OSWEGO — High school winter sports are in the rearview, the Fall II season is moving quickly, and spring offerings are rapidly approaching, yet most Oswego County school districts are still grappling with the idea of a varsity wrestling campaign.
The Oswego County Department of Health authorized scholastic participation in wrestling along with the other sports categorized as high-risk for the potential spread of COVID-19 that are now being played during Fall II, as confirmed this week by Diane Oldenburg, the department’s senior public health educator.
But entering the past week, wrestling was the lone sport traditionally offered in all area school districts that had yet to have plans to conduct a season during this academic year.
Central Square athletic director James Drancsak confirmed Monday night that the Redhawks will conduct a spring wrestling season with practices to begin April 19, as are many of the Syracuse-area schools in the Salt City Athletic Conference and Onondaga High School League.
No other Oswego County schools had confirmed plans to participate entering the week.
Three other county athletic directors — John Jeffries of Phoenix, Christopher Ells from Fulton, and Mexico’s Andrew Gates — all confirmed that they were hoping for a spring season and awaiting school clearance to wrestle entering the week.
Gates said recently that he has been studying data and convening with school medical officials and wrestling coaches on a weekly basis in hopes of planning a safe and viable schedule.
“If there is any chance that we can run a semblance of a season, whether it be practices, limited events this spring, once we get approval, we would like to do that, especially for our seniors and any other varsity-level wrestlers that want that opportunity,” Gates said of the situation at Mexico.
Sandy Creek athletic director Mike Stevens said the Comets were also still waiting for final approval entering the week, as was Altmar-Parish-Williamstown, according to athletic coordinator Scott Stanard. APW hosts a combined wrestling team with Pulaski.
Oswego athletic director Rhonda Bullard did not respond to inquiries about the potential for a wrestling season, but the sport was not listed among the spring sign-ups on the district website.
The situation is not unprecedented as school decisions on how to approach wrestling have been scattered throughout Section 3 in recent months.
According to Brad Hamer, the Section 3 wrestling chairman, there were 10 teams within the section that already completed their wrestling campaign during the winter slate while many in the Syracuse area have been cleared to begin prepping for the spring.
The schools that already competed wrestled the same handful of regional foes multiple times, some also just held scrimmages.
The teams of Jordan-Elbridge, Marcellus, and Southern Hills (a combined squad of Tully, LaFayette, and Fabius-Pompey) held matches and exhibitions against each other, while schools in the Jefferson County (Carthage, Watertown, South Jefferson, General Brown) and Lewis County (Beaver River, Lowville, Copenhagen) areas did the same.
Schedules and other details were still being arranged for the spring by participating Section 3 schools to start the week.
Hamer believes it may consist of primarily regional multi-team events with the focus on individual matchups across each weight class rather than team dual-meet scoring. Some coaches have spoken to Hamer of holding matches outside at their school stadiums.
“I’m hoping that they can all get some kind of a wrestling season in, but nothing is a guarantee,” Hamer said.
Wrestling was not included in the recent announcement of Section 3 spring sports tournaments.
In other areas of the state, Section 5 recently concluded class tournaments and a six-week regular season. That area encompasses 12 counties in the Finger Lakes region. Teams from Section 2 in the Capital Region and Section 4 in the Southern Tier have also competed in wrestling this year.