The Iowa high school state wrestling tournament will undergo changes this season.
The extent of those adjustments haven’t been determined yet.
Tournament organizers are considering various options to the format, schedule and attendance for the championships set for Feb. 17-20 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Any modifications will be to address COVID-19 pandemic safety and concerns.
“I think one of the reasons why people don’t know much, or they think they know but there’s nothing definite, is because there hasn’t been anything definite,” Iowa High School Athletic Association Director of Officials and administrator for wrestling Lewie Curtis said. “We are very confident that we’re not going to be able to have a state tournament that is going to look like it has every other year.”
Spectator limitations and crowd control will influence the upcoming decisions. Meetings with arena staff next week should shine a light on how many bodies will be allowed in the building. Once they get a number then they can decide how to distribute tickets, social-distance seating and flow of fans entering and exiting between sessions.
Government mandates that restrict attendance, similar to the prep football finals, also can be a factor.
“In previous years, the first 2 1/2 days of the tournament were general admission seating and come buy your tickets whenever you feel like buying them,” Curtis said. “This year, we don’t think it’s going to turn out that way because of the limited spectators will probably require us to have reserved-seat ticketing.”
The number of participants will be the same. Sixteen wrestlers in 14 weight classes will compete in three classes. The order of events and competition structure could depend on spectator limitations.
The tournament could still maintain its regular schedule with multiple classes competing each day of a three-day traditional tournament after the state duals.
One proposal calls for single-class traditional tournaments from Wednesday through Friday and all classes compete in state duals on Saturday.
“That is definitely something we have been talking about,” Curtis said. “We mentioned it to our advisory committee.
“We’re not in a position yet to say that is what we’re doing. That is definitely something in consideration.”
State duals risks the biggest impact. Depending on floor layout to accommodate greater spacing, the field could remain eight teams in each class or it could shrink to four.
“We realize that we can’t have the same setup,” Curtis said. “It just isn’t going to work that way.”
The IHSAA has tried to delay decisions, because circumstances continue to be fluid. Curtis said he doesn’t have a specific timetable for finalized plans, but things will likely clear up after meetings next week.
“By the end of next week, I think we will have a lot better idea about what is it we’re going to do,” Curtis said. “A lot of that still hinges on what is the number we’re getting told we’re going to be able to have in attendance.”
The top priority is to hold a safe event. The style and details can be worked out, but the goal is to provide wrestlers some kind of safe state tournament experience.
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“The coaches I’ve talked to and are on my committee, their No. 1 thing is they want to make sure we wrestle,” Curtis said. “The rest of it they can kind of live with whatever decisions get made or however we’re going to do it. We might agree or disagree, but the main thing they want is to give these kids a chance to put it out there on the mat.”
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