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Mixed results for high school wrestling in Northeast due to pandemic

Hunter Adrian of Melrose, Mass., right, dives at the legs of Joziah Fry of Coventry, R.I. in the final at 132 pounds at the 2020 New England championships last March.

As spring approaches, the status of high school wrestling has been mixed in the Northeast part of the country.

Three New England states have cancelled high school wrestling this winter due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. The status of wrestling in Massachusetts and Rhode Island is unknown at this time but there is hope that there might be some competition this spring.

New Hampshire allowed wrestling this winter while New York allowed it on a limited basis. Practice in New Jersey begins March 1 and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) announced that the organization would hold boys and girls individual championship tournaments in April.

In Connecticut, nothing has changed. High risk sports, such as wrestling, are banned through March 28, due an executive order from Gov. Ned Lamont in November. Programs can engage with conditioning and non-contact drills and many schools have held these practices over the last six weeks.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) remains firm on not allowing wrestling or any other fall or winter sport to compete during the spring, a CIAC official said Tuesday. The CIAC doesn’t want to encroach on the spring sports, which was eliminated entirely last spring when the coronavirus began sweeping across the nation in March.

In Maine, the wrestling season was canceled by the Maine Principals’ in a decision last week, as reported first by the Portland Press Herald. Athletes are allowed to work out with coaches with non-contact drills for the next two weeks but there will be no competition this winter.

But wrestlers, coaches and parents continue to be frustrated, especially with other states allowing high school wrestling in some manner.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that allowed wrestling this winter. Teams in the Granite State participated in dual meets and had to follow COVID-related protocols, including the wearing of masks on the mat. New Hampshire didn’t have the traditional individual state tournaments but had dual meet tournaments to determine state champions at the Division I, II and III levels.

New York allowed wrestling to begin in February if the local Department of Health allowed it. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) cancelled their state championship tournament earlier this year.

However, the organization that hosts the Journeymen Tournament will host a New York State championship tournament out of state on April 2-3 in Manheim, Pa. The tournament will be at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex, which that hosted the 117th annual Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) meet this past weekend.

Practice in New Jersey began on Monday, March 1, with dual meets scheduled to beginning on March 16. The NJSIAA announced earlier this week that they will host a girls state tournament finals on April and a boys finals on April 24-25. Regional tournaments will be held to determine who can qualify for the finals.

In Massachusetts, the wrestling schedule is scheduled to begin on April 26, according to recent reporting in the Boston Herald and reporter Danny Ventura. Wrestling has not received a final approval to move forward from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Coaches have discussed various strategies to safely practice and compete and some of the tactics include wearing a mask while competing and possibly holding meets outside.

In Rhode Island, wrestling is in limbo, according to reporting from the Providence Journal. Janet Coit, director of Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management, said on Thursday that high risk sports such as football and boys lacrosse can move forward.

The Rhode Island Interscholastic League, the governing body for high school athletics in the Ocean State, moved wrestling to the spring. “Everyone’s trying to make things happen but that remains to be seen,” Coit told the Providence Journal on Thursday. “Right now, wrestling is off the table.”

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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