Conforming amidst COVID-19

MN Wrestling Team adapts to new NSAA guidelines for the 2020 season

As the lights shine overhead, the MN wrestling team waits in anticipation to see who will step onto the podium. After hours of grappling with competitors, the wrestlers wait to see who will come out on top. 

Nov. 16  marks the start of the 2020 wrestling season. Soon, the wrestlers will put their months of practice and conditioning to the test to see who will come out as champion.

However, this season will be like no other. The NSAA has set new guidelines for the wrestlers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure a safe season and minimize the risks of infecting wrestlers.

Some of the regulations are pre-existing ones to avoid the spread of germs. Wrestlers will continue to disinfect their mats, gear, and surfaces. 

“Mats and gear have always been sanitized even before the pandemic,” senior wrestler Luke Nigh said. “The wrestlers are responsible for cleaning mats before and after practice and cleaning their own gear. The school does supply sanitizer to do this. It’s not very difficult and everyone makes sure it gets done right.”

However, there are several new rules in place that affect the way the sport itself will run this year. COVID-19 screenings, masking, and limited audiences are among the new regulations. Unless they are competing, all the coaches and wrestlers must socially distance and wear masks.

We now have a limited number of teams and people that can attend each tournament which has pulled us out of a few larger ones,” senior wrestler Guillermo Espinoza said. “We also aren’t allowed to practice in the room until season, so we have just been running and lifting so far.”

Some of the other guidelines include teams cannot go to tournaments with more than eight teams or more than 112 wrestlers. They are not allowed to travel out of state, and only family members are allowed to attend matches.

“My personal opinion on this is that some things are bigger than wrestling, and we must do what we need to do to have a season safely,” Nigh said.

Despite the team’s resilience during training, the new rules are not ideal for competition. Their inability to compete on school mats has made them find alternative ways to practice. 

It would be nice to be on the mats already but safety is important. To get our mat-time in, dedicated wrestlers have just been going to clubs so the school isn’t liable,” Espinoza said.

However, the wrestlers and administrators keep in mind that the new guidelines, unideal as they are, still provide the safest environment for wrestlers to compete.

“I think the guidelines provide the best possible framework under the present circumstances to keep wrestlers safe,” Activity Director Chad Zimmerman said. “I feel these guidelines give us the best opportunity to have a winter sports season including a successful wrestling season.”

Even with the new guidelines in place, the wrestlers remain determined to make the most of the season. They find solace in their sport and will continue to compete even with the pandemic looming over us.

“I have qualified for state the past    three  years and fell short of a state medal by a few points. I have qualified for the national team also. This year my goal is to win state and finally bring home a medal,” Espinoza says. “Wrestling is very important to me. State this year means everything to me because it is my last chance.”

With safety in their minds, the team will not back down.

“I have my concerns but I carry on wrestling,” Nigh says. “I think we will be careful, but I don’t shy away from competing no matter the conditions.”