Time is running out for high school wrestlers in Connecticut to have some sort of season.
The Connecticut Department of Health (DPH) has informed the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) that they have not changed their initial recommendation about wrestling.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to minimize the spread of the disease, DPH remains firm that there be no contact practices or competition of any kind in wrestling this winter.
The CIAC had hoped to fit in a brief season for wrestling before the spring season begins on March 27 with practices for baseball, tennis, golf and track and field.
While other states are planning to allow wrestling competition in the spring, the CIAC’s Board of Control also remains firm that wrestling will not be added to the spring sports schedule. The CIAC doesn’t want to impact spring sports since those programs lost their entire season last year due to the pandemic that began sweeping across the country last March.
Following recently revised guidance from the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) that changed the risk factors for sports, the CIAC met with representatives from DPH and Gov. Ned Lamont’s office to discuss additional options to safely allow athletes to play.
The CIAC asked DPH to reconsider their previous guidance regarding wrestling, boys lacrosse, jumping events in indoor track and field, competitive cheerleading and competitive dance.
On Thursday, the CIAC’s Board of Control – aligned with DPH’s response and guidance – did not change their previous recommendation announced in November and reaffirmed in January regarding wrestling. Only conditioning and non-contact drills would be allowed. No competition or contact drills in practice are to be allowed.
In an email obtained by the Collinsville Press, the DPH explained their position regarding wrestling.
“In the case of intense, face-to-face, unprotected contact between individuals, (the Center for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that the time criteria should be discounted, and close contact should be assumed at any duration,” the DPH said.
One of the arguments in support of wrestling was the minimal amount of time (6 to 10 minutes for a match) that competitors would be actual contact with each other compared to other sports, such as basketball, which can be up to 40 minutes long.
“While mask use may provide some level of protection against respiratory droplet exchange during active wrestling, (American Academy of Pediatrics) guidance specifically lists wrestling as a sport where mask wearing is not recommended due to potential safety risks,” DPH said.
“Given the fact that close contact between individuals is unavoidable and mask use has been deemed unsafe by AAP, DPH would not recommend the operation of wrestling at this time,” the DPH response said.
The CIAC’s wrestling committee came up with a list of recommendations in the fall to make the sport safer for athletes including no tournaments, no multi-team events, a schedule of dual meets and everyone wearing a mask at all times – except during the actual match.
Mats would be disinfected between bouts and there would be no overtime in matches. Wrestlers would practice in small groups to limit potential exposure. Additional recommendations are in the draft of the CIAC’s winter sports plan, beginning on page 29.
While wrestling did not get approval to play, the CIAC’s Board of Control voted to allow virtual competition for cheerleading and dance, as long as the participants follow COVID protocols and mitigating strategies.
The Board of Control said that indoor track dual meets could begin on March 1. Athletes competing in running events must wear masks and athletes in the jumping events (long jump, triple jump, high jump) will be allowed to remove their mask during the approach and the jump only.
In terms of boys lacrosse, the CIAC is developing a mitigation plan for all spring springs. Boys lacrosse was previously classified as a high-risk sport by the NFHS.
New Hampshire is the only current state in New England that allows wrestling. Teams in the Granite State are participating in dual meets.
In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, wrestling has been moved to the spring season. Vermont cancelled their wrestling season while Maine has not made a final decision. Reporting in Maine said the Maine Principals’ Association is due to meet on Feb. 22.
New York is allowing wrestling if the local Department of Health allows it. Practice in New Jersey begins on March 1 with dual meets beginning March 16. A decision about a state tournament has not been finalized.