Mineral County’s wrestlers on the mat for 2021 season
By Chapin Jewell
There is perhaps no scholastic sport more affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than wrestling. For obvious reasons, the literal close contact aspect of the sport means skin to skin and breath to breath contact, all the time; there is no avoiding it.
As such, there is natural concern from administrators, health professionals, and yes, parents, with respect to the increased chance of COVID transmission from wrestler to wrestler. Despite the obvious concerns, protocols have been mandated to keep wrestlers as safe as possible.
So, there will be a 2021 wrestling season in the Mountain State, in fact, it’s already under way in Mineral County as both Frankfort and Keyser now have a couple practice sessions under their belt. With the added concern from parents, there has been a drop in numbers at both schools, but the show will go on with a dedicated group ready to don the singlet for the Falcons and Tornado.
“Day number one went really well. Having the week of conditioning allowed Coach Peer and I to go over the changes and the things that we expect from the kids each practice, along with the requirements we have adjusting to COVID-19,” Frankfort wrestling coach Jason Armentrout stated. “We did our temperature checks and our screenings, and then got the kids on the mat.”
According to Armentrout, “As always, we start the first couple of days pretty easy, but the kids knew what to do. We have to monitor the kids, how they’re feeling, they have to bring their own water, etc., so things are somewhat different.”
Keyser wrestling coach Colin Rotruck had the same positive vibes from his Golden Tornado after the first couple of practices, “The first couple days went really well. I actually was pleasantly surprised at how the kids have adapted to the stipulations and regulations, but I think all those kids are starting to get used to it.
“I think out of my 16 wrestlers, 13 of them are football players. So, I have a very athletic group, but I have a very inexperienced group,” Rotruck stated. “I have good kids who are willing to work and they’re athletic, but I’m not sure about their wrestling skills. I feel like we’re really pinched for time, and now with the weather and cancellations, I’m worried about trying to get my 14 practices in.”
At both Frankfort and Keyser, both squads enter the 2021 campaign with noticeably smaller numbers, but again, this is attributed to COVID-19 concerns. The numbers may be lower, but the special level of commitment required by wrestling means of course that Frankfort and Keyser wrestling supporters can expect the same maximum effort they’ve come to expect from both programs.
At Frankfort, the Falcons will hit the mat with eight wrestlers in total. At Keyser, the Golden Tornado will do battle with a roster of 16.
“We’ve only got eight kids right now and I think our numbers are down because of COVID. The act of wrestling, there is just no such thing as social distancing, so I think that has limited the numbers. But the kids we do have, we have a lot of veterans, we have kids with a lot of experience, even our ninth graders come in with a lot of mat club experience,” Frankfort’s Armentrout detailed.
“This year because of the experience we have, with the eight we have, we are right where we expected at Frankfort,” Armentrout stated. “A lot of these kids did off season work, being part of clinics and such they were able to get to. They are pretty much where we expected.”
“I have 16 kids, and to put that into perspective, that’s the lowest number I’ve had in probably 10 to 15 years. I had a big graduating class last year for wrestling, but I have had kids tell me that their parents didn’t want them to wrestle because of COVID,” Keyser’s Rotruck explained. “So, I would say, yes, the drop in numbers mostly has to do with COVID.”
“I’m hoping to win more matches than we lose, that’s my goal. I’d like to qualify a couple of those young guys to state and give them the experience they need to compete over the next several years,” Rotruck detailed.
For both Keyser and Frankfort, the composition of the wrestling schedule for 2021 has a different look. Gone, for the most part, are tournaments, the likes of which had previously filled both schedules. This season, there will be more head-to-head duals, tri-matches and quads.
“We’re not going to any tournaments except for PVCs, and that’s actually the first tournament of the year, the first time we wrestle,” Rotruck explained. It’s a split tournament where half the kids go Friday and half go Saturday. But, that’s the only tournament we go to. In year’s past, 80 percent of our schedule was made up of tournaments, so that ratio has flip flopped.”
According to Rotruck, “We’re trying to stay close to home and wrestle regional opponents. But, I’m excited about the head to head matchups. I really like the dual meet atmosphere, and we’ve always had really good dual teams, because we fill the lineup, we’re a bigger team.”
“I’m really excited about that, I just wish we had more wrestlers to fill the lineup. Some of my most memorable matches as a coach were some of those head to head close matchups that came down to the last match,” Rotruck stated.
“There’s a lot less competitions than normal,” Armentrout stated. “We’re also starting right off the bat with the PVC tournament, which is usually at the end of the year before regionals. There are very few tournaments outside of that, everything else is just duals, tris and quads, and that’s it.”
The United States Marine Corps has identified themselves as, ‘The Few. The Proud.’ In many ways, Frankfort’s eight and Keyser’s 16 wrestlers may identify this year as the same.
Despite the lower than normal numbers, both Frankfort and Keyser will wrestle proudly in 2021 under the banner of their school and county. Wrestling always requires extreme commitment, in 2021, that commitment is amplified.