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IAC WRESTLING: SVEC DEALING WITH COVID-RELATED CHANGES (2021-02-17)

BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
SPENCER — The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has been criticized for canceling all state championship events during the pandemic. While the decision affects all athletics, wrestling is one of a handful of sports where that decision hits really hard.

On the mats, the regular season is often geared more toward reaching team goals and team success while the postseason focuses more on achieving personal accolades. A change in state qualifying procedures opened the door for a greater number of Tioga County wrestlers to qualify for states, but that has been wiped out by the NYSPHSAA decision.

"Overall, it's a big blow to any sport, but I would say especially this sport," SVEC coach Jesse Buck said. "That's something that you're really training for in the sport of wrestling. It's a team sport, but it's such an individual thing too. Everybody comes in wanting to reach that pinnacle, and every season, when you're going into that postseason, it's helping you out for the next season.

"It's a little bit hard. I know it was discouraging and also kind of wears on the motivation a little bit too, because you always have that (postseason) to look forward to, to build to, but I think we're able to bring that around to."

Despite the lack of a postseason, the Eagles are grateful to be back in the practice room.

"First and foremost, just super thankful that we get to have a season and get them in, and at least get some wrestling going, because I think it was my thought and a lot of peoples' thought that it probably wasn't even going to happen," Buck said. "It's really great to have them in there. I know they enjoy it and it's trying to bring a smile to everybody's face, a little bit of normalcy and get that camaraderie back with the team."

Those who are unfamiliar with wrestling may not understand how detrimental a long layoff can be to a wrestler, both physically and mentally.

"It's good to get them back in here even if it's for a shorter season, because going a whole season without it is tough," Buck said. "It's tough as it is waiting as long as we did, but these guys are a team. That need that season to keep them together as well."

With a shorter amount of time allowed to get into "wrestling shape" the physical demands have been strenuous.

"Even for kids who are doing some things here and there, it's a whole different animal, this sport is," Buck said. "What we really tried to hit hard from the first practice is we're really focusing on that conditioning and trying to build them up."

Buck noted that the first couple of days of practice were wearing on his charges, but he said they were coming around.

"Luckily, they're young so they can bounce back really quick," he said. "It was a struggle getting through the first couple practices. It's definitely been a little bit more of a struggle."

Buck has also had to make a few coaching adjustments in the practice room.

"Restriction s alone are going to change a few things, but definitely as far as the structure of practice and everything goes, we have a much shorter season, so you've got to take that into account," he said. "At the same time, we don't have a postseason that we're prepping for, so it allows us to be a little bit more flexible with what we're doing and we can focus a little bit more individually on each kid.

"It's going to be more of a building and really hardcore training year I think. A lot fo times you're trying to peak goes so you're not teaching a whole lot new. You're just building on the skills that they have, but I think this year we're going be able to, not only go over what we did, but really add on to the skill set because of that, and use these dual meets as live scrimmages, live practices and I think in the end that will be really helpful."

SVEC opens the season this evening hosting Odessa-Montour / Watkins Glen.

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IN PHOTO 1: Parker Sexton. ... TCSR STOCK PHOTO.

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