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Daily Journal
     October 29, 2020      #75-303 KDJ

Local schools react to latest IHSA

By Cody Smith

In the past 48 hours, coaches, athletes and parents have been on the edge of their seats listening to contradicting actions by Gov. JB Pritzker and the IHSA regarding winter sports, particularly wrestling and basketball.

Things got started when the high school basketball season potentially was going to be put on hold on Tuesday, when Pritzker announced the Illinois Department of Public Health changed basketball’s risk level from medium to high. However, the IHSA announced in Wednesday’s meeting basketball in fact will be allowed to start on time Nov. 16.

In addition, it also was announced wrestling will be moved to the summer sports season, which will take place from April 19 to June 26.

“These are tough decisions for anyone, so I respect the people in positions of authority who have to make these decisions,” Kankakee athletic director Ronnie Wilcox said. “I also appreciate the fact that the IHSA took a stand for Illinois high schools and athletes. So, I have a lot of respect and admiration for that.”

Kankakee is one of the local schools that plans to begin basketball activity right away, and Wilcox doesn’t seem too concerned with how the recent news will affect his basketball and wrestling programs.

“I don’t really have any concerns,” Wilcox said. “It’s just respecting the guidelines that we get [Thursday], but we are making sure, as much as we are excited and get to compete, we still want provide the safest environment possible.”

As it relates to having fans in attendance for games, Wilcox said the Kays won’t have any at the beginning of the season, but he isn’t ruling them out for the whole season if the IHSA changes the maximum capacity of 50 individuals per event.

Similarly to Wilcox and Kankakee, Bishop McNamara head basketball coach Adrian Provost doesn’t seem too concerned with the risk of having a basketball season. He said he believes it’s in the best interest of his school and athletes. However, he couldn’t help but be shocked by the IHSA’s decision to allow things to go as scheduled.

“I’m a little surprised but happy,” Provost said. “I’m happy that the IHSA represented the whole state and did what they thought was best for the entire state by leaving it up to districts to somewhat make up their own decision on certain things.”

Going forward with his squad, Provost said he plans to start right on time Nov. 16 and plans to also have no fans in attendance once games get going, recognizing the IHSA has urged schools to take advantage of online streaming opportunities.

On the other hand, Provost said he is wondering how it will play out with athletes being required to wear a face mask during competition.

“I think it’s going to be an adjustment, but if it allows us to play we [have] to do it,” Provost said. “I coached junior high baseball, and we had to wear gators or masks, and kids adjusted pretty well. Basketball is obviously much more active than baseball, and so beginning on Nov. 16 [with] our first game on Nov. 30, it’ll give us a couple weeks to get used to it.”

Watseka athletic director and girls basketball coach Barry Bauer voiced similar concerns when it comes to his athletes having to wear masks during competition.

“I’m concerned about the athletes wearing the masks,” Bauer said. “I’m still a little worried about that. I know it’s something we are going to have to do to help protect them, but as far as the physical part of it, the exertion that they are going to have to have with the mask on is something they are getting used to now, but once you get in a game style there is going to need [to be] more time for kids to have breaks.”

Knowing this could become a big issue, the IHSA is rumored to have an official timeout about halfway through each quarter in order to give kids a breather.

As it relates to wrestling being moved to summer, Central coach Travis Williams was expecting the move but still is wondering if there will be limits on teams at given events, similar to how cross country largely was limited to two- and three-school meets.

“Right now, there hasn’t been any changes with the wrestling limitations that you could only have three teams on a site at a time,” Williams said. “Obviously, a big part for wrestling is the tournament setting, so do we just have head-to-head battles as far as a dual setting, or do we try [to] find multiple gyms in use where we can have some type of tournament?”

Coal City wrestling coach Mark Masters’ real concern is the possibility of not having a state series this season, similar to fall sports that ended with sectionals. His squad alone has been able to trophy in the state series in five of the past six seasons with some of his guys winning individual state championships along the way.

“It was the best thing for the athletes, coaches,” Masters said. “Obviously, the down part that I don’t really like that I heard isn’t for certain because I don’t see it in writing is the no-state series thing.”

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