Letter: The state of wrestling in Clark County

Area resident Jeremy Baker discusses the fight among the wrestling community for their children’s dreams

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author alone and do not reflect the editorial position of ClarkCountyToday.com

Wrestling in Clark County is on a precipice. Most of the county is not aware of the struggle that is currently being waged in our county, but to be sure, for many in this county the next few weeks will determine whether the children who have chosen this sport to pour themselves into will be able to achieve their dreams or if our politicians and bureaucracy will be allowed to crush their dreams. Our story starts three weeks ago and only our efforts in the weeks to come will determine what the state of wrestling will be in the county for the coming year. Will it be one of champions with head and hands held high? Or it will be another year of our discouraged youth wallowing in their lack of purpose and direction.

Jeremy Baker
Jeremy Baker

Three weeks ago, on Dec. 4, the winter sport season commenced, and our high school athletes were finally competing. The prior season had been disrupted because of COVID and our government’s response. Dec. 4 was a weekend of hope that our lives were finally getting back to normal. The youth of our county had been working and practicing hard and were anxious to compete in the sports they loved. The children were once again allowed to pursue their dreams, and this weekend served as a great example that their efforts determined their results.

The following weekend additional tournaments and competitions were held, and life seemed to be transitioning into our past rhythms. Unfortunately, it was to be short lived for as the week of Dec. 12 began, the fear of the pandemic was again foisted upon us. Washington state was tracking COVID cases from four wrestling events from the week of Dec. 4. One of these events, the Yelm Varsity Girls tournament was attended by six of the county’s high schools and by Dec. 13 the Clark County Public Health Department (CCPH) was actively tracking COVID-19 cases in our youth members and coaches. By Dec. 16, the CCPH was able to identify 32 cases of the virus associated with wrestling in connection with the aforementioned events as well as several local tournaments. This was enough for the health department to recommend ceasing all wrestling activities. This declaration was the first of its kind for the ‘21-22 school year. This recent recommendation proved to be a cudgel, and even though over 50 percent of teams were unaffected, all the school districts in our county acted in lockstep and followed the CCPH’s recommendation. Other sports had experienced outbreaks of the virus in the fall and even other sports this winter were experiencing some positive cases but no one else was asked to stop their sport in its entirety. Those affected individuals and teams followed established protocols and isolated appropriately and those that were unaffected were allowed to practice and compete.

To be sure the wrestling community was shocked and dismayed by the CCPH’s recommendations and the school district’s response. Twenty members of the community took it upon themselves to gather in solidarity at the Clark County Public Building on Dec. 17 to call in to the last scheduled Clark County Board meeting of the year in the hopes that their voices might be heard. Although the sale of fireworks was the board’s intended topic of discussion, an overwhelming number of parents and coaches called in to bring up a topic that the board was clearly not up to speed on. Fortunately, the board called an emergency meeting to address the wrestling communities’ concerns and we were once again filled with hope that maybe our children’s dreams would be allowed to flourish.

The emergency meeting was held this last Tuesday (Dec. 21). The meeting scheduled to start at 10 a.m. was thrown in flux that morning by an emergency. The parents and coaches patiently waited, undeterred, determined their voices needed to be heard. After a lengthy delay the meeting began, unfortunately the board prioritized their executive board and Dr. Melnick’s prepared statement over the concerns of the wrestling community. Undeterred and after much delay the wrestling communities’ voices finally began to be heard. Passion and enthusiasm for this sport and its participants were expressed over the next hour and would have gone on for hours more with over 70 people wanting to give their prepared three-minute statements before the board shirked their duties and cut off further discussion. The board justified their actions by hollowly suggesting they had listened well and requested that the unheard individuals they ignored to write in their concerns with a promise they would read any and all statements sent to them, conveniently saving them from hours of testimony highlighting their failure of leadership.

But all is not lost. The two hours spent last Tuesday showed to the citizenry that the emperors were wearing no clothes. As the meeting went on it became abundantly clear that the Department of Health, the local school districts, and even the members of the Board of Health were consistently absolving themselves of responsibility for the current situation. Dr. Melnick routinely highlighted that his department’s recommendations were just that, only recommendations. Parents, in numerous testimonies, shared that school districts were telling them they had to follow the recommendations in fear of reprisals. And ultimately the many members of the Board of Health absolved themselves from performing any oversight on the CCPH with comments like the ones from board member Gary Medvigy in which the parents’ concerns about the health department’s recommendations were completely dismissed.

Many parents asked the board members to use their oversight power to prevent the health department from employing undue influence on the community, and Gary’s obfuscation of the health department’s role in these decisions were clearly designed to allow him and the other members of the board to shirk responsibility. Council member Julie Olsen came to the defense of Dr. Melnick’s arbitrary recommendation, which was clearly not well thought out. Recommending canceling all wrestling activities to include practice was unnecessary and arbitrary as the athletes were effectively isolated from the rest of their school’s community due to the holiday break, and the schools’ response to said recommendation should have been expected by the board and the department (and I suspect it was expected and desired).

Granted, the school districts should take more of a reasoned response to the health departments insight, but the board needs to actively monitor their responsibilities and listen to and promote the will of the community they serve. We are long past simple knee jerk reactions to the latest threat to our way of life. Our leaders need to understand and appreciate their responsibility.

Words are very important, but as we have seen the council’s reluctance to oversee the Department of Health has led to significant impacts on portions of our population that are very vulnerable. Our children rely on the adults in authority to make recommendations that are in their best interests. We need the leaders in our community to stand up. The parents and coaches stood up for their wrestlers this week, hopefully their politicians and bureaucrats will hear their message and start doing the same.

The council is having another board meeting on Jan. 4, they should expect another full-throated response from the wrestling community. Merry Christmas!

Jeremy Baker


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    I still would love to know how the school or health department is able to determine that wrestling is to blame for Covid transmission since these same students go to classes together, go to other sports games together, socialize together outside of school without masks, and live in community together. Contact tracing with active, social children is a joke. I would also like to know the number of students from low income families and students of color who participate in wrestling in comparison to, oh, let’s say… basketball athletes? Nobody seems to be targeting basketball. They wouldn’t dare! Too many rich white kids looking to play college basketball. Covid restrictions have been arbitrary and unfair from the very beginning and the Elites always come out on top.

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    Mark Engleman

    Organize or join an independent league now.
    Depending on the agenda-driven corrupt system any longer is only a path to further pain.

    Disappointed in the Clark County council, as a majority is supposed to be smart enough to see the obvious agenda and know the value to stick it to the establishment at every chance. But instead a majority hides.

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    Either the County Councilors have the authority to make public health policy, or they are impotent. If it’s the latter, I don’t know why they even bother with Board of Health meetings. It’s just a waste of everyone’s time. I’m not affiliated with the wrestling program in anyway, but I stand in solidarity with you all. The Board of Health has abdicated responsibility. They are cowardly, and they were callous toward your plight.

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    The Recovering Pastor

    Denying the citizenry representation at the Public Health level is a form of taxation (taking away something of value) without representation. If CCC refuses to fight forthe fundamental right of representation then our Constitutional Republic here in Clark County is in serious jeopardy.

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    Carolyn Crain

    I tuned in to hear the original fireworks hearing but unfortunately was at the doctor’s with mama for the board of health fiasco. I must say I was very encouraged at what I heard. Not from Eileen Quiring O’brien or Karen Bowerman or even Gary Medvigy. I was encouraged and came a spark of enthusiastic energy brought on by the parents who lined up to speak up and would not be deterred.
    A fiscal fix for a sector, albeit super small sector, of society was an emergency ONLY because they waited around and didn’t do anything about it timely which is their modus operandi. I realize there are actual laws which surround use of the term “emergency” which precludes the hearing from going off topic and making any voted decisions but there are no laws which precludes a council from hearing from the public. In fact it is quite the opposite. I was disgusted as I watched them being shut down by the very people who claimed that they had the desire to serve the public.
    A true emergency hearing should be set to determine a course correction for the free redress of elected officials by the public sector. This Council Chair is out of control. She fixes the agenda and lines up her two favorite peers on the council to push her way through. She is destroying our county with her callous disregard for our interests and freedom.

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    The Recovering Pastor

    If it’s true, which I don’t believe it is, that BOH doesn’t supervise CCPH, then it’s a classic scenario of taxation (taking that of value away) without representation. If CCPH has no oversight by the people then it’s all kabuki theater and people are unfairly being hindered, harmed and deprived without any recourse or representation. The Clark County Council must act immediately to right this wrong.


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