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CIAC committee seeks ways to lower risk and allow wrestling this winter

The CIAC wrestling committee is looking for alternatives to allow wrestling competition to be held this winter. (Photo courtesy Sam Janicki Photography)

The latest guidance from Connecticut’s Department of Health (DPH) lists wrestling as high risk and doesn’t recommend that any practices or competitions be held at this time and through the winter athletic season.

Football, lacrosse, competitive cheering and dance are the other sports that the DPH recommends not be held at this time due to the risk of contracting and/or spreading the contagious COVID-19 coronavirus. The recommendations are for high school athletics, youth organizations, adult clubs and private leagues.

At the high school level, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s (CIAC) wrestling committee has formed a subcommittee to find ways to lower the risk of wrestling and get the sport into the moderate category, according to Dan Scavone, the CIAC’s liaison to the wrestling committee.

The CIAC’s wrestling committee is comprised of 16 coaches, officials, school administrators and consultants that make recommendations about the conduct of the sport in the state.

“We hope to develop a plan to mitigate the risk not only in match situations but in practice situations as well,” Scavone said. “We are hoping to find ways to decrease the risks.”

Scavone is one of the members of the subcommittee along with CIAC tournament chair Steve Merlino, CIAC tournament director David Nowakowski, East Haven’s Bob Swan, NFA’s Roy Wentworth and Danbury High wrestling coach Ricky Shook.

The subcommittee will present their proposal to the full wrestling committee. The wrestling committee plans to forward their recommendations following their next meeting on Oct. 13 to Glenn Lungarini, the executive director of the CIAC. Lungarini makes recommendations to the CIAC’s Board of Control, which would make the call on playing or not playing a particular sport.

If the CIAC doesn’t sponsor competition in a sport, wrestlers could compete with a private club but those clubs would still need approval from their local Board of Health to hold practices and to participate in competitions.

Jennifer Kertanis, the health director of the Farmington Valley Board of Health, said she would not go against DPH recommendations and said she would expect other Board of Health directors in the state to also follow DPH recommendations.

The DPH’s most recent guidance said that high risk sports, such as wrestling, should be suspended and reconsidered for the spring season unless additional safe and effective strategies can be developed and implemented in consultation with sports medicine advisors to significantly mitigate the spread of respiratory droplet emissions among participants.

“The COVID-19 pandemic does not mean all organized sports should stop. In fact, DPH recognizes the importance of physical activity for the health and well-being of everyone during this stressful period,” said Deidre S. Gifford, the Acting DPH Commissioner in Connecticut.

“We encourage children and adults to engage in lower-risk physical activities as part of a strategy to stay healthy and cope with this pandemic,” she said.

“Unfortunately, some team sports present a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19 during practice or play, and we recommend that those be either modified or postponed,” Gifford said.

The most recent guidance from the DPH included information and guidance from the National Federation of High School Associations. In assigning risk, NFHS considered the fact that direct person-to-person spread via respiratory droplets is the most likely route of transmission for COVID-19.

Scavone said that if wrestling, or any fall or winter sport, doesn’t complete at least 40 percent of their respective season, there would be an opportunity for some competition during a one-month window from March 19 through April 17.

At this time, the first practice for wrestling is set for Nov. 30 with the first contest on Dec. 14. The last date to count for the state tournament is Feb. 11.

There are wrestling tournaments underway across the country at this time. USA Wrestling is hosting their 2020 Senior Nationals this weekend in Iowa on Oct. 9-11. Over 350 athletes have pre-registered for the event, including Olympic champion and two-time world champion Kyle Snyder and five-time world champion Adeline Gray.

Latest guidance from the Connecticut Department of Health

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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