Proactiveness goes a long way in the age of coronavirus, especially when it comes to sports that involve close contact.
Tunkhannock wrestling coach Gary Siegel understands his sport could be riskier than others, but he and the Tigers are committed to doing what’s necessary to have a season.
“As long as we’re doing our due diligence beforehand — temperature checks, questions and answers, needing the kids and the parents to be safe, stay safe and watch what’s happening around them — then the wrestling part should be fine,” Siegel said. “As coaches, we are wearing masks … cleaning mats, cleaning the wall mats, cleaning everything; we’ve looked into what’s happening in our room as far as air circulation, so the school was able to make some arrangements. We’re trying to do everything that we can. It’s a tough one to make sure you’ve got everything covered.”
Tunkhannock practiced eight or nine times before being shut down, a statewide COVID-19 mitigation measure that could be lifted Monday.
Senior Luke Carpenter and junior Frankie Scranta used the same word to describe the handful of this season’s practices, saying they were “different,” but that’s OK.
“We had to do temperature checks every time we got to the school to do practice,” Scranta said. “We had to wear a mask anytime we weren’t wrestling; that was a little different.
“Everybody just wants a season and we’ll do whatever we can to get it.”
Some of the Tigers, including Carpenter, already played a fall sport that was impacted by coronavirus.
“I played soccer in the fall,” Carpenter said. “It was definitely different. We were very careful. But for the most part, our season was basically the same. We got all of our games in and we only had a couple postponements. The biggest difference was how many checks you had to go through before practices and games. It took us an extra 15 or 20 minutes before every practice or game to do all of our checks. Everyone was very cautious.”
Carpenter, the District 2 Class 2A runner-up last year at 160, said he’s been staying sharp by working on the family farm.
“I’ve just been working here and trying to keep busy,” Carpenter said. “I don’t sit inside too much, so I’m keeping busy, keeping active, making sure I don’t get stiff and out of shape.”
Scranta, who won last year’s District 2 Class 2A championship at 195, said he’s been lifting weights and running during the past few weeks.
This is an important season for the junior, who hopes to have an opportunity to continue wrestling in college.
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, just how this could really affect the opportunities that I get to go to college and wrestle,” Scranta said. “Because if we don’t have a season — we’ve already missed part of our season — those are opportunities that me and all my other friends are missing to go to school and do the things that we want to do after high school.”
Wrestling could open doors for student-athletes, evidenced by Siegel, who won a 1978 PIAA state championship for Crestwood and continued wrestling at Syracuse University.
Siegel’s message to his wrestlers has been simple — “Keep the faith and do everything you can to stay healthy, stay safe,” he said — and it’s been adopted by members of the team.
“With the shutdowns and stuff, we were all disappointed. Our spirits were down. We were having trouble,” Carpenter said. “But we’re all really hopeful. We’re all very optimistic that we’re going to get a season in and do well. We’re just trying not to let each other get too beat up right now.”
As it stands, wrestling would be the first sport in the Wyoming Valley Conference to begin its league schedule, starting Jan. 9, nearly one whole month later than the 2019-20 season start date of Dec. 11.
Matt Bufano is a sports writer for The Citizens’ Voice, primarily covering high school athletics in the Wyoming Valley Conference. Born and raised in Luzerne County, Bufano is a 2013 graduate of Penn State. He joined The Citizens’ Voice full-time in September 2013. He’s covered just about all sports in Northeastern Pennsylvania with a primary focus on field hockey, basketball and softball. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-821-2060; or @CVBufano on Twitter