Virginia's decision to start the state wrestling tournament as scheduled beginning this weekend has left Northern Region teams in a bind after just completing their regional meets.
Northern Region wrestling teams unhappy that Virginia state meet wasn't postponed
Yorktown sophomore heavyweight Charlie Wheldon had mixed emotions after he qualified for his first Virginia AAA state wrestling tournament. After battling through a hyperextended elbow to win his consolation semifinal match at the Northern Region championships on Wednesday, an unsettling realization set in: Thanks to the postponed regionals, Wheldon had just one day to recover from his injury before the state tournament begins Friday afternoon at Robinson.
"You'd think they'd have some sort of system where they could move states a week later, but it wasn't planned out well," said Wheldon, who chose to default his consolation final rather than risk further injury. The top four wrestlers in each region automatically qualify for the state meet. "If I had a week, I definitely think I would be healthy, but I can't just say, 'Screw it, this hurts too much.' I gotta find a way to win."
Wheldon isn't alone in his frustrations. Many in the Northern Region wrestling community are disappointed that the Virginia High School League did not push back the state tournament after school cancellations forced the Northern Region to move its tournament from Feb. 12-13 to Tuesday and Wednesday at Fairfax.
"Rest is an important component of reaching your peak performance at the end of the season," said Roy Hill, Hayfield's coach since 1988. "I haven't talked with anybody in the northern half of the state that I would say is a VHSL fan right now."
The Central, Eastern, and Northwest regions, which traditionally dominate the AAA wrestling landscape, held their region tournaments last weekend and have been on a regular practice schedule. The Northern Region canceled its district wrestling tournaments and instead held an expanded, two-day region tournament. Its teams have held three organized practices during the past three weeks.
"We train to wrestle long tournaments, but we are going to be at a competitive disadvantage [at states]," said Robinson Coach Bryan Hazard, who has 11 wrestlers competing this weekend. The Rams, along with Westfield, are in contention to win the Northern Region's first team state title since 1985. "You're worried about wrestlers getting nicked up at the region and then having to come back and wrestle a day later."
Once the area was blanketed with snow and school was called off, several of the longest-tenured wrestling coaches in the Northern Region requested the state tournament be pushed back a week. Robinson agreed to host the proposed rescheduled event Feb. 26-27. But the VHSL declined to move the tournament and also denied coaches' requests for a one-pound weight allowance. Northern Region wrestlers who qualified for states will have to make weight four times in five days and could potentially wrestle their 14 toughest matches of the season during that span.
"There were numerous factors, including the safety of participants, that were considered before making the decision not to extend the VHSL Group AAA State Wrestling Tournament at this time," VHSL executive director Ken Tilley said in a statement, citing staff availability, past and future precedent, impact on other student-athletes, and future weather patterns.
Fairfax senior Jordan Yost faced reality as he left the gym Wednesday on crutches. A fifth-place finisher at states a year ago, Yost injured his ankle while winning the 189-pound third-place match and his availability for Friday is in doubt.
"We're still gonna be hurting from the Northern Regions, which is by no means an easy tournament," Yost said. "It's a gut check and it's not the best situation, but it's just something you gotta push through, I guess."