Editor: While the Arlington superintendent of schools has rescinded his earlier cancellation of the entire winter-sports season, wrestling remains canceled by Arlington Public Schools.
A fair review of the facts shows that wrestling is just as safe, or safer, than sports that are expected to be permitted, so I hope the decision to cancel wrestling will be reconsidered.
Among the facts:
• Gov. Northam has cleared the way for all sports, and the Virginia High School League has released its guidelines for all sports, including wrestling.
These guidelines were developed with the input of experts from the National Federation of High Schools Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the NCAA, the Virginia Department of Health, the National Wrestling Coaches Association and USA Wrestling, among others. One assumes Arlington Public Schools relied on some of the same authorities in deciding to permit other winter sports, so why would they not do the same with regard to wrestling?
• Although it may be counterintuitive to those who do not understand the sport, wrestling has a much lower risk of community virus spread than sports such as basketball. (To be clear, this is not to suggest basketball should be canceled.)
Although wrestling involves significant physical contact, it is an individual sport and thus uniquely able to limit potential exposure to a very small group of persons, even just one athlete. Wrestlers can effectively practice in a small pod or with just one partner while remaining socially distanced from the rest of the team.
At dual meets, under the proposed guidelines, a wrestler would have contact with only one member of the opposing team. In contrast, basketball players will not only have close contact with multiple players from their own team; they will be bumping up against multiple players from the opposing team.
• Furthermore, unlike other sports, wrestling involves no shared equipment other than the mat, which can be easily and effectively sanitized between each match. In fact, many laypersons may not know that coaches and wrestlers have been daily cleaning their mat for years in order to combat skin conditions, so they are accustomed to the importance of hygiene.
This is a critical factor in minimizing the spread of COVID-19.
With expert input, the governor and Virginia High School League have set forth a path for the safe return of all high-school sports, including wrestling. We urge the Arlington school system to take a closer look at all the factors, and give the wrestlers the same opportunity that is being afforded other APS athletes.
Although wrestling does not have the same following and public appeal as sports such as basketball, soccer or football, just like in those high-interest sports, the athletes involved have put in years of hard work and dedication, and deserve the opportunity to compete under the guidelines developed by the experts.
Renee Myers, Arlington
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