HEISER: York-Adams League wrestlers about to embark on 2021 season of major changes

Central York's Mason Myers competes in the 2020 PIAA Class 3-A state wrestling tournament. The 2021 3-A state tournament is now scheduled to be a one-day event on Saturday, March 13.
  • York-Adams League wrestlers can resume winter practices on Monday.
  • A handful of York-Adams teams are scheduled to begin match action on Saturday, Jan. 9.
  • The individual and team postseason will look much different in Pennsylvania.

It now appears that York-Adams League wrestlers will enjoy a 2021 winter sports season after all.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf loosened his COVID-19 mitigation recently, meaning the state’s wrestlers could resume practices on Monday after a three-week pause. A handful of Y-A teams are now scheduled to begin match action on Saturday, Jan. 9.

When the matches do begin, however, the upcoming season will look markedly different.

It many ways, it will be a brave new wrestling world.

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Facial coverings: First of all, the Y-A League is mandating that wrestlers  be required to wear facial coverings during practice and match competition, unless the wrestler can prove a medical exemption.

There’s little doubt that wearing facial coverings could lead to some issues, especially with the coverings slipping off during competition, leading to multiple stoppages. The ability of wrestlers to breathe properly while wearing a covering could also be problematic, given the extreme physical demands of the sport.

Some York-Adams League wrestlers to watch during 2021 season

Coaches, fans and wrestlers may not like the facial-coverings mandate, but most are likely willing to live with it in order to have a season during a pandemic.

Few fans, realignment: There will also be very few fans watching the action this season.

Dallastown wrestlers Michael Klinger, left, and Isaiah Feeney work during practice at the high school Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. After a three-week hiatus due to the state's COVID-19 mitigation order, high school sports practices resumed on Monday. Bill Kalina photo

The Y-A League is only allowing home fans at dual meets, and the schools will still be required to adhere to the state's stringent restrictions on indoor gatherings. It's expected, however, that many of the matches will be available via livestream.

The league also features a new divisional alignment this season. Gettysburg, the defending Division I champion, has been moved down to Division II, while Dover has moved from D-II to D-I. It's a decision that was based on updated enrollment figures, but it didn't make the folks in Gettysburg very happy. It is likely one of the reasons the Warriors are looking to leave the Y-A League for the Mid-Penn Conference.

It would be surprising if Gettysburg didn't roll to the D-II title this season, but defending D-II champion York Suburban may have something to say about that. Dallastown, the D-I runner-up to Gettysburg in 2020, is the likely 2021 favorite in D-I, while the Bermudian Springs dynasty is expected to continue in D-III. The Eagles have won a Y-A division crown in each of the last 10 years.

One fewer weight class: Additionally, there will be one fewer weight class in 2021, with the PIAA reducing the number of classes from 14 to 13.

The weight classes from 106-160 pounds will remain the same, as will the heavyweight limit of 285. But what was formerly the 170-, 182-, 195- and 220-pound divisions will be consolidated into 172, 189 and 215.

Thin lineups and forfeited bouts led the PIAA to propose a rule change to the National Federation of State High School Associations. The NFHS, however, stayed put at 14 classes for the upcoming season, while the PIAA opted for the class reduction.

The 2021 season has also obviously been delayed and shortened. Match action is now set to start nearly a month later than originally scheduled, and the Y-A League has mandated that league teams will be limited to schedules featuring no more than 18 competition points.

A much different postseason: The state individual wrestling tournaments will be single-day events for both 2-A (Friday, March 12) and 3-A (Saturday, March 13) with only eight wrestlers per weight class in each class.

New Super Regionals (in the East and West) will be held in 3-A and 2-A on Saturday, March 6. The Super Regionals will narrow the field to eight wrestlers per weight class for the state tournaments.

In District 3, the individual postseason is set to begin with sectional action the weekend of Feb. 19-20, followed by district and regional action before the Super Regionals.

Finally, the team wrestling championships were postponed to a date to be named later to allow schools more time to compete.

The event is likely to be held between March 13 and March 27, but it could be held on March 29 or March 30 if scheduling conflicts force a move past the end of the winter season on March 27. Only district champions will advance to the state team tournament.

Of course, all of the above is subject to change at a moment’s notice. The recent pandemic surge has plateaued in the state, but another post-Christmas/New Year’s surge is entirely possible, if not probable.

If another surge occurs, the fate of the 2021 high school wrestling season could still be very much in jeopardy.

Stay tuned.

— Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.