SALEM, OR (KPTV) - As the beginning of the traditional winter high school sports seasons approaches, there is still much uncertainty about whether those sports will be able to proceed, particularly those that involve close contact.
Currently, guidance from the Oregon Health Authority doesn't allow full-contact high school sports like football, basketball, and wrestling to go ahead, leaving athletes to prepare for their potential seasons on their own.
"I've been training, weightlifting and CrossFit for a few months now, and I've been wrestling about four days a week," said Brook Byers, a Sprague High School junior who won the state 6A wrestling championship at 160 pounds last year. "Down in Albany, we have a mat room we've opened up a while ago."
Sprague's coach, Nolan Harris, said he's been told to plan to start the season on December 28, but he's not sure what exactly that would look like, given the current restrictions.
"With a sport like ours, there still needs to be maintaining six feet of social distancing," said Harris. "So it would be like shadow drilling with a mask. Could be lifting. Could be running."
With the season up in the air, and with the intention of continuing their wrestling careers in college, both Byers and his teammate Brayden Boyd, the 6A champion at 106 pounds in 2020, have been traveling to other states like Utah and Idaho to compete.
"As of now, I'm just trying to get in all the tournaments I can, not knowing what gonna be able to happen in the future," said Boyd.
Boyd said he and his parents are even considering transferring to a school in Idaho if wrestling season in Oregon doesn't look possible.
"In Idaho, they have tournaments going on and they have open practices. And it's pretty much like Oregon and California that have been shut down," said Boyd.
Byers, meanwhile, said time away from teammates during the pandemic has been difficult.
"It's been about nine months since I've been in a practice room with any of those guys. It's been pretty crazy, but I look forward to that a lot," said Byers. "You know, you build a bond with those guys and they're a big part of your lives."
The Oregon Health Authority last week adjusted its metrics for reopening schools, potentially allowing more districts to return to in-person learning.
It's not yet clear how those changes will affect high school athletics.
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