SOUTHERN COLORADO — On Monday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) informed all CHSAA schools that high school wrestlers competing in the championship tournament must take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of competing. Anyone with a positive result will not be allowed to compete.
CLICK HERE to read the full letter from CDPHE.
The championships start in Pueblo with female wrestlers on Thursday. No testing was required last week for the qualifying tournaments.
"Maybe if they told us, 'hey if you qualify you have to do this,' so people could have been prepared and they could have maybe been budgeting. Because with the timing of it, some of the tests that are free are a little slower."
In this letter, the state explains there have been COVID-19 outbreaks associated with school-sponsored and club wrestling. Masks are not worn when the athletes compete. As of March 2021, CDPHE reports there have been 15 outbreaks associated with wrestling, and 61 documented cases have been directly attributed to the outbreaks.
The information released by the state says the COVID tests must be taken within 72 hours of a match. On-site testing will be available if needed, and anyone who gets a positive test result will be sent home, if they can be. Athletes should estimate around 45 minutes for on-site testing.
Mesa Ridge High School has four female and four male wrestlers competing in the championships. "We've been happy to have a season and we really wanted a culminating event, we wanted a tournament, so if this is what it takes, fine... It was a little rough that it came on Monday evening and we had to piece it together in a couple of days, but all my girls got it done, and everything's good," said Rob Braaten, the head wrestling coach at Mesa Ridge High School.
Female wrestlers had less time than their male counterparts to get their COVID test, since their matches start on Thursday. Isabella Cross is a freshman at Mesa Ridge who's been wrestling for seven years. She said the changing precautions around the sport caused by COVID can be confusing. "A lot of the rules just don't really make sense. Like, when you can't shake hands with the other person even though you're wrestling them," said Cross.
Another competitor is Matthew Moore, who is ranked number one in his heavyweight class in the state. The sophomore said he got his COVID test on Wednesday. "I feel like it's needed, and it's definitely for the safety of the competitors and the crowd, which is nice, but we really should have had a lot more notice on it, especially with not many people providing results within the 72 hours," said Moore.
Despite the timing issues noted by several other high schools in Southern Colorado, the ultimate goal is getting their athletes to the mat. "It can be an excuse, it can get in your way, or it can just be some cool story to tell at the end when you're a champion," said Braaten.
News5 did reach out to CDPHE to try and learn more about the on-site testing process, but was referred to their press release.
CDPHE makes last minute requirement for CHSAA state wrestling tournament