November 1 is the college wrestling season’s official start, but NCAA member institutions will not be competing.
Since the NCAA canceled all winter post-season championships last March, the 2021 season has been a question mark. With the season’s traditional kickoff still officially happening this weekend, there is no consensus as to how to move forward.
This will be the first in a series of articles that spotlight how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected amateur wrestling at the college level.
The NCAA member institutions have pushed the wrestling season start to early January with hopes of running a championship tournament this March in St. Louis, Mo. At the moment, that seems to be far from guaranteed. Some universities have opened their practiced facilities again, while others remain closed. Some university programs have resulted in running unofficial off-campus practices to try and continue training. Almost all Division 1 programs are moving forward with plans of a January start. At the lower levels of conception, the future is less clear.
Many schools are opting to cancel all winter sports at the non-scholarship Division 3 level, which had its 2020 Championship tournament canceled moments before the opening whistle. Seven schools, the University of Chicago, New York University, Case, Brockport, Cortland, Oswego, and Roger Williams University, have all canceled their winter sports seasons. 70% of DIII teams need to commit to competing this season to sanction an NCAA Championship tournament. 113 schools initially intended to compete this season. 80 programs need to commit for an official season.
All NCAA athletes have been granted a season eligibility waiver to all athletes. This means any athlete competing for an NCAA member university this year will have the option to retain that season’s eligibility next year. A senior in 2020-21 will again have senior eligibility in 2021-22.
The National Intercollegiate Athletic Association (NAIA) is determined to move forward with its season. The York College Open set to run this weekend has several NAIA programs planning to attend. The NAIA National Championships are set to take place on March 5–6, 2021, in Park City, Kan.
Amateur wrestling at the high school level is in a wildly different place depending on state governing bodies. Many states, like Ok., Mo., Ind., plan to run their season as is. Other states, such as Ill., Calif., N.Y., N.M., and N.C. have opted to push wrestling season into the spring. In a bizarre move, the state of Michigan has decided to run their season as usual, but will require athletes to wear masks both in practice and in competition.
As the winter season progresses, Fight Game Media will continue updating the situation as it evolves.
Photo credit Tony Rotundo @Tony_Rotundo