Prairie wrestling gets the go-ahead to proceed

Falcons, in quarantine after a positive test, expect to be cleared to compete next week

Jason Wilcox last had his hand raised in a high school wrestling event at the Tacoma Dome in February 2020.

He won a state semifinal match to advance to the finals.

After finishing second, he had hoped his senior year at Prairie High School would be the opportunity to claim a state championship.

Prairie High School’s Jason Wilcox, right, shown here at the Clark County championships in 2020, said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to wrestle one final time for the Falcons. Prairie’s wrestling program had been shut down, but new rules regarding the pandemic means the team is planning on being able to compete next week. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Prairie High School’s Jason Wilcox, right, shown here at the Clark County championships in 2020, said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to wrestle one final time for the Falcons. Prairie’s wrestling program had been shut down, but new rules regarding the pandemic means the team is planning on being able to compete next week. Photo by Jacob Granneman

Alas, no state tournament this year.

And for a while there, it appeared that there would be no final season for Wilcox and the Prairie Falcons. They were shut down just prior to the start of this abbreviated season.

It turns out, Prairie has just been given a final opportunity to wrestle.

“This is a very inspirational, very emotional moment for me,” Wilcox said Friday morning soon after word got out that he just might be able to compete next week.

If all goes well, the Falcons will be there Wednesday when the Class 4A and 3A wrestling squads in Southwest Washington get together for a mega-event. (There is even hope of adding a dual with another team next week, as well.) 

State health officials changed the rules — again — in dealing with the pandemic, and Prairie’s wrestling program, which is in quarantine right now, should be good to go by next week. With the new changes, Battle Ground Public Schools is ready to give its blessing for competition, as well, according to Tom Adams, the director of student services who runs athletics for the school district.

That was welcome news at Prairie.

“It’s a huge deal for me,” Wilcox said. “My senior year, I was really hoping to get something. I want to go out and at least be able to compete one last time with my brothers at Prairie, my family.”

Wrestlers from the region’s big schools started practice on April 12. But because the state mandated that every wrestler be tested regularly — something no other athlete in any other high school sport was required to do — the schedule was delayed. 

Each school district had to come to terms with the consequences of a positive test. For wrestlers, one positive test meant the entire team was considered close contact and would be put into quarantine. Again, that was different than any other sport.

When school administrators figured out the protocols, they came up with four mega-events on the schedule, with all nine teams from the 4A and 3A Greater St. Helens Leagues wrestling either outside (at Doc Harris Stadium) or at schools that have multiple gyms. These events would take place over a 12-day period. 

Still, they all knew that one positive test would shut down an entire program.

Prairie’s program had one positive test. The Falcons were not allowed to compete in the first and second event. The third event, set for Saturday, is also not possible, due to the quarantine schedules.

The Falcons could have been cleared by Monday to compete in Wednesday’s mega-event finale. However, the school district did not want to take a chance of one more positive test sending every wrestler into quarantine for another 14 days, Adams noted.

Battle Ground Public Schools, after all, is back to five-days a week schooling. Those wrestlers in quarantine now have already missed a number of school days. With seniors closing in on end-of-school celebrations, the district had said no to any wrestling competitions for Prairie.

But again, the rules changed this week.

Now, any positive test does not shut down an entire team. Just the pod of wrestlers that trained together that has a positive test. For example, a light-weight wrestler does not normally train with middle- and heavy-weight wrestlers. 

“This is outstanding,” Adams said. “It was middle ground to still allow these kids to participate.”

The new rules were released Thursday. Adams and other district leaders met soon after and made the call.

“Now knowing we have a fighting chance to compete one last time is a big thing for me,” Wilcox said. “It’s setting me up for a decent year because this year has been so bad.”

Wilcox acknowledged he is still mad that wrestling was singled out, that wrestlers had to endure so much more scrutiny than other high school athletes. But, he added, “I’m looking at the bigger picture.”

If all goes well, Wilcox will wrestle one final time representing the Prairie Falcons.

“I know I’ll be leaving the place hopefully better than when I got there,” he said.

After graduation, Wilcox is set to join the United States Air Force. He has enlisted and already been sworn in to serve.

Before that, though, he has at least one more high school wrestling mission, a last-minute assignment to serve Prairie’s wrestling program.

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