MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – The PIAA made two significant adjustments to winter sports as a result of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown of all sports until at least Jan. 4 by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.
On a virtual meeting Tuesday, Dec. 22, the PIAA adjusted the number of days teams will have to practice once practice can resume before playing contests, including reducing the mandatory 15 days of preseason practice to 10 days for teams that hadn’t practiced prior to the shutdown.
In addition, the governing body of Pennsylvania scholastic sports also decided to move its wrestling team championships to after the individual championships. The team championships had been scheduled for Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 but will now be held at a date to be announced following the individual championships, which are scheduled to be held March 12 and March 13.
The practice day change is significant because teams now have a sliding scale for the number of practices they need to have before competing in contests.
If a team had at least six of its preseason practices prior to the Dec. 12 shutdown of sports across the Commonwealth, they will need to practice four additional days before playing. If a team had five preseason practices in, it will need to practice for five days, if it had four preseason practices in it will need to practice for six days, if it had three preseason practices in it will need to practice for seven days, if it had two preseason practices in it will need to practice for eight days, if it had one preseason practice in it will have to practice for nine days, and if it hadn’t started practice it will have to practice for 10 days. Prior to the change, every team needed to have 15 days of preseason practice before competing.
“The board felt it was important to establish a common theme for practices where some schools started, some did not, and some had a partial start,” PIAA President Frank Majikes said. “This will give member schools direction to return to competition on Jan. 4, 2021, per the Governor’s order.”
If Governor Wolf doesn’t change the date for resumption of youth/high school sports – something he has not indicated he will do but based on history from last spring is a possibility – the first “play” date for teams who have had at least six preseason practices would be Friday, Jan. 8, while teams who have not practiced could theoretically start by Friday, Jan. 15, as long as they practiced six days, took a day off, and then practiced four more days.
For spots where the school is required to utilize off-campus (community or private facilities) for their hosting of a sport, specifically the sports of swimming, bowling, rifle, and girls’ gymnastics, the requirement would be five days instead of 10.
Virtual practices are not allowed, and a school may not shorten the days of practice before competition by hosting more than one practice in a day. Five practices will be needed before the first scrimmage unless six or more practices have been completed then only four practices will be needed before a scrimmage or regular-season competition can take place.
All changes to the number of preseason practices are only for the Winter 2020-21 season.
As for the team wrestling championships, a date will be set at a later point in time and will follow the individual championship. This will allow schools to expand the number of weeks for regular-season competition.
District 10 chairman Pete Iacino told D9and10Sports.com that District 10 has not set a date for its team championship, but that date will most likely fall in line with whatever date the PIAA chooses for its team championship.
Iacino said no different than the PIAA changing its championship format to only include district champions in basketball and team wrestling, the change in team wrestling will potentially allow for teams to now have more competitions before the championships.
“Right now, we are playing it by ear,” Iacino said. “We will know more when we are back to practice. That will be the first step.”
District 9 wrestling chairman Randy Cathcart said District 9 will postpone its District 9 team championship, but he also believes that holding a team championship after the individual championship will be difficult.
“It is going to be difficult to run a team championship after individual championships are over because of a lack of interest,” Cathcart said.