COLUMBUS — Just as girls basketballers were warming up on the court for a Division II state semifinal at St. John Arena, Ohio High School Athletic Association officials decided to postpone the state tournament for all sports.
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“We’re not doing this for any other reason than what’s best for the kids, communities and our nation’s health right now,” OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass said.
Snodgrass provided no timetable on when a final decision of whether or not to resume the tournament will be announced. There was also no announcement of the status of tournaments involving spring sports with regular seasons set to begin at the end of the month.
Area wrestlers were preparing to take part in the state tournament, which was scheduled to begin today at the Schottenstein Center with weigh-ins at 11:15 a.m.
“It’s a little frustrating,” Mount Vernon wrestling coach Nate Cornell said. “It’s one of those things where I can’t say that I’m too shocked considering (what’s been going on).”
“The decision is for our kids and not necessarily because others have done it,” Snodgrass said. “I can’t say I know exactly what their emotions are, but I do know what they’ve put into it. It’s not just the work that we put into making these events happen — it’s the emotions that go into it. I can’t say that I’ve experienced it directly, but I can empathize with it.”
It was a comeback year for Utica, which had three representatives in the tournament after being shut out in each of the previous two.
Sophomore Wesley Wydick (106 pounds), freshman Clayton Smith (113) and sophomore Brock Wygle (120) were set to represent Utica.
“I’m bummed,” Utica coach Mark Rakoczy said. “We’ve been slowly getting better (in my three years). It’s heartbreaking. We’ve just started turning it on at the right time.”
Sophomore Colton Spurgeon (113) was making his first appearance for Mount Vernon in Division I.
“He was upset,” Cornell said. “He didn’t get too emotional, which was good. But he has worked relentlessly since (last season) to make it to the state tournament and now — he can’t even wrestle in it. It’s upsetting. I hate, as a coach, for me to have to tell him that.”
What makes this particularly tough on the athletes is the unknown. The word “postpone” over “cancel” feeds into that unknown especially when other entities have been more steadfast in their terminology.
“So much of this going forward — why I use the words ‘postpone indefinitely’ — is what may come out with our schools with their attendance, being in school (and) whether school is canceled or not,” Snodgrass said. “I have been in contact with the state superintendent of schools as well as the state governor and all of that has led to this decision now.”
Cornell understands the difficult situation. He argues the season is already too long.
“Wrestling is such a demanding sport physically,” he said. “Guys that are dieting and holding their weight — it’s just too much. It’s tough on them mentally.
“I know as a coach, I personally ask a lot of my kids,” he added. “That’s why the season should be shorter. I feel bad that they’re asking even more of a season. Even for the kids that love wrestling and want to be there every day — it’s a grind, mentally and physically. So, to ask even more is pushing it a little too much.”
Rakoczy is going to try to make the best of a bad situation.
“In wrestling, you’ve got to get these guys to peak at the right time,” he said. “I’m just going to have the guys chill out for a week because I doubt it’s going to be anytime soon that we’ll be able to go. So, I’m going to take them out to eat (tonight) and tell them that we’re not going to do anything for a week. We’re not going in the room, we’re not practicing, we’re going to relax and come back really strong.”
Highland’s Christian Miller (152) was the area’s only representative in Division II, and Centerburg’s Donnell Marshall (138) was slated to compete in Division III.
Northmor had four representatives in Division III in Gavin Ramos (132) Austin Amens (145), Niko Christo (152) and Conor Becker (170). Mount Gilead’s Andy Williamson (170) was in that same bracket with Becker.