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High School Sports

Arizona high school wrestling is back after temporary skin infection crisis

The uproar was quieted on Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that the wrestling season in Arizona was restored.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association announced the season, which was put in jeopardy because of an outbreak in skin disease, would resume Friday for divisions III and IV, and on Saturday for divisions I and II.

The smaller divisions will have their state tournament at Tim's Toyota Center on Friday and Saturday. The sectional qualifying tournament was canceled and they will use a 32-man bracket for state.

The big schools will continue with the sectional tournaments (four per division) on Saturday at the original sectional locations. The state tournament will be held the following weekend at Tim's Toyota Center.

Photo courtesy of David Jolkovski/Ahwatukee Foothills News

Mountain Pointe's Juan Segora (in the air) and<br>Basha's Christian Masters (in green) battle during<br>the 126-pound match at a dual meet between<br>Mountain Pointe and Basha.

The key was getting a decision handed down because there were some indication that wrestling would have been cancelled altogether if the skin disease was severe enough. The AIA felt it made the best possible decision at this point after working with public health officials to identify the nature of the infection(s), determine how widespread they may be, and incubation period(s).

"We hope that this will come to a timely resolution. We realize that this was an inconvenience and disappointment for many and yet, reducing the possible spread of infection had to take priority," Associate Executive Director Chuck Schmidt said on Monday before the organization made a final decision.

The reaction by the AIA wasn't been well received by the wrestling community mainly because they felt there was already a system in place to protect the wrestlers. The community wanted more answers to actually what the skin infection is rather than listen to rumors of herpes gladiatorum that hit the college level and Minnesota high schools in 2007 and pointing fingers at certain teams as the main culprit.

"I can believe that," Desert Vista (Phoenix) coach David Gonzalez said at the time. "These kids have worked hard and this knee-jerk reaction has hurt the process.

"It didn't need to get to this point. There is a system in place to protect the kids. Either you have a doctor's note or you don't wrestle. This is really hurting kids who are ready to go."

Chandler coach Vidal Mejia has his kids prepared all along as if they need to make weight on Friday.

"That's the approach we have to take right now," he said. "The (AIA's) generic statement isn't telling anybody anything."

Mejia brought up another point about the logistics of delaying information another day and what it might mean to school budgets.

"I told my AD to be prepared to add more hotel rooms if everyone qualifies and that I would need another van," he said. "Or what if we end up not wrestling and have to cancel the rooms, but we don't get refunded because we found out so late?"

Mejia said the decision was an overreaction.

"We are talking about a skin issue and we have provisions in place to take care of that," he said. "If they reacted to concussions in football the way they are reacting to this they would ban football across the nation."

Fortunately, it all came together and the process worked.

"Let's start wrestling," Gonzalez said.

Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothill News staff writer, is a 19-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at jskoda1024@aol.com or 480-272-2449.

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