Wrestling Grapples With COVID


Photo by Kaitlyn Smitten

Joseph Riccelli, sophomore, pinning his opponent in a match against PHS.

Kaitlyn Smitten, Staff Writer

OC wrestling has a legacy to uphold and in doing so, they are working hard to prepare for the upcoming season, amidst the COVID-19 chaos. Sending a few of their wrestlers to state last year was a huge accomplishment, but it wasn’t the first time in OHS wrestling history that they have had wrestlers sent to state. 

Tom Devito, wrestling coach, has personal history with the school as he attended OHS. He is trying his best to prepare his team for a successful season following all of the accomplishments of last season. Due to the current rise in cases and the shortened season, OC Wrestling has had a major change to their schedule. 

“We start by saying that our season was cut into pretty much a quarter of what we usually have. The guys will usually have about 40 to 50 matches in a year but we are only allowed 14 this year,” Devito said. 

OC wrestling will still get a season but it will be shortened and many precautions are being made in order to keep everyone safe. Masks must be worn at all times during practice and matches, and there is a limit on spectators as well as extra cleaning precautions and temperature checks. 

“We are being very diligent about our cleaning procedures in order to keep everyone safe. In wrestling, we are always careful about being careful, with all the other diseases that come with wrestling,” Devito said. 

Though they do have to follow many COVID-19 protocols, they are still able to practice and compete. Though it might not be the same as a regular season, they have the ability to participate in the sport they love. 

“To actually be able to wrestle. That’s the biggest thing. We didn’t know if we were actually going to be able to wrestle this season,” Devito said. “ Whether you think about success with a season, it’s more about, did the guys have fun and did they succeed in their goals? As long as I get one person to the point that I was at where I was able to go college, I’m just happy to have that opportunity again this year.”

Although there are not the same opportunities for wrestlers this year, the coaching staff is still trying to make it the best possible year despite the chaos. Tyler Clark, senior, is one of many who are looking forward to their last season and getting past the loss of some of their season.

“Going out of town on tournaments and doing dumb stuff with the team throughout tournament weekends, is what I’ll miss most,” Clark said.

Many athletes start by following their parents’ footsteps much like Clark and his story, but not many continue to stick with the sport and fall in love with it. Over time many athletes get burnt out, but when coaches and teammates make it fun, there are more athletes likely to stay. 

“Having a chance to show how much I’ve improved over the seasons, is what I’m most excited for this year,” Clark said. “My dad wrestled in high school, and I’ve always talked about it, so I figured I’d try it out because of him, and my grandparents have always loved the sport.” 

Being a senior, many look back on their years of high school and the highs and lows. For many athletes, like Clark, their highlights include their sports memories and times spent with people who have a similar passion for the sport. Not only are the seniors disappointed, but also many underclassmen. Although it may not be their last season, they are still losing a portion of an amazing opportunity and a chance to actually say goodbye to some of their upperclassman teammates. 

“Wrestling helps me isolate myself from the world. When I’m there it’s just me and my opponent. Nothing else matters in those six minutes,” said Joseph Riccelli, sophomore. 

Many athletes seek validation in their sport, and it helps separate them from the real world and all of the drama in it. Sports can be therapeutic and being able to participate in a program like OC wrestling is an honor, as well as being able to be coached by a former collegiate wrestler. 

“I am disappointed in the shortened season, but I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to show my growth throughout the year,” Riccelli said. “I am very thankful for my coaches and teammates who have strived to make me my best.”

Despite the modified season, many athletes are still excited to show off their talents and growth developed over the offseason and how much more dedication they now have to the sport realizing that their season might be cancelled again. 

“I have now realized that I must treat every practice and match like it’s my last, who knows, it might be,” Riccelli said.