LHSAA wrestling seeds could be shaken by COVID-19 outbreak at Gonzales tournament

Jimmy Watson
Shreveport Times

The LHSAA State Wrestling Championships in February could become a discombobulated affair thanks to a COVID-19 spread at a recent major wrestling tournament in Gonzales. 

Wrestling teams from Airline, Parkway and North DeSoto are among those quarantined until Jan. 31 because they participated in the Louisiana Classic Jan. 15-16 in Gonzales, which attracted 30 teams from across the state and is one of the main events used for seeding wrestlers at state.

“It’s frustrating because your kids work hard all year to get prepared to compete and now this,” said Parkway coach Emmett Beggs. “We’re supposed to host the regional two weeks before state, and we’ll have to take a look at that. We don’t want kids to get quarantined and have to miss state.”

The state meet is scheduled for Feb. 26-27  at Raising Cane's River Center in Baton Rouge. 

Wrestlers compete in the LHSAA Wrestling Championships held Saturday at Bossier City's CenturyLink Center.

LHSAA assistant executive director Adam MacDowell sent a memo to athletic directors Friday saying he had been in contact with the Louisiana Department of Health about the Louisiana Classic at the Lamar Dixon Center.

“There have apparently been multiple student athletes who competed in the tournament that have recently tested positive for COVID,” MacDowell’s memo said. “At this point, (the LDH) will be requiring a 14-day quarantine starting today. This includes everyone that was in attendance including the spectators, effective immediately.”  

Airline’s Chase Cox had the only Classic winner from northwest Louisiana in Ernie Perry III at 113 pounds and now his athletes are on the sidelines unable to do anything but wait. 

“I bet a lot of teams don’t compete again until the state tournament to prevent being quarantined from the state tournament,” Cox predicted. 

The chances of getting qualified for state with a realistic seeding are dwindling. The Ken Cole meet, another major qualifying event, was slated for this weekend in Lafayette. But due to the recent outbreaks in the sport, the tournament was not only moved up a week, and cut from two days to just one (Feb. 6), organizers are limiting the teams to those located in Acadiana and southwest Louisiana.

Evangel coach Mike Guerrero didn’t take Jeremia Yearby (106 pounds), Joe Gilreath (113), Wingston Avila (120), Mike Brame (126), Thomas Bean (145) and Mike Gilreath (152) to the Classic, so the Eagles avoided the quarantine for now. But the six wrestlers are in need of qualifying events.

“It’s anyone’s guess,” Guerrero said of how that will happen.

Byrd coach Mark Yawn only has four wrestlers and didn’t take his group to the La. Classic either. He was planning to take JW Fuller and Bobby Simpson to the Ken Cole this weekend to get them seeded. 

“Bobby has been working his tail off at 285 pounds, and he and JW should be in the top five,” Yawn said. “But now I don’t know how they’re going to get seeded. At least we’re free and clear.”

Parkway lost nine wrestlers off last year’s team, so getting a lot of matches this season for a young team was critical – but it hasn’t happened. The Parkway varsity usually has 60-70 matches at this point in the season. They currently have 12-14, and they’ll lose several more by not being allowed to participate in the Ken Cole.

“Some of the weight classes we’ve had in meets were forfeits because the other team didn’t have a full squad,” Beggs said. “It’s frustrating, but we’re doing what we can to get the kids’ competition.

None of the area coaches have a clear idea of what is likely to happen at state because there have been few head-to-head confrontations between the state’s top wrestlers.

“It’ll be a bugger,” Beggs said. “If certain kids are seeded incorrectly, it could wreck a bracket.”