FHSU men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, preparing for season amid uncertainty surrounding start-date

BY MAKENNA ALLEN

Fall sports may be off the table for FHSU and the MIAA; however, winter sports still hold on to hope with a decision that is set to be made by October 1. 

The situation seems similar to the one faced by fall sports teams just weeks ago, but is different in one key aspect.  Instead of meeting to decide whether or not the season will happen at all, the MIAA will be releasing an announcement regarding whether winter sports, including men’s and women’s basketball and wrestling, will begin play as usual in November or mandate the season delay its start until January.  

For the women’s basketball team, only time will tell what impact the delay of the season might have on exhibitions against Connecticut and Kansas State on November 2 and November 5. 

Regarding the regular season, women’s basketball Head Coach, Tony Hobson, remains uncertain as to which direction the MIAA will decide.  However, he emphasizes the importance of preparing his team as though the season will begin in November.  

“As it sits right now, we’re planning on starting our season November 18 and regular practice on the 15.  It is still up in the air but all we can do is get ready for what could happen,” Hobson said.  “We don’t want November 18 to roll around and having us sit here doing nothing because we thought it was going to be January.”

For Hobson’s team, this means preparation as usual… but with some changes.

“We’re basically doing the same thing that we would be doing in a normal year with a bunch more precautions,” Hobson said.  “We’re wearing masks in the weight room.  We’re trying to distance.  We’re wearing masks in the locker room.  We’re doing everything we can and trying to do as much basketball as we can to try and get our conditioning to a level where we don’t all get hurt the first time we play.”

Whether this play begins in November or January, it will certainly come with a new set of regulations for all NCAA teams.  The entire FHSU women’s basketball team has already been tested for COVID-19 one time earlier this year.  The team is one of just three in the MIAA to do so thanks to a grant.  At this time, the rest of the teams in the league are screening for cases.

When practices resume for the MIAA, new testing measures will be put in place that follows a surveillance testing procedure.  This process would administer weekly tests a fraction of the team, but not the entire roster.  

The procedure shifts once again with the official beginning of competition.

“Once we start competition against other schools, then you test your whole team weekly,” Hobson said.  “ If you have any contest that week, you have to test the whole team.”  

The coach cited this expensive process as one of the reasons that fall sports were not able to continue for many Division II schools.

“That’s one of the reasons the fall sports were canceled because people were not set up to test 80 or 90 football players every week,” Hobson said.  “Basically, we were protocolled out of the season because they were pretty much impossible for a Division II school to follow.”

This is also one of the reasons that Hobson believes his team will be able to compete this season, whether at the normal time or later in the winter.  For him, it is about the numbers and the size of the team.

“It’s different for everybody: whether they can get funded, whether they can’t, whether they can get a hold of enough of the tests,” Hobson said.  “I think that’s why it’s still possible basketball could still have a season because we’re just looking at a lot smaller of a number of tests needed and things like that.” 

The men’s basketball team will also follow this logic as it looks to build upon its strong finish to last season.  The men went 7-3 in their last 10 games and 14-14 for the season.  If the current schedule holds, they plan to play in an exhibition at K-State, November 6.  The official season will not begin until later, however.

“As of now we are on track to start our season on November 18th with Washburn University at home,” Head Coach Mark Johnson said.  “This is obviously a fluid situation and could change at any moment.  Some other conferences in Division II have already moved their start dates back to January.  We are optimistic the MIAA starts as originally planned but will be prepared for any changes.”

Ultimately, the season schedule depends on the October 1 decision.  Also waiting on the results of this call is the FHSU wrestling team.  According to Head Coach, Erik Wince, much has yet to be decided.  

“I’m really hoping we start on time.   I’m optimistic that we’re going to do some sort of wrestling,” Wince said.  “What it’s going to look like at this point, I don’t really know.  It could be normal, it could be second semester.  It could be dual meets only, quad meets only, with no open tournaments.”

Though Wince is hopeful that some sort of season will take place, changes to the schedule have already been made with the cancellation of the Northwest Classic in Indianapolis.

“The only thing for sure that I know at least schedule-wise is that we’re not going to be going back to Indianapolis for the Northwest Classic,” Wince said.  “They already announced they’re going to cancel that which stinks because that’s a great mid-season precursor to your national qualifier.  That’s a really tough tournament and they’ve already canceled that.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the team’s schedule remains the same until the decision date.  Thus, like the women’s basketball team, the wrestlers must prepare for the season as usual.

“We’re doing some conditioning right now and we’re not doing any drilling or any actual wrestling at this point, just conditioning and lifting because once we start getting hands-on, we’re going to have to test every week,” Wince said.

This increased testing may present a problem for the team, making Wince’s priority the conservation of tests for the competition season.

“My goal is to hold out for as long as possible to just make sure we have enough tests that if they do say we can start wrestling in a normal time frame, then we can have as many guys wrestling every weekend as possible so we don’t exhaust all of our tests just trying to train,” Wince said.  “I want these guys wrestling.  I want them competing, not just training.” 

It is with this ultimate goal of competition that all three winter sports teams approach their season.  It is a time of waiting and preparation, however, as the Tigers wait to hear whether this season will begin in November or later on in the winter.  

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