SDHSAA sets up major COVID-19 changes for wrestling


The South Dakota High School Activities Association’s Winter Sports and Activities Task Force has made recommendations for how to conduct high school sports this winter, but no sport is impacted as much as wrestling.

The sport was listed with the highest risk of those scheduled to take place this winter, while basketball and gymnastics were deemed to be moderate risk. The winter recommendations are scheduled to be considered by the SDHSAA Board of Directors on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Among the mandatory changes includes limiting tournaments to no more than eight-man brackets and 112 wrestlers in a tournament. Teams are required to have pods of athletes during practice and coaches only demonstrating and contacting one pod, in order to limit exposure. If a wrestler tests positive for COVID-19, then only that pod would be considered for exposure unless multiple pods interact with each other.

If a wrestler tests positive for the virus, all competitors the individual was exposed to over the previous 48 hours would be considered for exposure, as well.

“Due to the nature of the activity, any athlete, coach or individual that engages in a match, practice, sparring or other hand-to-hand activity in the sport of wrestling shall be considered for exposure,” the recommendations said. “The CDC guidelines are simply not applicable in wrestling given the nature of the sport.”


Teams aren’t allowed to have more than two days of competition in a calendar week, while a wrestler can only wrestle a maximum of four matches per day. Weigh-ins are being requested to be conducted at home.

Schools are also encouraged to consider restricted ticket sales and having no fans at tournaments. Teams are also expected to social distance when waiting to wrestle, while triangulars and quads should have teams arrive and leave on a staggered schedule.

“Schools should strongly consider restricted tickets or no fans at individual/multi-team tournaments to allow space for wrestlers to socially distance when not competing,” the recommendations said.

For multi-team events, teams are encouraged to have scramble matches, where following a dual meet, teams could have wrestlers at 138 and 145 pounds wrestle each other for a match that counts toward their varsity record but not the team dual score, as a way to get more matches in.

The SDHSAA did not make any final decisions on the state tournament. It plans on having the traditional events, but will have further discussions in the future regarding a potential split-site tournament, limited rounds, competitors and consolations.

Other mandatory changes to NFHS wrestling rules include:

  • In dual format, only competitors eligible to compete in the dual are allowed in the team bench area. Team benches need to be a minimum of 10 feet from the mat, and social distancing is considered.

  • The official timekeeper, head scorer, scoreboard operator, PA announcer and TrackWrestling operator are the only people allowed at the head table.

  • Officials need to catch the disk for all tosses and not allow it to touch the mat.

  • Referees can’t perform skin checks or check for grooming issues prior to a match. Skin checks will be done by a licensed health-care professional, which must wear PPE when performing skin cheeks.

  • Headgear needs to be cleaned between each match and competition. Tape can’t be worn on headgear.

  • There won’t be any handshakes before or after a match.

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