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TAYLOR MADE: DEALING WITH ADVERSITY (2020-08-11)

Last week, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Directors decided to postpone the start of fall sports until after they can meet again Aug. 21. Pennsylvania was supposed to start heat acclimation Monday.

College conferences are considering the possible postponement or cancellation of fall sports, and some already have. Still, the major conferences are holding on — for now. Numerous media outlets reported Monday that the Big Ten voted to not play football this fall. The presidents are actually meeting as I write this piece, but I believe the writing is already on the wall.

Even though the high school fall season is slated to begin Sept. 21 in New York state, a final decision about that start date has yet to be made, according to Dr. Robert Zayas, Executive Director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

I haven't been feeling real confident about the one-month delay, but am really hoping sports do not get pushed back until January. The shortened seasons, overlaps in seasons (2 weeks in Season 1 and Season 2, 5 weeks in Season 2 and Season 3), and the lack of regional and state championship events are not fair to the athletes, nor are they fair to the fans.

Right now, NYSPHSAA has only canceled the fall season regionals and championships — winter and spring are still in tact. Unfortunately, it means one of Tioga County's two defending state championship teams — Candor volleyball — will not have an opportunity to defend its Class D state title.

I traded emails with head coach Pam Quinlan and from her viewpoint it appears the players are handling this adversity with class and dignity. I don't find that as a big surprise. She runs a class program.

"The girls are obviously feeling sad that their season has not yet started and will possibly not happen at all," she said. "They are disappointed about the state championship, but they realize what a blessing it was that they were able to compete in 2019.

"We have also discussed the disappointment and sadness felt by other athletes and their teams that were not able to fulfill goals they may have set — all the winter and spring sports: basketball, softball, baseball, lacrosse, track & field, and any other sports that were cancelled in 2020."

One of the questions people have asked me is whether or not athletes will be motivated to perform or even play without out championships and with the possibility of shortened seasons.

From what I've seen of the athletes in Tioga County, I don't expect that to be a problem. Quinlan isn't worried either.

"As for motivation, I don't think it will be an issue," she said. "As one of my players said, 'We aren't motivated by championships; we are motivated by volleyball.' I truly believe that their love for the game and for each other will carry them through this life event."

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Staying on the court, local volleyball travel teams saw their seasons shut down. However, some of the Owego players found a way to pass some of their free time during the pandemic. They volunteered their time at the food pantry giveaway last week. The group included included Madison Anders, Hailey Gunther, Maggie McCann, Adriana DiCosimo, Mia Puglisi, Annika Kinney and Mackenzie Struble.

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NYSPHSAA's Central Committee recently approved a two-year plan to cut wrestling weight classes from 15 to 13. Basically, the 99-pound weight class was eliminated, and 182 and 195 were condensed into 189. Five other classes underwent variations in weight while seven other weights remained the same.

It will be interesting to see how this affects the county's other defending state team champions — Tioga. The Tigers' individual champ, Gianni Silvestri, who won at 99, has grown a little in the off-season, so he might be bumping up anyway.

I had an opportunity to talk about the weight class changes with Kris Harrington and we had a lengthy, but very informative discussion. He wasn't in favor of the changes, but doesn't see them having a major Affect.

"This is not going to change wrestling one bit, and the program is not going to change," he said. "We'll be fine, but that doesn't mean that we should be happy about it. We are supposed to be the sport of opportunity. If we keep getting rid of these lighter weights, what do they do, just say wait until you're a sophomore?"

Of the 34 wrestlers competing at 99-pounds in this year's state championships, 22 were in 7th through 9th grade, some of whom would not have made the minimum weight had 106 been the smallest weight.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania approved proposed weight class changes as well, so there are three weights which do not match up with New York.

"And we are out of alignment with the federation," Harrington added. "If we wanted to wrestle Pennsylvania, what a conundrum that is now."

Another area that has drawn Harrington's concern is women's wrestling, which continues to battle to gain acceptance.

There have been no plans put in place to separate the girls from the boys, despite the fact women's wrestling has been the fastest-growing sport in the United States since the 2017-18 season.

"If we're going to make drastic changes to the program, why wouldn't we add women's, at least to the state tournament?" Harrington stated.

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IN PHOTO 2: Left to right, Owego volleyball players Madison Anders, Hailey Gunther, Maggie McCann, Adriana DiCosimo, Mia Puglisi, Annika Kinney and Mackenzie Struble. ... PHOTO COURTESY OF MELISSA STRUBLE.

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