The lone college wrestling team in the region – North Idaho College – plans to have an upcoming season.
It just won’t start at its usual time.
The National Junior College Athletic Association recently announced it will begin wrestling matches on Jan. 20 and pushed the NJCAA championships in Council Bluffs, Iowa, to April 23-24.
NIC, which has won 14 national team championships, typically begins its season in early November.
In an effort to help curb the coronavirus pandemic, junior college wrestling teams will be given one month of fall practice in October before beginning official practices on Jan. 1.
The 2020 NJCAA championships in March were one of the few sports in the country to finish a national tournament before the pandemic halted athletics days later.
“It’s different,” NIC wrestling coach Mike Sebaaly said of the later start. “The nice thing is that we know we’ll have a season. By January, we expect to be returning back to normal, whether there’s a vaccine or it levels off.
“A lot of sports out there want an answer (about the 2020-2021 season) and fortunately we got an answer”
Sebaaly expects NIC to get about the same number of matches as it did last season, when the Cardinals finished ninth at the NJCAA championships. Duals against four-year NAIA and NCAA Division II schools may be affected, though, based on scheduling differences.
The Cardinals return a pair of All-Americans in Sal Silva (149 pounds) and Cohle Feliciano (285), who finished third and seventh in the nation last season, respectively.
The team will use the additional time in the first semester for freshmen to acclimate to college life, lifting, running and study hall and will begin the meat of its season after the Christmas break.
“I think making wrestling here a one-semester sport is a good change,” Sebaaly said.
“I know a lot of other coaches who like the format and hope it stays.”
Silva, an Arizona native generating interest from several four-year schools, agreed.
“We’re just figuring things out as we go,” Silva said. “I don’t think it’s too much of an issue. It gives us more time to keep training.
“Not getting into our matches as soon and maybe not getting as many matches is difficult, but as long as we’re in the room training, it won’t be hard of a switch.”
NIC will navigate local social distancing mandates and new NJCAA safety protocols to help prevent a potential coronavirus spread.
“Wrestling is more prepared to handle this than any sport,” Sebaaly said. “They already do a skin check before matches, mop the mats before and after the match. We can adjust to more things, like getting your temperature checked.”
NIC will have several locals on the roster in the upcoming season, including Lake City products Caden Hess and Seth Nutting, Ryan Quimby (Lakeland), Jordan Grimm (Post Falls) and Zach Granley (University).
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