2021 Season Modifications

Ok, so we’re doing this.

The most challenging, stressful, and downright weird high school wrestling season of all time officially kicks off today.

We know that Boulder County initially nixed the season for the two school districts in that county, then reversed its decision — which means our next potential four-timer, Vince Cornella of Monarch, should still get his well-earned chance to make history.

There hasn’t been any official word that Denver Public Schools has reversed course, unfortunately, which means competitors in that district may not get the opportunity to compete this season.

What we wanted was a chance for our student athletes to compete in the world’s greatest sport — they’ll get that opportunity, in some form or fashion — over the next several weeks. However, it still begs the question as to whether the right decision (or decisions) were made. Could the season have been pushed back to account for the challenges associated with the most intense and close-contact sports? What other special accommodations could wrestling have received in order to prioritize the health and safety of the athletes, coaches, and their families? Hindsight will be 20-20, but all we can do now is hop aboard and see where this train takes us!

Here’s what we know (and don’t know) heading into the first week of competition for 2021.

Quick look: Season schedule and info

Today, January 18, is the first day where official practice can begin. That leaves us a week away from the first allowable contest (1/25). Here are some other key dates and schedule information:

  • January 18 – First day of practice
  • January 25 – First allowable contest
  • February 27 – Last allowable contest
  • March 5/6 – Regionals*
  • March 12/13 – State Tournament*

Note the asterisks (*) next to those final two weeks. The contingency plans for regional and state tournaments seem to be very up in the air. We could have anything from a semi-full state tournament (eight-person brackets), to a dual state tournament, to nothing at all. Obviously, we’ll be hoping for the best — but we did see many teams have to cancel their state football playoff runs just a few months ago. Fingers crossed that we make it to that point with no hiccups.

  • 20 match season limit
  • 20 dual season limit
  • No more than four (4) teams allowed at a single site
  • Duals, Tri’s, and Quad’s only – no tournaments
  • Build schedules that limit travel and overnight stays
  • Forfeits count in 20 match limit
  • Tri’s or Quad’s count as two or three duals respectively
  • Lower levels have all the same limits

The big question  will be how those lower-level, rural teams will be able to fill out a full schedule. It can be challenging for those teams to do so during a normal season. The recent allowance of tri’s and quad’s, however, should hopefully help.

By the way, maybe the most exciting bit of news is that the New Year two-pound weight allowance will still be enacted. Let’s go!

COVID Protocols

Here’s where things really get goofy — and challenging.

Capacity limits

  • Practices are limited to 25 student-athletes in a gym.
  • Three coaches and one trainer are allowed at practice and duals.
  • Duals are limited to 25 student-athletes in the competitive gym (12 for each team). If a full 14 weights are to be wrestled, student-athletes will need to stagger arrival and departure to not exceed 25.
  • Only two teams in the competitive gym.
  • Non-competing teams must have an assigned area to remain as a cohort until their time to dual.
  • Mats and chairs must be sanitized after each dual.
  • Team bench area should provide for social distancing.

Weigh ins

  • Wrestlers will weigh in with their coach as their official weigh in. No group weigh-ins, no officials present, etc.
  • But here’s the twist! There will be three weight classes that are randomly drawn for a supervised weigh in for each competition (dual, tri, or quad). If someone is caught, um, fudging the numbers, then the whole team will be required to re-weigh.

Masks

  • Masks must be worn by all persons at the event.
  • After attaching their ankle band, wrestlers may remove their mask and leave with their coach (corner or bench) for their match and then must place the mask back on.
  • Masks are to be worn at practice except during one-on-one sessions during practice.
  • Officials will be masked up at all times, including during each match.

This is a big win. Competing in masks is unsustainable. It definitely opens up more risk, but it’s the only way a season could happen.

Hand raising

In order to limit contact, the winning wrestler will raise his/her own hand after the match. Which is kinda fun? The official will also raise their hand with corresponding wristband color of the winning wrestler — just to double-check.

Postseason

Regional tournaments

  • Regional tournaments must be two-day events. 112 student-athletes may participate on day one, boys weight classes 106 thru 145 (7). 112 student-athletes may participate on day two, boys weight classes 152 thru 285 (7).
  • Girls will have 100-127 (5) day one and 136-215 (5) day two.
  • Maximum of 24 student-athletes on the competition floor at one time.
  • No consolation bracket until final four per weight.
  • Two student-athletes from each boys region advance to state. Four girls advance from both regions to state.

There is no word yet on how weigh-ins will be handled for the postseason individual tournaments. It seems like a similar method could be put into place, but this is definitely the point where you want to have official, supervised weigh-ins of some type.

Tim Yount, the Colorado wrestling rankings guru, noted in one of his most recent preseason releases that the impacts of having two wrestlers per weight qualify for state, as opposed to the usual four, will have a drastic impact on the amount of quality, ranked wrestlers at the state tournament. That point is well-taken — the field will be cut in half, which completely eliminates half of the drama. How many times have we seen a kid who placed fourth at regionals make a run to the state semis? Or the finals?

Yount notes that if the current format, which qualifies the top two per weight, per region, then there will be 249 ranked wrestlers who don’t get the chance to compete at state. That’s tough.

State tournament

  • CHSAA State Championship will be two single day events. 8-person brackets in each weight class.
  • Wrestling mats are to be disinfected at the conclusion of each championship round.
  • All regular season officials’ mandates would remain in effect.
  • Full consolation rounds at State Championships.

So, it seems like Ball Arena (the artist formerly known as Pepsi Center) will be out of the question this year. No official word on how this will be handled, or divided, in terms of a state tournament site. This could be the start of a long-term shift. But again, that would be a shame.

There you have it! That’s what the modifications look like for our upcoming season. Let’s hope for the best, and good luck to all of the athletes this season!

Nick Jurney
About Nick Jurney 151 Articles
Nick Jurney is a former wrestler and previously worked as a sports writer at the Pueblo Chieftain. He now works in marketing for Colorado State University in Fort Collins and helps run the Colorado Wrestling Network. You can follow him on Twitter @NVJurney.