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USA Wrestling to host Senior Nationals this weekend in Iowa

The mats are down for USA Wrestling’s Senior Nationals that begin Friday in Iowa. (Photo courtesy USA Wrestling)

In Connecticut, the state Department of Health has recommended that wrestling be postponed because there is too much risk in spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to their most recent recommendations.

A sub-committee on the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s (CIAC) wrestling committee is trying to come up with ideas to mitigate the risks and have wrestling classified as a moderate risk sport to enable some scholastic competition this winter.

Perhaps, the committee can turn their eyes toward Iowa where USA Wrestling will host the 2020 Senior Nationals this weekend in Coralville, Iowa in three Olympic disciplines – men’s freestyle, women’s freestyle and men’s Greco-Roman.

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.

Two wrestlers with Connecticut roots are in the tournament — former Danbury High star Jakob Camacho of North Carolina State, who won an ACC title and qualified for the NCAA Division I championships, and former Avon High and AIC wrestler Este Lara.

Camacho is the No. 10 seed in at 57 kilograms (125.6 pounds) in the men’s freestyle competition, which will be held Saturday and Sunday. Lara is also wrestling at 57 kg in his first-ever Senior Nationals appearance. The event will be streamed live on FloWrestling.

Each athlete, USA Wrestling staff member, coach, volunteer and official will be checked with a temperature scanner before entering the arena. If their temperature is too high, they will be quarantined and provided the appropriate medical treatment.

Everyone will need to wear a mask in the facility. Only wrestlers competing on the mat are exempt but once they finish their match, they need to put their mask back on. Only one coach will be allowed on the mat.

Officials need to wear a face shield and/or mat along with gloves. If the official doesn’t want to wear gloves, they can use hand sanitizer after each match. Officials will keep their distance from the wrestlers. The winning wrestler’s hand won’t be raised by the official at the end of the match.

Spectators won’t be screened as they enter the Xtream Arena but they will be required to wear a mask. Tournament officials said capacity will be limited to 25 percent. Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there should be 1,600 to 1,800 fans in attendance and he expects the event to sellout.

Spectators and athletes will be kept separate. They will enter and exit the facility at different locations.

Once athletes are admitted to the building, they take a short walk to the GreenState Family Fieldhouse, a five-court, 53,000 square foot event space where six warm up mats will be for wrestlers to warmup while maintaining social distance. Organizers have also secured space at the local Marriott hotel to provide the competitors spots to work out on Friday.

“We’re hoping we’re mitigating the virus enough so it won’t even enter the facility,” said Pete Isais, director of national events for USA Wrestling.

Working with local and state officials, USA Wrestling has developed and released two sets of guidance for wrestling during the COVID-19 pandemic – Return to the Mat for athletes and Return to the Venue for tournament organizers.

Isais said these guidelines were used in hosting two tournaments in Utah during August, including the Western State Championships in early August that attracted 750 competitors.

“We are going to be safe. We want to be safe,” Isais said. “We want to do the right thing. People are looking for an opportunity (to compete).”

There have been few tournaments since the sport was shut down along with other sports last March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States.

Isais and the tournament organizers are very aware that the eyes of the wrestling community will be upon them this weekend. But they are confident in their plans.

“No doubt, we are at the tip of the spear,” Isais said. “We want to be a leader in having events. We want to make sure are doing it right with our protocols. Our athletes are very excited to compete. I think they want to get back at it.”

The men’s freestyle field has grown from 150 a year ago to 200 competitors this weekend while the Greco-Roman field slightly grew from 100 competitors in 2019 to 120 this year. The women’s tournament slipped from 150 competitors to 50 this weekend.

2020 Senior Nationals

Friday, October 9
Session I – (4 Mats)
Greco-Roman – All weights    
Women’s Freestyle – 50 KG, 53 KG, 57 KG
Preliminaries, Quarterfinals and Consolations
10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Session II – (4 Mats)
Greco-Roman – All weights    
Women’s Freestyle – 50 KG, 53 KG, 57 KG
Consolations, Semifinals, Finals and Medals
4:30 to 9 p.m.

Saturday, October 10
Session III – (5 Mats)
Women’s Freestyle – 62 KG, 68 KG, 76 KG
Men’s Freestyle- All weights
Preliminaries and consolations
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Session IV – (5 Mats) 
Women’s Freestyle – 62 KG, 68 KG, 76 KG
Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Consolations, FINALS AND MEDALS
4 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Men’s Freestyle- All weights
Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Consolations
4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Sunday, October 11
Session V- (2 Mats)
Men’s Freestyle- All weights
Consolation, Consolation Semifinals, 3rd Place, 5th Place and 7th Place
10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Session VI – (1 Mat)
Men’s Freestyle- All weights
Championship Finals
12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Sessions and schedule subject to change

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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