Rather than spending Saturday figuring out how to reach the state finals, Arizona high school wrestlers were figuring out what to do next.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) on the eve of the wrestling sectional tournaments announced that the events would be canceled due to a skin disease outbreak among some programs. The AIA stressed that the illness was not MRSA, but as a precaution postponed Saturday's sectionals.
The state championships are scheduled to run Feb. 13-15 at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. The AIA on Monday will announce its new plan for the postseason.
In the meantime, teams were left scrambling to restructure their weekend. Some, like Chino Valley, were already en route to their sectional tournament destination when word came down.
The Cougars headed to Winslow a day early to avoid any snow, and their bus had made a snack stop at a Circle K when the call came. Head coach Allen Foster had to tell his wrestlers.
"They all looked at me after they realized it wasn't a joke," he said Saturday. "They thought I was tormenting them."
The Prescott team was literally boarding its bus and was just about to hit the road.
"I was all pumped, but those boys were really pumped man," head coach Eric Koehler said. "It's too bad."
The immediate concern running through both teams with the new delay was each wrestler's weight.
"Some of them were cutting weight, and that's kind of a hard deal to do," Koehler said Saturday. "You cut weight all week long and then they tell you you can't wrestle. They were just a little upset."
And the Chino Valley wrestlers, after all, had stopped to get food. Now, with no new schedule for sectionals yet, figuring what or what not to eat is a sudden concern.
"They were asking me, 'What can we eat? What can we do?'," Foster said. "If we wrestle again on Monday it makes a difference on how much you eat or if you don't wrestle until Thursday. We've got some guys cutting weight. They were stressed out on what they could do."
Although the Prescott bus never left, Koehler traveled to Phoenix Friday for a previously scheduled seeding meeting. Both Koehler and Foster have heard a couple rumors about what may lay ahead, everything from sectionals possibly taking place this Tuesday to keep the weekend's state finals schedule intact to having no sectional round and going instead with a huge 64-man bracket and, the theory goes Koehler guessed, "have everybody go to state."
Chino Valley spent Saturday practicing "pretty hard," according to Foster, in what could be the team's last day for a full practice. Sunday is an off day, and Monday, along with school, is the day the AIA is expected to announce the new plan, which will certainly affect how each team goes forward.
"One of the guys made the comment that it doesn't even feel like a state tournament," Foster added. "I said, man, it is a state tournament, just so you know. No matter when it is, it's still the state tournament. You've got to get back up for it."
The Badgers, meanwhile, had a health scare of their own last month. The team had to bow out of a local dual against Bradshaw Mountain and Chino when six of its wrestlers contracted a staph infection.
"We got ours under containment, and we were able to get everybody in our (wrestling) room to the doctor and on medication to cure the ailment," Koehler said Saturday.
The Badgers eventually received a clean bill of health. Koehler heard that six or seven teams in the Valley had kids unable to wrestle on Saturday due to the skin infection, which the AIA hasn't identified.
"The biggest thing is not knowing when we're going to be able to wrestle. The main thing right now is we're trying to focus on keeping their endurance, keeping their cardio up, and just trying to focus on the positives here," Koehler said.
"We are going to be able to wrestle here pretty soon, and try to keep their spirits up. Get in there and still drill, and be prepared for it."