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NJSIAA pushes all winter HS sports competition to 2021; wrestling gets major shift


NJSIAA pushes all winter HS sports competition to 2021; wrestling gets major shift

Winter high school sports, which were expected to begin in two weeks in New Jersey, won’t have any games until 2021, presumably a response to growing concerns about the surge in COVID-19 cases.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for high school sports in the state, pivoted from its initial plans for the winter sports season, identified this year as “Season 2,” as it was described in the NJSIAA’s plan that was released in the summer, on Thursday, when it announced the wholesale changes to its winter plans in a memo to member schools.

The biggest changes: Wrestling season will shift to Season 3 for a start in March and no Season 2 sports will have NJSIAA-sponsored postseason tournaments.

Here’s what Season 2, and winter sports, look like now:

  • Wrestling will take place in Season 3 — a period that was previously carved out for girls volleyball and gymnastics, fall indoor sports that couldn’t be played in October and November. That season will begin March 1 for practices, March 16 for games and end April 24, altered dates from original plans. There was no mention in the memo about the individual wrestling postseason. Last week, NJ Advance Media proposed moving wrestling to Season 3 with an outdoor individual state tournament in April.
  • Basketball, fencing and bowling will now start with practices on Jan. 11, games on Jan. 26 and the postseason will end on March 6.
  • Ice hockey, the only sport that will begin before 2021, will open practices on Dec. 14 and games on Jan. 4. The postseason for the hockey season will end Feb. 16.
  • Swimming and indoor track, now in Season 2A will begin with practices on Feb. 1, competitions on Feb. 16 and the postseason will end on March 27.
  • There will no NJSIAA-sponsored postseason for any sports in Season 2 or 2A, including basketball and ice hockey. Postseason play in those sports may be hosted locally by leagues and conferences.
  • Teams will be limited during Season 2, Season 2A and Season 3 to three games/competitions per week.
  • Multi-team, multi-game and invitational events are prohibited in basketball and fencing. Events are currently limited to two teams in wrestling, swimming, indoor track and gymnastics, but that measure is subject to change, the memo said.

These changes, which the NJSIAA made in consultation with local health officials and Gov. Phil Murphy, are not subject to change.

“NJSIAA will continue to consult with DOH to determine if multi-team or multi-game events will be permissible; however, we expect decisions on expanding the scope of participants and/or teams will not be made until closer to the start of the season,” the memo said.

Colleen Maguire, the Chief Operating Officer of the NJSIAA, announced at the association’s Executive Committee meeting in November that a decision on the winter sports season would be made by Nov. 20. Open questions about how to move forward with high school sports — especially now, amid a second wave of COVID-19 in New Jersey and more restrictive crackdowns — had focused on third-party facility use (ice hockey, bowling, swimming) and how schools, especially smaller ones, could handle multiple indoor sports being moved to any season, Maguire said.

In what’s becoming a hallmark of her tenure, Maguire also released a video Thursday, addressed specifically to student-athletes, explaining that over 80,000 of them competed in the fall season. She urged them to focus on what they were able to do, rather than on what they weren’t, and she urged them all – particularly seniors – to thank the many people she says were responsible for making the fall season happen. She also detailed much of what was in the release in a discussion about Season 2 and stressed the importance of anti-COVID-19 measures, such as wearing a mask, over the Thanksgiving break.

A decision on spring dates will be announced by Dec. 11, the memo said, and it is expected that season will extend through the month of June.

Here’s the full memo released by the NJSIAA (use this link if accessing through Twitter or Facebook).

Brian Deakyne may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BrianDeakyne.

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