Finally, the 2021 wrestling season is upon us. There has been much anticipation as to what wrestling will look like during a pandemic, and we are finally about to find out. The 2021 IHSA season will be shortened similar to what has occurred in other sports.
Wrestling will be 8 weeks long, beginning April 19th and ending June 12th. There will be no individual tournaments, schools are restricted to wrestling dual events with a maximum of three schools at an event. Schools may participate against other schools that are in their conference, in their EMS region, or schools that are in other EMS regions yet within a 30-mile radius from school to school. Also, there will be no traditional off-season through the IHSA. The IWCOA will be hosting a State Series that will take place June 21-26 in Springfield, at the Bank Of Springfield Center.
Those are the facts, now we can sit and moan and complain about what should have been done, or argue about why this state or that state didn’t shut their sports leagues down. Those are valid points, but bickering back and forth is not going to change anything. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
At Illinois Matmen we are thankful that there is going to be a wrestling season. We are ecstatic to finally see our high school wrestling teams competing. We are choosing to celebrate this season like no other season has been celebrated because wrestling is back. The whistle is coming soon to a gymnasium near you, are you ready? Illinois wrestling is known throughout the country. Year in and year out we produce some of the most credentialled wrestlers in the sport, and this year is no different. Pandemic or no pandemic Illinois wrestling is a force to be reckoned with.
Right now, most schools are ending their first day of practice. The question for our Illinois wrestlers and coaches is simple, are you ready? Are you prepared to battle it out with some of the best wrestlers in the nation, right here in your home state. Matches will be scarce this season. Do you have enough guts to bump up a weight and challenge a tougher opponent, then you were scheduled to wrestle.
This season is for the die-hards, the grinders, the coaches, and athletes who found a way to workout against all odds. Those athletes that have been salivating at the mouth, to get another shot at the title. The ones who strive to be better today, than they were yesterday. The State Champions, coming back for one more ride. The State Qualifiers that would give their right-leg to stand atop that podium. The Sectional Qualifiers that just want to go make it down. Yes, this season is for you.
No, there will not be a lot of fanfare, who cares. The awards won’t be the same, who cares. There will be no trip down to Champaign, who cares. Wrestlers never wrestled for the fame anyway. Wrestlers, the real ones, are built different. They find joy in a 6AM run, solace in a 90 degree wrestling room. Wrestlers show up for the fight, for the competition. To put their foot on the line across from their opponent, look him in the eyes and tell him, “Bring it.”
Things will be different this year, but the competition will stay the same. The tough opponents are out there, waiting for you. Are you ready to find them? We have waited long enough, wrestling and everything that goes with it, the ups and downs, wins and losses, will be back. So yeah, there will be no trip to Champaign this season, but there will be a trip down to Springfield. See you on the mats. Welcome Back.