The sport of wrestling has had to grapple with plenty since the COVID-19 pandemic, but one of the signature events of the north country summer is ready to hit the mat again.
The 1,000 Islands Duals wrestling tournament will return for its 19th edition after a year away due to the coronavirus pandemic on Aug. 6-8 at Cerow Recreational Park Arena in Clayton. Tournament organizer and South Jefferson varsity wrestling coach Pat Conners said it’s great to have the event return.
“It’s wonderful to have the tournament back.” Conners said. “It feels likes some kind of normalcy is coming back.”
According to Conners, 56 teams (40 high school teams and 16 junior high squads) will participate in this year’s tournament. A good number of the teams will come from out of the area like they have in the past.
“We’ve got teams coming in from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the New England states coming in and it’ll be great to see them again.” Conners said.
Many sports were hit hard and limited due to social distancing rules, but wrestling had even more of a difficult time. The sport has plenty of close contact and the worry about COVID infections was heightened. However, the abbreviated five-week Frontier League season occurred without incident, though all the matches were considered scrimmages.
“We had a small bit of luck not getting anyone infected, especially with other sports having a some issues,” Conners said. “I understand if someone is a little hesitant about (it), but we’re seeing more people work out and get ready for the season.”
He and other coaches understood if competitors stayed away from the mat during the height of the pandemic. Conners said the wrestlers, coaches and officials did a good job follow safety protocols. He also recognized some of the sacrifices grapplers had to make and how hard it was to wrestle in a mask.
“It (wrestling in a mask) definitely hinders your breathing, but the kids did a great job with everything,” Conners said.
The traditional Frontier League season was scrapped and went with a format that’s seen in modified, where wrestlers are matched up with each other based on ability and team scores weren’t kept. It wasn’t a normal season, but wrestlers gained some critical mat time.
“We had a dedicated group of kids that got some valuable experience this season and hopefully it can build for next year,” Conners said.
The tournament is also big for the economy in and around Clayton.
“Some of these families will come up a few days before or stay a few days after and make it their family vacation,” Conners said. “They’ll plan their whole trip around coming to the tournament and then go fishing and camping.”
Officials said the tournament will be pretty much held with limited restrictions. They do ask that anyone not vaccinated to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
GOUVERNEUR TRIO GOING TO FARGO
Gouverneur’s championship trio of Carter Baer, Vandavian Way and Zoe Griffith are competing in the 50th U.S. Marine Corps Junior & 16-and-Under Nationals that begin today in Fargo, N.D.
The Wildcats trio will represent New York competing in the freestyle competition.
This national event, which runs through Friday, is one of the largest and most prestigious wrestling tournaments in the United States.
Gouverneur coaches Joel Baer, Mark Daily and Dylan Morrison are also attending the tournament.