The LHSAA releasing their plan Wednesday for the state championships in wrestling.
The event will take place February 26th and 27th at the Raising Canes River Center in Baton Rouge. The building will be able to hold 25 percent capacity. Only 1,800 fans will be allowed in the building each day, with seating in the upper bowl of the arena. 600 students and event staff will be allowed on the floor. Fans will also only be allowed to eat, outside of the competition area.
This all comes on the heels of the LHSAA canceling the rest of the regular season in wrestling, in order to ensure being able to enter the championships healthy and safe.
"This is for those seniors not losing their season, or (having) an agency beyond this agency making a decision for us to whether we can or cannot have this event," LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine said. "When we get to the Raising Canes Center there will be some very strenuous and strict restrictions put in."
Teurlings wrestling coach Kent Masson believes photos and videos shared from the Louisiana Classic wrestling meet in Gonzalez earlier this month are playing a major role in why the LHSAA announced Tuesday that it is suspending the end of the sport's regular season.
The video seen here was shared by the Advocate and shows athletes and coaches huddled around the final matches seemingly disregarding COVID-19 protocols.
The Louisiana Department of Heath says 20 COVID-19 cases have been linked to that event. Bonine disputes the number of athletes that were actually involved in the "outbreak."
"To my knowledge, as I sit here today, we had 5 athletes from 4 schools that have tested positive for COVID," Bonine said. "One or two scenarios, allegedly, were maybe positive before they got to the tournament."
Masson believes that wrestling is being used as an example, when other sports have had similar gatherings in recent months.
"If you go back and look at the state football championships, they were in the stands, on top of each other, not wearing masks, not social distancing, but nobody is saying anything about that. You have basketball games where people are doing the same exact thing," Masson said. "This is happening all over the place but wrestling is getting the black eye because of that one video, and that's not fair."
Masson acknowledges that the video shines a bad light one the sport, but insists that's not consistent with how tournaments have been handled. He says it's not even consistent with how that particular tournament was handled. Masson said throughout most of the weekend everyone followed protocols.
As a result of the positive cases, many wrestlers, coaches, and teams were put into quarantine. In the memo sent to schools the LHSAA says it's pausing the sport to prevent further outbreaks and to ensure it can hold a championship meet in Baton Rouge next month. The league's executive director Eddie Bonine will hold a press conference Wednesday morning to discuss the decision.
Masson says when he read that memo he was disappointed for the kids.
"The students are the ones we have to focus on and sometimes we kind of lose sight of that because of everything that's going on, and we lose sight of the fact that the kids are the ones who get hurt the most," he said. "I understand we have to do this to protect people, which is the most important thing, too."
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