Wrestlers Adapt to Covid Changes as New Season Begins

Jarred Hubbard

With winter sports underway the 2020-21 wrestling season has begun. Coach Kevin Lake is entering his sixth season at the helm of the team alongside Jeff Muchua as assistant coach. Coach Lake has big aspirations and expectation for his team and is looking to take steps as a program.

“We want to win,” he said, “and with everything going on with Covid and all the protocols, we have a lot to prove this season, especially now that we are able to compete.” “We have a solid team, and we are on the cusp of being a really good team that can compete and win a championship.”

This year’s team includes seven freshmen and a “few sophomores,” as Lake puts it. “We are still a young team, but we can get it done for sure and we can still compete.”

And the wrestlers are ready. Elliston Ross is a sophomore who is a native of Bloomington, Indiana, where he was a standout athlete while being named 1st team All-Area at Bloomington South High School. He spoke about his goals and expectations for the team and how Covid has affected them as a team. “I honestly wasn’t expecting there to be a season due to everything going on with Covid,” he said, “but since there is, we just have to make the best of our situation.”

But Ross does acknowledge the disadvantages that Covid has brought to him and his team, “With wrestling being a contact sport, we lost a bunch of meets due to everyone being afraid--not what is going on but what could possibly happen and how things can get even worse,” he said.

The wrestlers must take three tests a week to ensure that they don’t have Covid. “This pandemic has really changed our lives off the mats,” Ross said, “but I believe this is something that we can learn from.”

The NCAA has put strict guidelines and protocols in place for all athletes, including the wrestlers. It has canceled Division III nationals due to this pandemic, but Ross is not letting that get him down. “I am here every day because these guys are my brothers,” he said. “We have an understanding that Covid has served as an opportunity to get better, mentor the Freshmen and get a tighter bond as a team and unit.”

Another wrestler, Jordan Napier, is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana, and was a standout at Perry Meridian High School. He’s a senior, so this is his last ride here as a Spartan. His final season has been challenging. “This year was very detrimental to me after having a stellar season last year with me qualifying in my weight class for Division III national,” he said. This year he doesn’t have a chance to win a championship due to the pandemic.

Napier recognizes that wrestling has really been a privilege for him at Manchester. “Covid has shown me that nothing is guaranteed,” he said, “even being able to play a sport that you love and that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into.”

He continued: “One thing I do thank God for is the ability to mentor these freshmen into being phenomenal wrestlers and students. “I want them to learn from my mistakes,” Napier said, “and to win this team a championship next year; we have so much talent that it’s unreal.”