By MICHAEL BURWELL
The expected and feared for winter tournaments became official on Thursday.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced the remaining winter sports tournaments for the 2019-20 season have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For the first time since the World War II era, the OHSAA had to cancel events.
“We are just devastated that the tournaments cannot be completed,” OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass said in a release. “But our priority is the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, communities and officials.
“Governor Mike DeWine is asking all Ohioans to do everything they can to stop the spread of this virus. That request, along with our schools not being able to reopen for weeks, means that school sports cannot happen at this time. Even if our schools reopen this spring, it will be difficult to find facilities willing to host the tournaments. Most campuses are shut down until mid to late summer.
“We are already planning for ways that these student-athletes will be honored at next year’s state tournament.”
The OHSAA also announced that the start of the 2020 spring sports season will remain postponed. A tentative plan of starting practices April 6 and having scrimmages and regular-season games starting April 11 was put in place by the OHSAA on March 13, a day after the winter sports tournaments were initially postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
A no-contact period, which prohibits any coach from providing coaching, instruction or open gyms to players, is still in effect. The OHSAA also shut down use of facilities for the purpose of athletic activities.
State tournaments in girls basketball, wrestling and hockey, as well as regional and state boys basketball, won’t be completed.
“I think there was some fear that everything was going to be canceled right away, but (the OHSAA) waited a little while, and I think they did a good job of just kind of seeing how it was all going to shake out,” Liberty-Benton co-athletic director Nate Irwin said. “Their decision that we heard (Thursday) was, I think, what people had been expecting for the past three or four days, and that’s unfortunate for those teams that were still alive in the tournaments, basketball and wrestling.
“We had a wrestler out of Liberty-Benton (Nathaniel DiRe) that was still in the tournament, so they’re not getting the ending they probably wanted with their seasons, but there’s really nothing we can do about it. Can’t fault the OHSAA, they had to make a tough decision, but it’s ultimately the right decision for everything else that’s going on right now.”
According to the release from the OHSAA, the four 2020 winter state tournaments and a few events during World War II were the only sports cancellations in the history of the OHSAA, which was founded in 1907. However, boys basketball and wrestling were not canceled during those years, and the girls basketball and hockey state tournaments didn’t begin until 1976 and 1978, respectively.
The OHSAA also announced in the release that no state champions will be listed for the four sports in 2020, adding it does not use state polls from the media or coaches associations to determine state champions.
The girls basketball, wrestling and hockey state tournaments were scheduled to take place from March 12-15. Regional boys basketball tournaments were also taking place, with the state tournament originally scheduled for last weekend.
Six area wrestlers didn’t get a chance to complete their season.
Lakota’s Trevor Franks was among four seniors who were set to compete in the state tournament. Franks a 160-pound state qualifier, finished the season 40-1, with his lone loss coming in the 160-pound district championship match.
Other area senior state qualifying wrestlers included Van Buren’s Cade Whitticar (170 pounds, 37-11 record) and Kaleb Snodgrass (285, 45-4); and Elmwood’s Will Bechstein (220, 42-7).
Hopewell-Loudon junior Caden Crawford (132, 47-3) and Elmwood sophomore Gunner Endicott (160, 44-7) also were state qualifiers.