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All sports can go beginning March 19 but time runs short for high school wrestling

Bristol Eastern’s Aaron Morocho tries to turn Bristol Central’s Jake Leone in a match at 126 pounds last February. Morocho won by tech fall, 18-2.

The winter sports season in Connecticut for high school athletes less than four weeks remaining.

With some luck, high school wrestlers may be able to get in a few traditional practices before the winter season concludes on March 26.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced an updated plan for reopening the state on Thursday and that includes allowing all youth, interscholastic and amateur sports to practice and compete beginning on Friday, March 19, with the approval of the state Department of Health (DPH).

DPH released their guidance on Thursday clearing the way for youth and amateur sports organizations and clubs to begin practices and/or competition on March 19.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Council (CIAC)’s Board of Control will still need to provide permission for high school athletic programs to practice and compete. The Board of Control has a meeting scheduled for next week.

In a statement, the CIAC said that they are encouraged by Governor Lamont’s announcement about opening up additional sports opportunities toward the end of March.

“As has been the practice throughout the pandemic, the CIAC will now review the latest information with its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and Board of Control,” the statement said.

Any sport that holds practices or competition will need to come up with strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 virus and keep the participants safe.

DPH recommends that school athletic directors, athletic club organizers and facility operators should:

  • Develop and implement specific written protocols for the COVID-19 prevention strategies to be used during practices and games.
  • Provide those complete written protocols, along with a point-of-contact, to the appropriate local health department before activities begin.
  • Check with municipalities and private facility operators regarding any additional restrictions for the use of their indoor or outdoor spaces. Details regarding the operation of athletic facilities can be found on the state of Economic and Community Development website.
  • Educate coaches and parents about the risks of COVID-19 spread during athletic activities and the need for strict compliance with protocols, including requirements for quarantine/isolation of cases and close contacts.
  • Keep detailed rosters of participants for all practices and games with appropriate contact information and make that information available to health officials, upon request, for the purposes of contact tracing.
  • Stress the importance of information-sharing with health authorities performing contact tracing and make it clear to coaches and participant families that cooperation with contact tracing is a requirement of participation with their athletic organization.
  • Consider specific rule changes designed to reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of contact between participants.

In terms of wrestling, the Department of Public Health is recommending that wrestlers wear masks at all times, except during an actual match. DPH recommends just dual meet competition and to limit any matches to nearby opponents.

For practice, DPH recommends setting up groups or cohorts of athletes to minimize the number of students that may have to quarantine in the event of a positive COVID-19 test from an athlete or coach.

DPH also recommends that wrestlers and their families receive enhanced education and communication regarding the risks associated with COVID-19, the increased potential for spread of potentially infectious respiratory droplets among athletes wrestling and acknowledgement of the safety risks that may be associated with the mitigation strategies.

Wrestling teams will have little time to get together – even if it is just practicing. The winter season ends on March 26. And the CIAC’s Board of Control has been firm for months that any traditional fall or winter sport, including wrestling, will not be held during the spring season.

The CIAC’s Board of Control does not want to impact the spring sports since the entire spring season in 2020 was cancelled as the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across the country last March.

The winter sports season began on January 19 and high school wrestling programs have been limited in what they could do. No competition or contact was allowed. Many schools have been holding practices throughout the winter with conditioning work and non-contact drills — all that they were allowed to do.

There are a few upcoming opportunities to compete in wrestling available out of state. The National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) annual national championship tournaments is scheduled to be held April 23-25 in Virginia Beach, Va., for girls in grades 9-12 and boys in grades 6-12.

On April 1-3, USA Wrestling will host the Folkstyle nationals in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

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 35 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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