The PIAA’s wrestling steering committee voted this past summer to reduce its weight classes by one.
Normally, that would be the biggest news going into the new season, which will officially start Friday.
COVID-19, though, bumped that notable development from the top of the list. The ongoing pandemic forced the PIAA to start its 2020-21 winter season a week late.
Here are five to consider during what’s assured to be an unprecedented season:
OPENING EVENT: Whatever action does take place, such as Saturday’s Fort LeBoeuf Duals, will likely be held at the whims of the individual school districts.
The Bison, now coached by 2007 graduate and former state champion Steve Waite, are scheduled to host fellow District 10 members Corry, General McLane, Saegertown and Reynolds. Waite said fans won’t be permitted to attend the day-long competition because of the pandemic.
Social distancing requirements, such as masks or facial coverings, also will be enforced for everyone except the wrestlers on the mat.
FEWER DIVISIONS: The PIAA voted this past July 15 to break away from the National Federation of State High School Associations and drop its total number of weight classes from 14 to 13.
Reducing forfeits in duals was considered the biggest reason for that decision.
The PIAA sanctioned 14 divisions between its 2002-03 and 2019-2020 seasons. Its weight classes for the last nine seasons were: 106 pounds, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285.
Starting Friday, those classes will be: 106 pounds, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 172, 189, 215 and 285.
MINISCULE MEETS: COVID-19 already has caused the cancellations of events like the Top Hat Invitational. The Williamsport tournament was considered one of the biggest during the season’s opening weekend.
The Tool City Tournament in Meadville is traditionally held the first weekend in January.
Bulldogs athletic director Jon Frye said the meet was still on as of Wednesday, but its status is tentative at best. Meadville’s students are currently taking classes from home, and the school’s winter sports have yet to start practice.
The PIAA requires teams to have 15 practice sessions before teams and individuals can start to compete.
Even if Tool City does take place, Frye said it would be limited to a six-team event with no fans.
Still on is Canon McMillan’s 54th annual Powerade Tournament, which will run Dec. 28-29. It’s long been considered one of the nation’s best regular-season wrestling tournaments.
However, Canon-McMillan officials moved the event to the Monroeville Convention Center in Pittsburgh to better comply with the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. Prep, Saegertown and Reynolds are District 10 teams listed as participants.
POSTSEASON: COVID-19 also is forcing PIAA officials to streamline its postseason.
Wednesday’s board of directors teleconference meeting included a vote to revamp the format for February’s team wrestling tournament.
A 16-team, single-elimination event for Class 2A and Class 3A would include on-site duals for the first round on Feb. 8 and the quarterfinals on Feb. 10.
All semifinal and championship duals would run Feb. 12-13 at a locale to be determined.
The format for the state’s ensuing individual tournament has yet to be announced, although a “super region” tournament is expected to be added between the region meets and a one-day state meet.
FINALISTS RETURN: Gary Steen should consider himself fortunate.
The senior lightweight for the Reynolds Raiders received his second PIAA 2A gold medal when last season’s tournament at Hershey’s Giant Center concluded March 7. That was four days before the pandemic began to lead to the cancellation of athletic events throughout the nation.
Steen’s second state title validated why the University of Pittsburgh successfully recruited him ahead of his junior season. He remains verbally committed to the Panthers.
Cathedral Prep junior Jake Van Dee is the district’s other returning wrestler who reached a PIAA championship match this past March. Greater Latrobe’s Vincent Kilkeary won their 106-pound final in overtime.
Mike Copper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ETNcopper.