Wrestling coaches looking to get seasons going

Pine River wrestling coach Tim Jones (left) and assistant coach Terry Martin watches the action during a match last season. (Herald Review file photo)

Pine River wrestling coach Tim Jones (left) and assistant coach Terry Martin watches the action during a match last season. (Herald Review file photo)

BIG RAPIDS -- On Wednesday, the Michigan High School Athletic Association made its latest phase of changes to the upcoming winter season.

In accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's statements made earlier in the day, non-contact winter sports may begin practice Jan. 16 and competitions can commence the following week on Jan. 22.

Contact sports like wrestling, hockey, basketball and competitive cheer that were initially slated to begin alongside non-contact sports could still open practice on Jan. 16, with Feb. 4 or 8 the earliest date schools can play against one another.

However, practices for contact sports must remain socially distant and consist of noncontact preparation and exercises.

Evart wrestling coach Ben Bryant said the newest phase of alterations to the winter schedule is the latest in a long list of changes for area student-athletes.

"Looks like we will be able to use the weight room and work on our cardiovascular endurance," Bryant said. "It's pretty hard to practice wrestling without contact."

Even before the start date of the wrestling season went through its most recent fluctuation, wrestling coaches already had reservations surrounding the year as a whole.

If the campaign were to have begun as originally stated, that would have given wrestlers a maximum of 30 matches prior to the onset of districts.

"It is hard to be confident that we will have some type of season," said Big Rapids coach Bruce Hoffman. "It is very draining emotionally to think: 'Here we go, we are going to start soon, we worked out a new schedule, we can make this work,' then we get told we have to wait a while."

Hoffman, like some other winter coaches, said he was not a fan of potentially extending the regular season into the spring.

At the same time, the growing consensus among coaches has been that too short of a campaign has been laid out, regardless of whatever start date comes to pass.

"(There's) not enough pre-season time to physically prepare athletes for most schools," said Pine River coach Tim Jones.

Hoffman was in agreement with his counterpart from Pine River when considering the relatively small frame student-athletes have to properly shake the rust off and get ready for competition on the mat.

At this point, the only substantial positive that wrestling coaches are still able to take away is the fact that there will be a season at all.

"The practice time leading up to the first contest seems very short to get kids into proper shape to compete, let alone work on skills to be competitive," Hoffman said.

"The kids got to enjoy the holidays and weekends with their families, a plus in my eyes," Jones said. "A short season is better than none at all. Lastly and probably most importantly, the seniors that have put a lot of effort into their sport over their lifetime will get to have some sort of closure."