The 1000 Islands Duals wrestling tournament has grown into one of the top summer tournaments over the last 18 years. However, the Clayton Arena, the usual site for the tournament, will be silent this year due to COVID-19.
The well-attended event is one of the latest summer north country sporting events to be canceled due to the pandemic. The 1812 Shootout lacrosse tournament, Can-Am softball Shootout, countless summer camps and now the duals have been scrapped. Tournament director Pat Conners, who is also coach of the South Jefferson wrestling program, said it wouldn’t be prudent to hold the event.
“The decision to cancel it this year was very difficult, but it was the correct decision,” Conners said. “With the current guidelines it would be impossible to run the event and ensure everyone’s safety.”
One of the decisions forcing Conners’ decision is that wrestling is classified as a “high-risk” sport according to the New York state guidelines on COVID. Wrestling is in the same category as football, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, hockey, and cheerleading. Those events are not allowed to have competitive team practices, games (leagues or pick up), meets, matches, scrimmages and competitive tournaments of multiple games, meets, matches, or scrimmages requiring travel during the summer.
“As much as I love the sport of wrestling and running the 1000 Islands Duals, I feel that it would be arrogant and irresponsible to run an event of this magnitude,” Conners said. “Although things are improving in New York we can see how other parts of the country are going in the wrong direction.”
The duals have brought some of the best wrestlers from around the country to the area and usually pack 68 teams into the tourney. Conners said they’ve had national champions, state champions, and All-Americans participate. It also gives a chance for younger grapplers to accumulate matches.
“What makes it great is that it provides a positive experience for the newer wrestlers as well as the elite,” Conners said.
Conners said he’s also concerned for the fate of sports beyond summer and into the fall. There’s always concern for a second wave of coronavirus cases.
“I am cautiously optimistic that if things stay the way they are we will have some sort of fall season, but we might not see a state level fall championships due to certain areas having a spike in November,” Conners said. “I do hope I am wrong and that all the student-athletes all get a chance to pursue their goals of winning a state title.”
He remains concerned for students who might lose out on another sporting season. The coronavirus claimed the end of the winter season and wiped out the state basketball championships. The entire spring slate was erased as schools were closed since the middle of March.
“My biggest concern is the mental well-being of our student-athletes this fall,” Conners said. “COVID-19 is obviously a serious concern but equally as concerning is how our students will react to being sidelined again for a second straight season.”