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No traditional pre-match warmup. No mat-side bench area. No getting your hand raised.

Those are but a few of the new rules and regulations the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has set under its COVID-19 Wrestling Guidelines and Considerations that have been sent to athletic directors statewide.

Practices for the 2021 New Jersey high school wrestling season will begin in three weeks, but it is going to be very different than what we’re all accustomed to.

The NJSIAA and National Federation of High Schools Wrestling Sports Committees collaborated on the new guidelines, which “are meant to decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets by encouraging social distancing, limiting participation in administrative tasks to essential personnel and allowing for appropriate protective equipment,”, according to the document.

The NJSIAA also noted that each school district could implement additional guidelines and restrictions.

Currently, spectators will not be allowed as per the executive order Governor Phil Murphy signed late last year. The stands will instead be used as the bench area for the wrestlers, which will allow for proper social distancing. Chairs in the traditional mat-side bench area will be limited to only the coach and two on-deck wrestlers.

If schools can provide two mats they are encouraged to do so and split the dual meet between each mat, alternating the 14 bouts which would allow each mat to be disinfected between bouts without significantly prolonging the match.

Sympathy for the Devil at Brick Memorial? Thunderstruck at Southern? Eye of the Tiger at Howell? Raritan’s Launch Pad intro? Not this year. The teams could theoretically enter the gym to their identifying music, but there will be no pre-match warm-ups on the competition mat. Perhaps that leaves a possibility of warming up on a different mat, but that seems unlikely given the other physical distancing measures put in place.

There will be no hugging, shaking hands or fist bumps between teammates and coaches and there will be no pre- or post-match handshake line between the two competing schools.

Wrestlers are expected to arrive at the school in their singlet/wrestling uniform and will weigh-in and have skin checks completed while wearing that uniform. Wrestlers will not be allowed to work out on site in an attempt to make weight.

Only the official scorer will handle the score sheet and writing implements should be sanitized and not shared.

Those who will be in attendance – school personnel, media, essential personnel – might want to keep their jackets on. Doors and windows are encouraged to remain open to allow for the best ventilation.

Officials, coaches and wrestlers must clean their shoes prior to stepping foot on the mat.

The winning wrestlers will raise their own hand instead of the referee raising the hand of the winner. Referees are also encouraged to use an electronic whistle or have several traditional whistles to periodically change out.

Members of the media will be prohibited from conducting interviews with student-athletes and may only interview the head coach at the discretion of the school and only in a designated area.

The guidelines state that “at the present time, participation is limited to dual meets”, but the NJSIAA has said its goal is to hold an individual state tournament.

The NJSIAA’s Season 3, which includes wrestling, gymnastics and girls volleyball, begins with practices for those sports on March 1. The first wrestling matches can be contested beginning March 16.


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights. 



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