After months of preparing, planning and pivoting time and again, high school wrestling teams in the Boulder County area received the worst possible news from Boulder County Health on Tuesday.
Despite the Colorado High School Activities Association having secured approval from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for variances that would allow winter sports — basketball, skiing, ice hockey, swim and dive, spirit and wrestling — to compete in Season B, wrestling did not receive approval from Boulder County Health and will not be allowed to compete in the St. Vrain Valley and Boulder Valley school districts.
So, why are other local teams allowed to compete in 2021 but the wrestlers can’t?
“While we fully support and encourage sports for both the physical and mental benefits, the very close contact and inability to mask while participating in wrestling make the sport high risk for transmission of COVID-19,” Chana Goussetis, a spokesperson for Boulder County Health, said.
At this time, Boulder County Health does not have a definitive answer as to whether all other Season B sports will receive approval or if any are still under consideration. Boulder County Health officials also gave no indication as to whether Colorado’s other local health organizations are considering a similar decision on wrestling or other Season B athletics. With approval of local public health officials, Season B sports are scheduled to begin practicing statewide on Jan. 18 and competition will commence on Jan. 25.
As for local wrestling teams like Monarch, which has a state-caliber lineup and an individual wrestler in senior Vince Cornella who would be going for a fourth straight state championship, Tuesday’s news was devastating. Now that their respective schools and districts technically don’t have wrestling programs for Season B, many local grapplers are scrambling in search of opportunities to join teams in neighboring school districts, where they would be eligible to compete per state law.
“I don’t want to knock down other sports but I don’t understand how you can do some and not others,” Monarch wrestling coach Ezra Paddock said. “When my AD called me to tell me the news, my mind went right away to thinking about how I could get my kids opportunities to wrestle. For all our guys, and especially Vince, it’s heartbreaking. We’re remaining hopeful that there’s some way, somehow, that we’ll still get a chance.”
If other school districts are forced to follow Boulder County Health’s example, the possibility remains that the wrestling season could be moved back to either Season C or Season D. Other prep sports in Colorado like football and basketball have already seen their seasons canceled or moved, restored or altered in order to exist throughout the ongoing saga that is athletics during the global pandemic.
The ultimate fate of prep wrestling in Boulder County seemingly has yet to be determined. But at least for now, Tuesday’s decision has left many reeling.
“We know that public health officials have the safety of the community on their minds at all times, but it goes without saying that we are deeply saddened by the news and are mostly saddened for the lost opportunity for our St. Vrain student-athletes and coaches,” SVVSD district athletic director Chase McBride said. “Mostly, we are devastated for our seniors and it’s really an unfortunate time for them to be senior wrestlers. Our seniors and wrestling teams are valued, and we will continue to support them in all ways that we can.”
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