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Wrestlers will miss out on experience

As the days extended into weeks in the coronavirus crisis, those involved in high school wrestling in the state of Ohio knew the possibility of a canceled state wrestling tournament was strong.

On Thursday, the expected announcement wrestling teams dreaded came as the Ohio High School Athletic Association canceled the wrestling, basketball and ice hockey tournaments.

“I understand why this had to happen, but it still makes me sick,” Beaver Local coach Johnny McComas said. “The guys all put in a lot of hard work and to not be able to showcase that in Columbus is hard to take.”

The state wrestling tournament originally set for March 13-15 was to feature 672 wrestlers from 299 schools. Beaver Local was set to take seven to state including sophomore Mark Emmerling, sophomore Logan Ours, senior Cole McComas, junior Devon Salsberry, senior Skyler Lasure, junior Logan Krulik and senior Daniel Wirth.

Johnny McComas said he couldn’t meet with the wrestlers on Thursday, but he did take to Facebook to thank everyone involved with the program and to express his sadness regarding the situation.

“My heart breaks for our seniors,” McComas wrote. “We have already witnessed their last match in a Beaver Local singlet, and didn’t realize it at the time. Looking back at the district tournament, even if we had known, I wouldn’t have done a single thing different. The entire team was living in the moment. They were confident, aggressive, fearless and had each others back. They put on the best two consecutive rounds of Beaver Local Wrestling I’ve ever seen. They were everything I dreamt they would be. I love these guys.”

Johnny McComas said up until the announcement, he believed wrestlers were still busy staying in shape in the hopes that a solution would be found. Now the extended pause is starting to affect preparations for next season.

A freestyle program that runs about eight weeks was to begin this week and that already seems likely doomed.

“We’re not sure when we’ll be able to get back,” Johnny McComas said.

Other area state wrestling qualifiers included East Liverpool junior Howard Williams, West Branch junior Kenny Marra, West Branch senior Gage Bickley, Salem junior Caiden Hart, Minerva junior Jacob Norris, Minerva sophomore Khalil Louive, Minerva sophomore Trevor Slider, Minerva junior Jarrett Burress, South Range sophomore Michael Markulin, South Range senior Anthony Czap, Southern senior Dylan Milhoan, Columbiana junior Jacob Kamperman and United senior Bodey Kiko.

“We are just devastated that the tournaments cannot be completed,” said Ohio High School Athletic Association Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass in a press release issued Thursday afternoon. “But our priority is the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, communities and officials. Governor Mike DeWine is asking all Ohioans to do everything they can to stop the spread of this virus. That request, along with our schools not being able to reopen for weeks, means that school sports cannot happen at this time. Even if our schools reopen this spring, it will be difficult to find facilities willing to host the tournaments. Most campuses are shut down until mid to late summer. We are already planning for ways that these student-athletes will be honored at next year’s state tournament.”

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