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BENNETT: High school wrestling continues to wait

The best gift of 2020 from Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia, had to be his announcement a week ago Wednesday where he came out and pushed back winter sports.

“We are targeting March 1, now, to be a startup,” he said.

As tough as 2020 had been on everyone, whether financially, physically or mentally, I’m not sure what the rush was.

One would think he could’ve just waited a few days until after New Year’s, but why not make the end of 2020 sting as much as possible.

“It sucks. I mean for parents, especially, there’s a lot of worry there,” admitted Parkersburg South head wrestling coach Shaun Smith. “We’re in communication with one another. They are nervous and scared this isn’t going to work out.

“I got to tell you, truly, when the initial season was going to start in November I was like I think we will be OK. There won’t be a delay or anything and literally like Thursday the weekend before we were supposed to start (it was moved to Jan. 11).”

Needless to say, all winter sports coaches were far from pleased.

“I was less optimistic after that,” said Smith, who has been the head coach for the past five seasons during the Patriots’ six-year run of being Class AAA state champs. “I kind of saw this next one coming, mainly because of all the cases that were rising, not just in our county, but all over the state.

“There’s a lot of worry there. There’s a lot of upsetness and things like that and rightfully so. It’s just really unfortunate. I feel awful for obviously the seniors and guys like that. It just sucks. That’s the nicest way I can put it. It sucks for everyone in general, really.”

Another aspect coach Smith is concerned about are student-athletes who were debating on whether to wrestle or not. He understands this is quite a deterrent and programs, not just PSHS, could see smaller numbers in athletics.

“For me, the most frustrating part, you have kids who are maybe on the fence about whether or not they wanted to do it. You got kids like that,” added the coach. “Freshmen and individuals (thinking) maybe I’ll come out and wrestle and maybe not and then all this stuff happens and why would I come out now because I haven’t done it for so long.

“That kind of thing just recently resonated with me. It’s not going to affect just one year, it could affect two, three years down the road and that’s kind of getting me a little more anxious about this whole thing.”

Don’t get him started on the Patriots’ wrestling schedule either.

“That’s the crazy thing. We were maybe a week and a week and a half ago it was fully finished and ready,” he said. “This is literally going to be the fourth schedule that I’m going to have to work. It’s beyond frustrating. I don’t think people take that into consideration either. Football, especially, they dealt with it a lot. One team couldn’t play and all of a sudden they were able to get a game with someone else that was allowed to play.

“There was a lot of flip flopping around and things like that. At least they were able to play. They at least had that opportunity to do something and that’s what we are looking for. I understand things are crazy and all that. Eventually, there has to be a point where you kind of move on. It’s equally frustrating when you have Ohio schools right across a bridge that are competing and able to do things, practice and everything and what not, and we’re not allowed.”

Smith noted the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission was working on figuring out how to revamp everything once again.

He’s hoping the season can start on March 1 with practices getting underway sometime in February.

“I heard that was up in the air,” he said.

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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