Wrestling with season changes

Walking out of school after each wrestling practice during his freshman and sophomore seasons, junior Evan Zakharchenko was used to seeing a dark, bleak winter sky. Now, with the season spanning the spring and summer, he is excited to wrestle in a new time of year.

Wrestling, typically a winter season sport, was moved to the summer season, April 19 to June 12, by the IHSA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In past years, the team would wrestle in tournaments on weekends, each consisting of matches against several other high schools, Zakharchenko said in a video interview. This year, the team is not planning on participating in any tournaments for the regular season.

“We’re just wrestling [within] the conference,” said Zakharchenko. “We’re having one meet a week.”

Head Wrestling Coach Jason Erwinski said in a video conference that when wrestlers are warming up or engaging in any individual skill-based drills, they are required by the IHSA to wear a mask. Once they engage in hand-to-hand combat, they are not required by the IHSA to wear a mask, although some wrestlers still opt to do so.

According to Zakharchenko, you have to rely on the other teams to be safe when wrestling in a match without a mask.

Weight classification has also changed this year.

“Usually we have weight classes, but this year it’s kind of just you weigh what you weigh and you get matched up with someone that’s around, or as close as possible, to your weight,” Zakharchenko said.

Freshman Charlie Weiss said in a video conference that he plans to compete in both wrestling and gymnastics this year. Ryan Dul, head boys gymnastics coach, and Erwinski told him to finish the gymnastics season and then participate in the wrestling season.

According to Erwinski, all these new changes are forcing him and the athletes to adjust.

“I believe in the resilience of our athletes, they are going to be fine,” said Erwinski. “They are going to work through this.”

As of May 20, the varsity wrestling team has a record of 2-1 and Zakharchenko has a record of 2-1.

“I think there’s definitely going to be a lot of energy at [this year’s meets], especially because there’s less of them,” said Zakharchenko. “So when we do have the chance to wrestle, I think we’re gonna make the most out of it.”