Football stadium turns into wrestling arena
CAMAS — It was a competition, and it was a celebration.
A comeback of sorts.
High school wrestling, at the Class 4A and 3A levels in Southwest Washington, was the last sport to return during the pandemic.
And the sport made that return with quite an epic event.
Eight schools in the 4A and 3A Greater St. Helens Leagues showed up to Doc Harris Stadium in Camas, with wrestlers going to battle outside, under the spring sunshine.
Four mats. Eight teams. Stadium setting.
Another first for Clark County athletes.
As one coach said, what could be better? Vitamin D and wrestling.
“It’s kind of crazy. It’s insane,” said Camas wrestler Ava Weatherl, who was the winner of the first match on the girls mat.
Owen Wann of Battle Ground was in the first match of the day. He got a pin. He said it was a bit odd to be wrestling outside.
“Every school here has been working for the past month, month-and-a-half. Everything is paying off now,” Wann said. “We’re wrestling outside, but it doesn’t really matter. We just want to wrestle.”
A football player for the Tigers, he is now wrestling in a football stadium.
“Kind of the best of both worlds,” he said.
Wrestling outside has its own challenges. The mats were hot, and the heat intensified. According to Rory Oster, the athletic director at Camas High School, every wrestler who was scheduled to compete got one match before tournament organizers called off the remainder of the event. The mats got too hot to compete safely.
There is another outdoor “wrestling extravaganza” with all the 4A and 3A teams scheduled at Doc Harris Stadium this Saturday. Organizers are working on a schedule. The event might get an early morning start or perhaps begin in the evening, under the stadium lights.
All of that will be worked out, but for at least one day, wrestlers got to actually wrestle.
The sport has been singled out by state health officials who have demanded that wrestlers get tested for COVID-19 twice a week. No other athlete in any other high school sport has been required to be tested. Those rules for wrestlers delayed the start of the season.
They started practicing on April 12 but did not compete until last week.
“We just went to practice every day. It’s not boring but it’s repetitive. We needed something else. This is something else. It’s like taking it to the next level,” Weatherl said.
Union coach John Godinho and Heritage coach Erik Gonzalez said these wrestling events are special.
“It’s fun to have something new, being outside,” Godinho said. “It’s been a battle just to be able to compete. The kids have been working hard for a month now. I just think the kids are going to make the best out of the experience.”
“It’s like we’ve been telling the kids, it’s about making memories today,” Gonzalez said. “You’re never going to forget it. This is a day you’ll never forget.”