As with most school activities, students and faculty have had to make adjustments due to COVID-19. This year’s wrestling team and coaches have taken the necessary steps to ensure all members are safe in order to have a successful season. Wrestling coach, Willie Wright, has seen the changes first hand and has made the efforts to provide a high-quality wrestling program.
Junior Byanca Cook is a member of the girls wrestling team. This is her second year wrestling and has had to get accustomed to how COVID-19 has affected her both on and off the wrestling mat. Although the limitations, Cook and her teammates have not given up on their passion for wrestling.
“We’ve actually had tournaments canceled because of COVID and other teams getting quarantined so then there’s no one for us to wrestle,” Cook said.
One of the biggest differences the girls wrestling program has seen this year is the number of times students are able to compete. Wrestlers are accustomed to having multiple wrestling matches before their state tournament. Due to COVID-19 protocols, many wrestling matches have been canceled. Out of state and overnight trips are also non-existent this season. A constant supporter of the wrestling team has been Ed Viera who often volunteers to help with the teams.
“The number of competitions and tournament had been limited by the Arkansas Activities Association guideline that do not allow us to compete in any tournaments that have more than eight teams,” Viera said. “Usually we travel to compete in Oklahoma and Missouri often, but these restrictions have kept us in state most of the season.”
Restrictions have been made across the board with all school sports and wrestling is no exception. Wrestling coaches have been advised to do temperature checks prior to weigh-ins. Pre-match and post-match handshakes have also been eliminated to reduce contact between wrestlers.
“The difficult part about wrestling with COVID are the breaks that it forces the wrestlers to take,” Wright said. “In wrestling and like other sports we need consistent training. When we have to sit a kid out for two weeks with no practice and competition, it affects their season. Although I see the safety concern it is frustrating to see some not be successful because of COVID.”
The girls are seeing shorter and more intense practices now that they are at the end of their season. Wrestlers are also having to keep their face masks on while they are not being active and cleaning the mats daily. On top of that, they must also stick with their assigned partners when they are performing contact training.
“Many people don’t realize the characteristics and the demand of the sport,” Wright said. “I hope through this sport I can instill characteristics in my athletes to become successful individuals.”
As with many sports, athletes are known for their drive and determination even in the toughest of times. Although the new challenges presented this year, wrestlers like Cook continue to persevere.
“Wrestling has taught me a lot of self-discipline and has definitely helped me better as a person because it’s just somewhere where I can let go of everything and get away,” Cook said.