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GHC wrestlers are ready, season or not

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GHC wrestlers are ready, season or not

With uncertainty hanging over their season, the Grays Harbor Chokers men’s and women’s wrestling teams are deciding to soldier on.

Though the state of Washington has not yet cleared a path for junior college athletics to resume competition, it didn’t stop Grays Harbor College from holding their own “Round Robin,” a meet where Chokers wrestlers competed against their teammates in an event that was broadcast via livestream.

“It’s very challenging to simulate a live match in practice. So right here we have an official, you throw your straps up, there is a scorekeeper, it’s just a different environment,” Chokers head coach Kevin Pine said. “We’re just trying to get these students an opportunity to wrestle.”

The event was closed to the public and wrestlers, coaches and staff all had their temperatures checked and entered and exited the gym in specific groups to avoid large gatherings. Other noticeable safety measures were grapplers wearing masks up until the time they hit the mat and the winners raising their own hand to avoid contact with the referees.

Though it felt somewhat odd to be wrestling a simulated meet in a gym devoid of family and fans, the athletes didn’t let the unfamiliar circumstances affect their performance.

“For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been having live matches after practice, and (today’s) match felt the same as the live runs that we’ve been doing, so we were prepared,” said Chokers sophomore Desmond Bowers, who placed third at the nationals last season. “It was something to get the butterflies out by wrestling on livestream.”

“Our opportunities for this season are limited due to COVID,” Pine said. “I’m thankful to the school for allowing us to do this. … This was a good experience for a lot of these kids and for some of them it was their first college match.”

Though it was technically the first, and possibly only meet of the season, Pine was pleased with what he saw.

“Cardio-wise, I was really happy. I didn’t see too many wrestlers gassing out too much. Technique-wise, it’s a progression. You want to peak at the right time,” Pine said before noting some of his wrestlers were able to understand what the coaching staff has been teaching in practice after a match. “Some light bulbs went off today.”

But as it stands at this time, the remainder of the season is in limbo. The Chokers have no further scheduled meets and are holding out hope they’ll have a season come January.

“At this point, I don’t know what our season holds,” Pine said. “Hopefully, we will get a season and we will get a national championship, and encourage them to continue to get their education here at Grays Harbor. … Our goal is we want kids to come here, get their two-year degree and move on.”

While there is no certainty of a traditional wrestling season this year for the Chokers, or even a modified one for that matter, there has been some recent good news that has helped to put some of the student-athletes at ease.

On Oct. 22, the National Junior College Athletic Association announced that all 2020-21 sport seasons will not count toward a student-athletes eligibility following a vote by the organization’s Board of Regents. So students wondering if they should red-shirt the season or not will not have to contemplate that decision any longer.

Bowers said the temporary rule-change, in essence, gives them a “free year” whether they are able to complete a season or not.

“It won’t count toward our eligibility,” he said. “So it allows us preparation. So if we’re injured, we can heal up. If we want to train and condition some more, we can do that. I think it’s just a preparation year if (the season doesn’t) happen.”

If somehow a season is on the horizon, the Chokers will be prepared, according to Pine.

“I’ve told the team, I cannot guarantee if we’re going to have a season, but if there is an opportunity, we’ll be ready,” he affirmed. “We’ll train like there is a national championship. We’ll get ready and find as much competition as possible.”

Bowers said he and his teammates want to compete and are looking forward to doing so.

“I really do hope we compete,” he said. “After coming back from (Nationals) last year, a lot of us placed and a lot of us feel a lot stronger. Having a year off, it might mess us up, it might not. … We are all hoping for this year to come and there is a chance it might not.”

 

RYAN SPARKS | THE DAILY WORLD
Grays Harbor College wrestling coach Kevin Pine instructs freshman Miracle Horne in between rounds of a match at the Grays Harbor College Round Robin meet on Wednesday in Aberdeen.