Prep Wrestling

Cedar Rapids high school wrestling programs begin practice after delay

Jefferson, Kennedy, Washington began practice Saturday

Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Gavin Bascom faces Pella's Kody Huisman during their 220-weight bout in round one of the 2020 IHS
Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Gavin Bascom faces Pella’s Kody Huisman during their 220-weight bout in round one of the 2020 IHSAA State Wrestling Championships at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — After nearly a month delay, Cedar Rapids Community School District wrestling programs were able to hold in-person workouts.

Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Cedar Rapids Washington were all finally able to start practice Saturday after the school district ceased virtual learning at the end of last school week.

“We went as soon as we could,” Jefferson’s first-year head coach and former Kennedy assistant Rob Martin said. “It was time to go. From the coaches to our wrestlers and managers, everyone was excited to start the sport we all love.”

The initial delay was caused when the CRCSD moved to remote learning four days before the first official first day of practice on Nov. 16. The move was made due to a surge of reported COVID-19 cases in the community.

When the district decided it didn’t need the remainder of its most recent two-week waiver, sports programs were given the green light they had been patiently waiting to receive.

“It was nice to have that opportunity,” Kennedy Coach Nick LeClere said, “because we haven’t been into our room since March.”

Kennedy and Washington faced additional issues that linger from damage caused by August’s derecho. The Warriors had to rely on the district to transfer resources just to have something to roll around on for practice.

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“We don’t even have mats, yet,” Washington Coach J.P. Graham said. “We hope to get them by Christmas. We had to get two mats from Franklin (Middle School).

“We got the mats down Saturday and had a conditioning practice. Monday and Tuesday were our first real practices.”

The Cougars had to clean out the wrestling room, which served as storage for other sports equipment and other school items. Their practice mats were also damaged, leading them to use two competition mats for workouts.

The response ranged from enthusiasm to apprehension and even some indifference.

“It’s a mixture,” LeClere said. “Kids really are resilient. We have a luxury with depth in our program. We have a lot of experience.

“For the most part, the kids are excited.”

Some programs are still idle. Linn-Mar started practice before being interrupted and is expected to return Saturday. Cedar Rapids Prairie hopes to have its first practice Saturday. Many teams have an advantage, starting on time and competing in duals and tournaments through last weekend.

“It’s weird seeing results from other tournaments,” Graham said. “Some guys had four or five matches before we have our first practice.”

The J-Hawks have 29 total wrestlers on their roster, including 20 upperclassmen. Martin runs two practices daily with experienced and older wrestlers in one and freshmen in another. Despite the circumstances, Martin has been pleased with how everyone has handled the situation.

“It was a great opening day of practice,” Martin said. “Luckily, I’ve been able to keep both at a high pace.”

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LeClere noted that Kennedy will jump into action Saturday at Western Dubuque’s Bobcat Duals. Jefferson and Washington will compete for the first time on Thursday, Dec. 17. The J-Hawks will host Dubuque Senior and the Warriors face Dubuque Wahlert.

“I’m confident with our team’s experience and depth that we’ll be fine,” LeClere said about the seven state qualifiers and more than 10 wrestlers who have wrestled varsity. “I just want to jump on every opportunity we can.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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