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East County Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 1 year ago

Prose and Kohn: Mustangs wrestle with COVID-19 safety issues

Lakewood Ranch is taking no chances this season.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

As fall sports wind to their conclusion, the winter sports season is roaring to life. 

That includes wrestling.

Yes, wrestling, the indoor sport where kids get body-to-body with an opponent for several minutes at a time, is beginning its season as COVID-19 remains a concern across the country and the state. If there was one sport that might consider taking the season off, I would think it would be wrestling. 

As of now, the season is a go, with the caveat that anything can change on a dime. Since wrestling is happening, I wanted to know what area programs were doing to help kids feel safe. I called Lakewood Ranch High Coach Pat Ancil to find out, and I came away impressed. 

Ancil said wrestlers are required to wear masks in the wrestling room when not participating in live wrestling or conditioning drills. That means masks are worn during the teaching sections of practice and in the locker room. Before they can even enter the wrestling room each day, their temperatures are taken and they are asked a series of questions related to COVID-19 symptoms. If someone has a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees, they cannot enter the room. 

The program is also placing wrestlers into socially distanced "pods" of four during practice. These pods consist of wrestlers in the same weight class. The move is helpful for contact tracing purposes. If one wrestler gets sick, the program can quickly isolate the other members of his pod, who, if done correctly, should be the only people with whom the wrestler came into prolonged, mask-less close contact. 

Ancil said he personally wipes the wrestling room's mats twice after each practice, first with a standard mat cleaner, then with Pine-Sol. Ancil said the school's janitorial staff also sprays the room with a cleaner daily. 

"If anyone even sniffles or sneezes, we're shutting them down," Ancil said. "We're not taking any chances." 

Lakewood Ranch only got back into its wrestling room on Sept. 22. It was the first time they had a workout in the room since March. Previously, they had been occasionally meeting outside for conditioning work. The Mustangs began live wrestling two weeks ago. Right now they're meeting twice a week, but they will begin practicing on a normal schedule starting Nov. 9. 

As far as meets go, Ancil said the majority of area meets will feature six teams or less to limit any potential spread. Lakewood Ranch's meets in particular are mostly duals, with the Mustangs going up against a single school. They will also be one-day meets, as opposed to the two-day meets that are usually popular. Ancil said the team's schedule will allow the Mustangs, who are mostly freshmen and sophomores, to gain experience while not getting burned out or having their confidence shattered if they lose a few matches in a row. There's more time in-between matches to reflect and recover, Ancil said. 

It is possible that someone on the Lakewood Ranch roster will get sick and pass it to a few teammates. Ancil admitted as much. No prevention method, other than total isolation, is 100% effective. However, wrestling is happening and that being the case, it appears the Mustangs are doing everything they can to keep their kids safe.

The wrestlers' parents must agree. Ancil said he has had zero opt-outs so far. 

"I'm excited," Ancil said. "It will be challenging. It feels different. But we have a great group of coachable kids. I want them to have fun."


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I’m the sports reporter for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, MD. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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