KINGSTON — Wrestling is easily the prep sport most heavily impacted by COVID protocols — comprehensive state testing requirements revealed just days before the first day of practice see to that — and athletes are required to wear masks during all competitions and while cheering on teammates.
Classified as a high-risk sport, wrestlers are required to undergo two rapid COVID tests each week at minimum, with mandatory testing also held on match days. Funding for the statewide testing program comes from a federal COVID grant.
There’s no such testing requirement for basketball, also classified as a high-risk sport played indoors.
“It takes about 15 minutes to do a nose swab test for every individual who plans on wrestling,” Port Angeles coach Rob Gale said.
Gale said the process must be supervised by either school nurse Marlene Bradow or a school administrator.
Positive results would result in taking a more accurate PCR test and eventually 10-day quarantines for those who test positive or who are potentially exposed.
At Port Townsend, district athletic director Patrick Gaffney runs the testing for East Jefferson wrestlers with head coach Steve Grimm, a firefighter/EMT with East Jefferson Fire-Rescue.
“There are so many hoops to jump through in wrestling normally,” Grimm said. “You miss weight, have a skin infection and now you have to pass a COVID test.”
Additional cleaning requirements have been added, and coaches are assigning season-long grappling partners, with wrestlers practicing in the same spots of the mat each practice to make contact tracing easier in case of potential issues.
Participation is understandably down this season, but Port Angeles and East Jefferson opened their regular season with an Olympic League dual meet at Kingston on Wednesday.
The Roughriders claimed a 38-24 win over East Jefferson and a 44-18 win over Kingston.
“We have about 20 boys and five girls, which is low for us but higher than other teams on the Peninsula, except for Forks,” Gale said.
Gale was enthused about freshman Cash Coleman, who earned two wins, including a pin at 120 pounds over East Jefferson’s Ike Banks.
“Cash bumped up a weight class to wrestle Ike,” Gale said.
Gale also is high on fellow freshman Ethan Abrams.
“He’s been wrestling since he was 6,” Gale said. “I think he is going to be a standout for us.”
Abrams earned a pin in his 132-pound match against Kingston. Gale said a couple of his girls wrestlers also earned wins, Faye Dachs and Willow Harvey, at 125 pounds.
East Jefferson’s Kyle Caldwell, a state runner-up last year, went 2-0, earning a second-round pin over Port Angeles’ Daniel Cable in a 195-pound match that both Grimm and Gale enjoyed.
“It went well; the PA kid is a big, strong kid. We kind of knew that by looking at him, lots of muscles,” Grimm said. “It was good for Kyle to face a big, strong kid like that. Sometimes his matches are pretty short. Kyle’s been wrestling longer and used a little more skill and technique to get the pin.”
Cable is new to the wrestling team this year, and Gale is happy to have him.
“He wrestled Shane Queen, a state placer, at the Forks Jamboree on Tuesday and had him on his back before Shane got the pin,” Gale said.
East Jefferson’s Logan Massie went 2-0 at 170, as did Savannah Hoffman at 120, including beating a Kingston boy in her second match.
“We wrestled 17 matches and won 12,” Grimm said.
Team scores are going to reflect a number of low and middle-weight forfeits as East Jefferson’s roster is mainly 170 pounds and above.
Chloe Lampert also won a match for East Jefferson, and Grimm said three wrestlers new to the sport earned wins.
“In their first matches ever, Melody Douglas went 1-0, Lily Delgado was 1-1 and Gage Berry went 2-0,” Grimm said. “That was cool to see.”
Port Angeles hosts a four-team meet with Forks, Central Kitsap and North Mason at 11 a.m. Saturday. Spectators are limited, and the meet will be live streamed at tinyurl.com/PDN-RidersMeet.
East Jefferson hosts Bainbridge on Saturday.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.