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State wrestling meet pushed back

by Mitchell Gladstone | February 16, 2021 at 2:39 a.m.

With plenty of snow on the ground statewide and more slated to come later in the week, the Arkansas Activities Association announced Monday that its 2021 wrestling state tournament has been postponed.

The event, which was slated to run from Thursday through Saturday at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Jack Stephens Center, will be rescheduled for March 3-5 with the same schedule of events as originally planned. That means the girls tournament, in just its second year, will be contested March 3. The boys will kick off with opening rounds March 4 before concluding with the semifinals and finals the next day.

The AAA will allow all schools to have two more competition dates before the state tournament. But Greg Hatcher -- president of the Arkansas Wrestling Association, which works closely with the AAA to organize the annual competition -- noted that it would be "unlikely" that most teams would use either of those dates given the challenges of travel this week as well as the desire to keep their athletes healthy for the first weekend of March.

"We started thinking about this [possibility] whenever the ice came last week," Searcy Coach Jerry Evans said of the postponement. "I am actually glad that if they were going to push it out, they pushed it out as far as they did. That gives us a little time in the room after this melts away to polish things up."

The option to just delay the tournament by one week was not possible due to scheduling conflicts. The UALR men's basketball team concludes its regular season with home games against Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 26-27, so the Jack Stephens Center was not available until the following weekend. The UALR volleyball team has a home match on Saturday, March 6, therefore the wrestling event will occur from Wednesday through Friday.

The coaches still began their seeding meetings Monday, settling on the top female competitors, and they'll continue the process today while determining the state's top boys. Those seeds won't be announced publicly until March 3, when the brackets for the tournament are formalized.

One school expected to have several top competitors is Bentonville. The Tigers have won the past four Class 6A boys team titles, and senior Jake Adams will be going for a fourth consecutive individual state crown this year.

Unlike most Class 4A and 5A schools -- which held their conference tournaments last weekend -- Class 6A schools in Northwest Arkansas moved theirs up a week to allow extra time for wrestlers to get healthy and account for the possibility of a self-quarantine period in case covid-19 issues popped up.

With an additional two weeks until the season's premier event, it's possible the planning could backfire.

"Right now, we're as healthy as we've been all season ... so we were really looking forward to this weekend," Bentonville Coach Jason Adams said. "In the next couple of weeks it's going to be the same thing as this whole season -- just plugging away as best you can and try to keep everyone on the mat."

Paul Boyd of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: The Arkansas high school state wrestling championships were rescheduled to March 3-5 because of inclement weather. An article in Tuesday’s editions reported the wrong dates.

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