Small College Sports

Canceling NCAA III wrestling tournament hit too close to his home

Community: It still hurts for Dick Briggs

Former Cedar Rapids Jefferson wrestling coach Dick Briggs (left) talks with his son, Kyle, during the 2016 state tournam
Former Cedar Rapids Jefferson wrestling coach Dick Briggs (left) talks with his son, Kyle, during the 2016 state tournament in Des Moines. Kyle, how a junior at Wartburg, was set to wrestle in the NCAA III Championships earlier this month when the NCAA canceled the tournament. (The Gazette)

As I pen this, it’s dark and early the morning of March 13, a day that was full of excitement and anticipation.

Instead, I woke up to a deep feeling of utter disappointment.

It was supposed to be the beginning of the climb to the top of the wooden podium that represents a champion in the wrestling world. A climb that actually began for my son, Kyle Briggs, nearly two decades ago.

It was setup so that climb to the top step would happen here, in his hometown surrounded by a large group of family, friends, former coaches, teammates and even opponents who helped him along his journey.

Instead, those hopes and opportunities were stripped away from him and so many athletes around the country when the NCAA canceled all winter and spring championships, including the Division III tournament scheduled for the U.S. Cellular Center.

I want to feel anger and rage, but I’m not quite sure where to direct it.

Do I focus my anger to the directors of the college conference basketball tournaments who chose to suspend play in the middle of games and send everyone home? Do I blame NCAA President Mark Emmert and the board of governors who might have based their decision to stop play from a legal point of view?

Do I blame a society full of greedy people ready to sue and full of ambulance-chasing lawyers?

Maybe it stings more because the start of the tournament was so close. The mats were laid, the tables and scoreboards were in place. Teams and coaches were in town and doing their pre-competition workouts and weight checks.

Kyle, a junior at Wartburg who was seeded second in the national tournament, was down to weight, confident, ornery and comfortably sitting in our living room 16 hours before the tournament was set to begin, dreaming of gold.

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Then, you realize there is certainly an opportunity — maybe a likelihood — this virus that has spread around the world could endanger people. If there is no widespread illness in Cedar Rapids, many will say “postponing worked” and others will say “see it was never a threat, and we could have held the tournament anyway.”

In the end, I sit back and say it is what it is. It is completely out of our hands and, for the moment, my family is safe from this illness.

Is there anything more important than that?

Still, it’s personal. Still, it hurts.

Dick Briggs is a retired high school teacher and wrestling coach at Cedar Rapids Washington and Jefferson.

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