While the NCAA, NBA, MLB, and NHL have suspended all activities, the National Collegiate Wrestling Association held its tournament this past weekend in Allen, Texas. It seemed no matter that Dallas closed all recreation centers, libraries, and cultural centers; five UT Southwestern faculty were in quarantine after exposure to coronavirus; the mayor of Dallas banned gatherings of 500 or more people; Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a “state of disaster”; and this is just to mention a few reactions to the coronavirus. “I think a lot of this is driven by fear,” the NCWA executive director, Jim Giunta, said Friday on why he didn’t cancel the event. “We’re going to do everything in our power to create an environment that’s more than safe for our athletes. But after we do everything we can do, we’re going to operate on faith rather than fear.”
The event, not sanctioned by the NCAA, hosted 84 colleges as varied as East Carolina and Richland College and had over 600 wrestlers. University of Texas at Arlington coach Collin Stoner said, “I think when we start to cancel these events, the actual athlete and the hard work kind of fades away from them,” and that for him the virus was “on the back burner”, and that he was really proud that the tournament was not cancelled.
The tournament director, Giunta said that precautions such as posted signs about best practices to prevent the virus were placed around the venue, and he went on to state that any wrestler with a temperature higher than 100.4 was disqualified. But perhaps the best argument for having the tournament came from Jesse Castro, the Liberty University coach. He pontificated, “From a philosophical perspective, do I think it’s [reaction to the coronavirus] overhyped? Yes, I do,… “You know the talking points. We’ve dealt with this kind of stuff before. … We’re vigilant and we use common sense, but I refuse to live in fear. I’m not gonna do that.” He went on to say that he believes, as does Jerry Falwell, Jr., that the virus was being used by Democrats to impeach the president. Castro had 19 wrestlers in the tournament.
Every college and university owes its students and athletes wise decisions concerning their welfare. The administrators and coaches who allowed their wrestlers to participate in the NCWA tournament have shown poor judgement and a high disregard for the well-being of their wrestlers. For someone like Coach Castro to say that we have dealt with “this kind of stuff before” demonstrates that he has no grasp of the danger in which he placed his wrestlers, his college, and himself. I can only hope that none of the people involved become carriers or victims of this virus.