The Maine Principals’ Association officially canceled the high school wrestling season on Friday.

There had been only a small glimmer of hope that a wrestling season – already delayed on multiple occasions – could be held if the state revised its Community Sport Guidelines and moved wrestling out of the high-risk category for spread of the coronavirus, or did away with the risk categories completely.

High-risk sports, which include tackle football and boxing, can only hold socially distant conditioning practices, without any full contact drills. No competitions are allowed.

Wrestlers can continue to work with their coaches in conditioning practices until March 12, but they cannot wrestle with teammates during practices.

The MPA’s Wrestling Committee, which had chosen not to make a decision at its meeting on Monday, met again Friday morning and decided a final decision needed to be made, said Mike Bisson, the MPA’s assistant executive director.

“They were unanimous that it was time. The kids were losing interest and losing hope,” Bisson said. “There was that balance. We were trying to give it every chance that it might happen, and then it just didn’t.”


One reason why the MPA wrestling committee had clung to hope that Maine’s guidelines might change was that the National Federation of State High School Associations announced Feb. 2 it would stop grouping sports by COVID risk levels.

“We were hoping as things got better after the post-holiday surge, that (the state) might revisit the guidelines, and that just didn’t happen,” Bisson said, adding that the MPA has received no indication changes to the Community Sports Guidelines are imminent.

Also, time was running short to be able to squeeze in a wrestling season, as is being done with volleyball, without disrupting spring sports.

Forty-one of the 49 states that offer high school wrestling (Mississippi does not) are allowing the sport to take place this school year. Of those, 33 states had some form of culminating event. In New Hampshire, that was a team dual meet championship.

“I just wonder if in this particular scenario, maybe more could have been done for the students and the student-athletes,” said Portland/South Portland wrestling coach Tony Napolitano. “We’ve done so well here in Maine in protecting people, and (COVID) numbers are dropping fairly quickly and dramatically. And, I know in other states, they wrestled and had state championships.”

Napolitano added, “I know what we talked about with our kids is, hey, wrestlers are built for adversity, and as hard as it is now, you’re going to get stronger and move forward and we’re not going to place blame. That’s the message we have to the kids. I just wish it had turned out differently.”

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