

“This was a collaborative effort with all parties; schools districts and Boulder County Health,” St. Vrain Valley School District athletic director Chase McBride said. “Our goal is to provide as many opportunities for our students as possible, while keeping the focus on providing the safest environment in which to do so. We are thrilled with the outcome and look forward to supporting our student-athletes and coaches through this challenging wrestling season.”

When wrestling in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain school districts was effectively canceled early last week, many in Colorado’s prep wrestling community felt the decision was made without proper considerations. Coaches, parents and athletes immediately voiced their displeasure with the decision and argued that wrestling poses no greater risk of spreading coronavirus than other sports and that the mental health of high school students should be paramount. Factors like a state law that allows student-athletes the option to compete for programs in neighboring school districts if theirs does not offer their chosen sport were used as counterpoints against the decision.

BCPH, apparently, was listening.

“When you shut something down like that, it felt like it was going to devastate a lot of programs and take a lot of opportunities away from kids who love wrestling and need it as an outlet during all of this,” Longmont wrestling coach Matt Engelking said. “This is just the type of year when we have to think outside the box and I appreciate all the people who have put in a ton of time to work this thing out. These are tough times but I think people are trying to look out for each other and make the best decisions they can to do what’s best for kids.”

Tuesday’s resolution appears to be the result of solving the primary issues that BCPH spokesperson Chana Goussetis stated as, “the very close contact and inability to mask while participating in wrestling make the sport high risk for transmission of COVID-19.”

While wrestling’s perceived risk of disease transmission is yet to be proven true or false, allowing wrestlers to compete in the BVSD and SVVSD certainly solves the potential problem of local students dispersing and displacing athletes in their respective programs. From a purely competitive standpoint, it also avoids the impact of eliminating a significant percentage of teams in several of Colorado’s top classifications.

Whatever results BCPH’s decision produces, local wrestling coaches, parents and athletes are encouraged that they are now at least able to choose for themselves.

“It seems fair,” Monarch wrestling coach Ezra Paddock said. “I think it’s a big deal for a lot of our guys and it’s going to be a case-by-case basis for each kid. But I’m glad that people were able to come together and reconsider. It’s good that these young men will at least have a choice as to whether they want to wrestle or not.”