A Wrestling Student-Athlete’s Open Letter to the Section VI Executive Committee
Ciaran Edwards is a senior at Lewiston-Porter High School. Ciaran is a captain on the varsity wrestling team and is a heavily involved member of the Lewiston-Porter student body.
Ciaran’s letter was reviewed by WNY Athletics writer/staff member Matt O’Rourke before being posted.
An Open Letter from a Wrestling Student-Athlete to the Section VI Executive Committee: Commit to Upholding the Planned Spring Wrestling Season
Dear Section VI Executive Committee,
I am writing to you to express my disappointment in the decision on January 28th, 2021 to postpone the Section VI wrestling season, but also to encourage you to stand your ground and formally commit to the WNY wrestling community that there will be a season beginning on May 10th, 2021.
Following Governor Cuomo’s decision to approve high risk sports beginning on February 1st, 2021, many other sections, including neighboring Section V, have approved their wrestling seasons for that date. The decision comes just two days after you previously approved the wrestling season on January 26th, 2021. This has added to the state of confusion and distress that wrestlers and other ‘high risk’ athletes have been dealing with since August. While I understand your concern about COVID-19, I have full confidence that we can and will execute a safe and successful season if given the chance.
It is important for the wrestling public to understand that the guidance released from WNY health departments gave Section VI no choice but to postpone the season. Health officials referenced a CDC report about a tournament-style wrestling competition in Florida. Said tournament had ten participating teams from three different counties, with a total of 130 wrestlers, coaches, and officials in attendance. The report did not mention whether or not there were masks being worn at the tournament or if there were spectators and how many. It is also not representative of how Section VI wrestling programs were planning to compete this season. WNY health officials did not discuss this report with anyone from the Section VI wrestling community, and instead made an uninformed decision to strongly recommend the postponement or cancellation of the wrestling season. Their use of the words “strongly recommend” gave Section VI no option to continue the season because they did not have county support, while also incorrectly shifting most of the blame towards Section VI officials, who were forced by this recommendation to take the heat for their decision to postpone.
Wrestling is the most prepared sport when it comes to following health and safety guidelines. We already have many health and safety protocols, like skin disease prevention and skin checks prior to meets, as well as weight certifications, just to name a few. We clean our gear and mats daily, even before COVID-19. Wrestlers take these practices very seriously, and we are fully prepared to follow any and all COVID-19 health and safety guidelines in order to mitigate risks. Furthermore, it is unfair to attribute the stigma around skin diseases in wrestling to the possibility of the transmission of a respiratory disease.
This season, it is obvious that tournament style competition is not the safest way to compete, as shown by the CDC report referenced by WNY health directors. The solution to this would be to focus on dual, tri, and quad meets as an alternative. In a dual meet setting, wrestling is less high risk than other sports already approved by Section VI. While wrestling is a 1v1 sport with most matches only lasting six minutes, in other approved sports, up to twelve players from each team will come into repeated close contact with each other for up to sixty minutes.
Although the decision to postpone the season to May 10th through June 30th overlaps with the traditional spring season and may result in conflicts for wrestlers who play a spring sport, this can be solved by allowing student-athletes to participate in multiple spring sports. It also presents an opportunity for programs to conduct outdoor practices and competitions. Outdoor events are not only significantly safer in respect to COVID-19 as opposed to indoor events, but are also a great way to allow more spectators, especially parents, to attend matches, and they will create a fun atmosphere for the athletes. Prior to the spring season, guidance from Section VI on how to conduct an outdoor wrestling event would be crucial for programs looking to do so.
A decision in May to ultimately cancel the season would put the mental and physical health and development of athletes further at risk. High school sports (wrestling in particular) teach life lessons about hard work, teamwork, goal-setting, and discipline. Further, for many student-athletes, sports are a way to relieve stress and have social interactions with peers, both of which are extremely important, especially now. While I am lucky enough to be continuing my wrestling career in college, for my senior teammates, this could be their last opportunity to play organized sports.
Just one week ago, the official Section VI twitter account tweeted, “Thanks to @AldenCSD BOE for supporting ALL Sports. Hopefully @NYGovCuomo will recognize that playing sports is less of a risk than having our kids sit at home, unsupervised, doing nothing!” That same day, Governor Cuomo approved high risk sports, and the account posted, “This is going to be a great weekend! Today we got word that All High School sports are back!”
On May 10th, 2021, I urge you, the Section VI Executive Committee, to do your duty of choosing what is best for the student-athletes of Western New York and include the sport of wrestling in “All” high school sports. I implore you to take into consideration the emotional toll that approving and then disapproving the wrestling season has had on so many athletes, including myself. I call on you to do whatever you can to find solutions to problems that may arise. And finally, I ask you to stand your ground and publicly commit to upholding spring wrestling for the 2021 season.
Ciaran Edwards Lewiston-Porter High School Senior Class of 2021 Varsity Wrestling Team Captain