WHS wrestlers prior to meet at Glastonbury on Jan. 12. Photo credit - Jo-Ann Campbell (grax.eagle)
High School wrestling has felt the effects of the pandemic more than any other sport.
A year ago competition was canceled and this season the restrictions have made it nearly impossible for teams to complete a full meet.
Last Wednesday, Jan. 12, the wrestling team at Wethersfield High School competed against Glastonbury at GHS. However, because of the lack of available wrestlers, nine of the 14 matches resulted in forfeiture.
“Everything is different this year,” said WHS head coach Jim Arnold. “Typically if people are missing practice on a regular basis they wouldn’t be part of the team but now kids are out for a long time and they come back and you have to figure out how to adjust and get them back up to speed. It’s more unique this year.”
Return to play for high school athletes who are exposed to COVID-19 are lengthy and require athletes to refrain from competition for up to two weeks or more in certain situations.
In the meet at Glastonbury, the Eagles did have some standout performances and won three of the five varsity matches.
Captain Tommy Krystopa (152 lbs.) defeated Kyle Amirault, freshman Donato Laurie (120 lbs.) won a decision against Dylan Vincelette, and junior Anthony Quezada (160 lbs.) won his match against P.J. Scarangella.
Krystopa is captaining the team with Tyler Burgos and Jake Laurie. The three were resilient during last winter’s cancellation and have helped Arnold during this unprecedented season.
“They know what the expectations are. I can rely on them to be the leaders of the team and that’s really important,” Arnold said of his captains. “We have a pretty mature group and we have a few other seniors and juniors on the team that know what the expectations are, and they typically bring their best every day. As a coach, that is all you can ask for. If they continue to do that the results will take care of themselves.”
Because of a lack of available wrestlers, Burgos has not seen much action outside of practice but continues to grind. In the meet at GHS, he was able to wrestle teammates Foti Gjoni in an exhibition match.
“This was my first actual match, usually it is just forfeits. It’s kind of devastating but in practice I go 100% and maybe even more than that. Sometimes I lose eight pounds if it’s one of those crazy practices,” said Burgos. “I just have to push through and get better every day and help push my team.”
The team has focused on the mental aspects of wrestling as they continue to train physically with a hope they are at full strength at some point this season.
Burgos and the other captains started a group chat to help with communication.
“If someone is out, we’ll check in on them and ask them why they are out and see how they are doing,” said Burgos. “[The captains] put in the effort and make sure we’re checking on everyone and making sure that we can all get in the room.”
Not only are there more cancellations and forfeitures, but the number of wrestlers are down this year. On a typical year, Arnold said they averaged about 30 wrestlers with around 26 finishing the year. This year the team started with 17 and only had 10 available wrestlers for the meet at Glastonbury.
“Everyone, both coaches and wrestlers, are happy that we are wrestling,” said Arnold. “But what I didn’t know is how fragile wrestling is and by taking a season off we had some kids that didn’t come back. They did the exercise class that we did last year but it didn't keep their interest enough to keep coming back, knowing that there might be COVID issues and the question marks are still out there. You’re not going to be very competitive if you don’t fill all the weight classes.”
The hope is that the all the wrestlers will be available to compete by the time they wrap up the regular season, hosting Avon on Feb. 9. The class championship and the state open will soon follow.
For Burgos and the other seniors, they are just happy to be together, mostly.
“I’ll be happy as long as my friends and teammates have their matches and I can help coach them up.” said Burgos.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin