Cody Wheeler of Hockinson and Sammy Mederos of Washougal say they still intend to compete in all of their sports
In a normal year, Cody Wheeler would prefer to play football at around 200 pounds, combining his weight, strength, and speed to become quite the asset as a linebacker and running back for the Hockinson Hawks.
Then, after football season, he would head to the wrestling room, compete throughout the season, and get his weight down to 182 pounds.
That would be a normal year.
No such thing this year.
When the WIAA announced its tentative sports calendar to deal with the pandemic, executives were pleased that the potential is there for all sports to be offered. They also noted that some athletes would have to make tough decisions or completely change the way they approach their sports.
Wheeler, going into his junior year, says he is definitely going to wrestle. And he’s definitely going to play football.
But now, it will be wrestling first, then straight into football season. And if Wheeler wrestles at 182 pounds, he won’t have time to get up to his ideal football weight.
“It’s going to be weird going from wrestling to football,” Wheeler said.
The tentative WIAA calendar will be tough to navigate for the multi-sport athlete.
At Washougal, Sammy Mederos is a three-sports athlete: soccer, basketball and tennis. The last two years, she played soccer in the fall, then had a week or so off before basketball practice started. Washougal girls basketball is accustomed to playing deep into the playoffs. In 2019, the Panthers won the state title, and Mederos, then a freshman, missed some early-season tennis practices.
This upcoming academic year, though, basketball will come first. If Washougal basketball makes it to the final week of the WIAA calendar — in a yet-to-be-determined playoff plan — Mederos will miss the first week of soccer practice.
“I’m used to it,” she said. “I’m used to playing catch-up. It will be weird to play catch-up in a different sport, soccer, this year.”
Wheeler, who also intends to compete in track and field for Hockinson, and Mederos both say they plan to keep playing all of their sports.
Some athletes, though, might choose one over another. The sports seasons have been shortened and there are no gaps between Seasons 2, 3, and 4.
One athletic director at a small school said it likely will not affect a lot of athletes, but just one or two who decide to focus on football and not go out for wrestling, for example, could have a big effect.
Wrestling and basketball are Season 2 sports under the tentative calendar. Football, volleyball and girls soccer are in Season 3.
Here’s the catch with football, though: Football practice starts a week sooner than volleyball and girls soccer. Any wrestler or basketball player who makes it to the final week of competition in Season 2 will miss two weeks of football practice. Football games would start right away, and unless the WIAA changes its mandatory practice rule, those Season 2 athletes could miss multiple football games in a season that is already going to be shortened.
“Honestly, I’m not going to stop wrestling to go to football practices. But that’s just going to be weird,” Wheeler said. “It’s going to be tough. That’s crazy to think about.”
Wheeler is actually a four-sport athlete. He plays club baseball in the summer. He is looking forward to throwing the javelin for the Hawks in the spring.
Wheeler said delaying football until Season 3 works for those who are focused on football only. They will get six more months to build their bodies. Football is his favorite sport, but wrestling is a passion of his as well.
“The pride of placing in state is insane. In my opinion, it’s the hardest sport to place in and compete in at the state level,” Wheeler said of wrestling. “My goal is to place and even make it to the finals. It’s just been a huge goal of mine. I was so close the past two years to placing. I didn’t quite make it. I’m definitely going to wrestle and try to place as high as I can.”
Mederos will go from the first week of January (basketball practice) and possibly into the week of June 21 without a break with soccer and tennis.
“Honestly, I’m OK with that,” Mederos said. “The busier I am, the better. I love being active. Going home after school is kind of boring. I’d rather be outside or inside playing with a ball.”
She’d be training all summer, too, under normal circumstances.
“Right now, we’d be in the gym every day, but we can’t,” she said. “It’s weird and different.”
Athletes, like everyone else, will just have to adjust, hope for all sports to be played this academic year, and a return to normalcy next year.
“Hopefully there will be a vaccine soon so we can get back in there and play these sports like we should be playing them, and do it safely,” Mederos said. “I hope all of this is solved by senior year so I can have a full-sports senior year.”