Joshua Cherba, one of four returning Waterford wrestlers who competed in the state individual tournament last year, will be looking to replicate that success in the abbreviated upcoming season. (File photo)

Matches will be limited due to pandemic precautions

By Chris Bennett

Correspondent

It is possible members of the Waterford Union High School wrestling team only compete in about 10 or 12 matches this season, and COVID-19 is to blame.

Restrictions put in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic are limiting high school wrestlers in the Southern Lakes Conference to wrestling the conference dual meet schedule.

Invitationals and tournaments are mostly out of the question. Waterford coach Tom Fitzpatrick said the WIAA is allowing wrestlers to compete in events not sanctioned by the WIAA, and some on the Wolverines might explore that option.

It is common for wrestlers who compete in a full high school season to participate in almost 50 matches.

Wrestlers will compete in a new environment this season. Spectators will be limited. Hands sanitizers and wipes must be available at the check-in table, and a wash station or sanitizer must be mat side. Mats must be disinfected after each use.

Wrestlers are encouraged to change uniforms between matches, if wrestling multiples matches, and there will be no pre- or post-match handshakes. Wrestlers are also expected to wear masks during matches.

Waterford went 5-2 in SLC competition last season and tied Elkhorn for third in the conference.

Fitzpatrick, in his sixth season as head coach, said the Wolverines will compete with 18 wrestlers this season. Waterford usually fields a team of 26 to 28 wrestlers.

The wrestling season started the week of Nov. 23 and is scheduled to end the week of February 15. The Wolverines open the 2020-21 season tonight at home against SLC foe Wilmot, and will do so with a strong group of returning wrestlers.

Four of the five wrestlers the Wolverines sent to the WIAA Division 1 State Individual Wrestling Tournament are back. Zach Kaminiski, who competed at 170, graduated.

Hayden Halter went to state at 126 pounds and Joshua Cherba did so at 132.

Halter finished third at 126, and is a three-time state qualifier and two-time state champion between his time at Waterford and Burlington high schools.

Fitzpatrick said Halter and Cherba will each wrestle at 138 or 145.

Lucas Johnson competed at state at 106 and Evan Danowski did so at 160. Fitzpatrick said Johnson will compete at 120 or 126 or Danowski at 170 or 182 this season.

Will French and Hunter Rudzinski are also expected to be key contributors. French will be at 170 or 182 and Rudzinski will wrestle at 138 or 145.

What the SLC title format will look like is as yet unknown, but expect Waterford, Burlington, Elkhorn and Union Grove to be among the strongest teams in the SLC.

For additional previews of the Waterford Union High School winter sports teams see the Dec. 4 edition of the Waterford Post.