COVID-19 shuts down Eagle Valley wrestling
No postseason for Devils
The Eagle Valley wrestling room is quiet this week, though the Class 4A Metro Regional Tournament is Friday and Saturday.
Devils wrestling’s season went by the boards, in retrospect, officially on Monday of last week because of a 14-day mandatory quarantine period for COVID-19.
Eagle Valley last competed in the Warrior Classic in Fruita Feb. 19-20. An Eagle Valley wrestler, who will not be named because of various privacy laws, started to have COVID-19 symptoms Sunday, Feb. 21. Those symptoms got worse on Monday, Feb. 22 and Eagle Valley wrestling, by rule, shut down.
When the Eagle Valley athlete later tested positive for COVID-19, that kicked in an automatic 14-day quarantine dating back to Feb. 22, making the Devils ineligible for regionals this weekend at Discovery Canyon High School in Colorado Springs.
“It was pretty devastating,” Devils wrestling coach Melvin Valdez said. “On that Monday, everyone walked in (to practice). That’s when I had to send everyone home.”
And just like that, wrestling season was over in Gypsum. Yes, the student-athete who contracted COVID is recovered. Yes, The rest of the team is fine. Yes, the rules for regular students and student-athletes and COVID-19 are different, which is probably the most upsetting aspect for those involved.
Yes, all involved, particularly in wrestling, knew that in some ways that this wrestling season was being contested on borrowed time, but actually having it happen still feels like a steel curtain fell from the sky and slammed a season shut surprisingly.
“In a way, the kids are used to it after football,” Valdez said, referring to Eagle Valley’s football’s two-week quarantine back at the beginning of that season last fall. “The kids are now mentally used to having things taken away from them. They’re used to bad news. We all knew that this season was hanging by a thread. I’m devastated because I think we had 6-8 kids who could qualify for for state and these six seniors have been with me for a long time. It’s heartbreaking.”
Taking a moment
There is no way around it — this stinks. There are other exciting words we can’t use in this forum that would probably be more accurate. You get the idea.
Valdez’s quote has two big nuggets in it. “The kids are used to it after football,” strikes a chord because for some reason or another COVID-19, at least so far in 2020-21, seems to be hitting Eagle Valley harder than other local athletic programs. (This is not a judgment, just an observation of events so far.)
When football got shut down for the first two weeks in October, that essentially wrecked their season. Boys’ basketball also got the big Q, and returned on Monday to play four games in six days to smash in as much of a season as possible. And now wrestling.
Then there’s “The kids are now mentally used to having things taken away from them,” which is just a sad commentary of this time in our lives.
So, we propose a primal scream for all to release some pent-up frustration. Feel free to proceed.
Breaking down the rules
Speaking of primal screaming, some of the reason for frustration is the different rules for students who are exposed to/or contract COVID-19.
If a student is identified as being around another person with COVID through contact tracing (if a person is within 6 feet of another person with COVID for more than 15 minutes), he or she goes into quarantine for 7 days. If the student shows no symptoms after that time and/or gets a negative COVID test, said student returns to class.
If a student tests positive for COVID, he or she quarantines for 10 days and can return with a negative COVID test.
However, if student-athletes get the virus or or come in the vicinity of it through contact tracing, it’s 14 days of quarantine, regardless of the distinction.
Everyone involved in these situations would like to see a little more nuance in the application of these rules. It does seem reasonable that if an athlete gets tagged through contact tracing but does not contract the virus or show symptoms, and tests negative for COVID that an accommodation could be made.
Then again, the priority remains getting in the school year statewide, as well as limiting the risk of spread in major postseason tournaments where schools gather from around Colorado.
The Class of 2021
Not only is this the end of wrestling season, but it’s the end of the high school careers for Abraham Garcia (heavyweight), Brian Garcia (220 pounds), Aiden Valdez (195), Daniel Gallegos (182), Jason Morrison (160) and Manuel “Bubba” Heredia (145).
Every coach, of course, loves his senior class every year, but it’s a little more special, and, in this case, more sad when those seniors include your son. Yes, Melvin coaches Aiden just like the other guys in the room, if not harder.
Of course, you’re the coach and try to create the proper distance, but as your kid grows, you meet his friends and see them all grow and they all become special. (Fathers coaching senior sons seems to be a trend in local wrestling.)
But Valdez believes that his seniors can wrestle at college and is encouraging them to do so.
“What I’ve told them from the beginning and throughout the years is that you don’t need a scholarship to wrestle in college,” Valdez said. Do your academics and walk on and then you’re not owned by the team. Get the money for academics and continue to wrestle at a junior college or state school.“