By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
The Ohio High School Athletic Association delivered its final verdict on the postponed winter sports tournaments Thursday, announcing that they would not take place at all.
Two weeks to the day after the state wrestling, girls basketball and ice hockey and regional and state boys basketball tournaments were put on indefinite hold, the OHSAA announced Thursday that it could not find a way to hold the tournaments this year and would cancel them due to the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19.
The OHSAA was unable to hold a press conference Thursday due to Ohio’s “stay-at-home” order, but it sent out a press release shortly after 1 p.m.
“The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Thursday that the winter sports tournaments of wrestling, basketball and ice hockey, which were postponed indefinitely on March 12, are now cancelled due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic,” the release said. “It is anticipated that schools will not be able to reopen for many weeks, which prevents interscholastic athletics from taking place.”
Miami County’s schools had 15 wrestlers qualify for the state wrestling tournament this year. Eight of those — Ethan Turner, Caleb Schroer, Craig Montgomery, Austin Awan, Troy Kennedy, Connor Havill and Andrew and Jason Shaffer — were from Troy Christian, which was hoping to win the program’s fifth state team title.
“Obviously, we’re extremely disappointed, disappointed for the team, for the coaches and especially for the seniors,” Troy Christian Athletic Director Jeff Sakal said. “But given the circumstances with what’s going on in the nation, everybody’s health, safety and well-being has to be of the utmost importance. We will regroup and move on.”
Also qualifying from Miami County’s schools were Miami East’s David Davis and Max and Cooper Shore, Covington’s Cael Vanderhorst and Kellan Anderson, Troy’s Carlos Quintero and Milton-Union’s Peyton Brown.
On Monday, March 9, the state of Ohio announced its first three confirmed cases of COVID-19. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency that very day, and by the end of the week a plan was in place to close all schools in the state until at least April 3.
On Tuesday, March 10, the OHSAA announced that the winter postseason tournaments would be allowed to continue, but with the spectators in attendance being limited to just direct family members. The next night’s boys regional tournament games were played under those conditions.
But by Thursday, March 12, the situation had already changed enough for the OHSAA to formally announce that it was postponing all of the tournaments indefinitely, as well as postponing the start of spring sports — which remain postponed and not cancelled.
One week ago on March 19, the OHSAA held a press conference in which Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass said a decision on the winter tournaments would be likely made “in the next 24-48 hours.” The OHSAA Board of Directors then scheduled a conference call for Monday, March 23, but no more word came until Thursday’s announcement.
In that March 19 press conference, Snodgrass said he and the rest of the organization were trying to think of creative ways that the tournaments could still happen, but logistics made every option difficult — particularly being able to schedule venues, as well as the wrestling tournament’s unique consideration of the athletes being forced to maintain their weights during the indefinite postponement.
In the end, there were simply no creative solutions that would work.
“We are just devastated that the tournaments cannot be completed,” Snodgrass said in Thursday’s press 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.”
All 672 wrestlers that qualified for the state tournament will receive a program, a certificate and their weigh-in card, while the 16 girls basketball and four ice hockey teams that qualified for the state tournament will also receive programs. No state champions will be listed for wrestling, hockey or girls or boys basketball in 2020, as “the OHSAA does not use state polls from the media or coaches associations to determine state champions,” the release said.
The press release also noted that “these four winter state tournaments and a few events during World War II (1941-45) are the only sports cancellations in the history of the OHSAA, which was founded in 1907.”
As of Thursday — a mere 17 days after Ohio saw its first three confirmed cases — those numbers had grown to 867 confirmed cases spread across 60 different counties, as well as 15 confirmed fatalities. Of those confirmed cases, 20 are in Miami County, as well as two confirmed COVID-19-related fatalities.
The spring sports season — which would have begun this Friday and Saturday — are still postponed. With schools being closed until at least April 3, practices are tentatively scheduled to begin on April 6 for baseball, softball, boys tennis, track and field and lacrosse, with a truncated season slated to start on Saturday, April 11, and the postseason tournaments maintaining their original schedule. All of that is subject to change, though, as the impact and spread of the pandemic is still only beginning to take shape.
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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