HUNTINGTON — In an unprecedented move, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission suspended the Class AAA 145-, 152- and 170-pound weight classes from this weekend’s state tournament due to herpes infection coming from Region 4.
SSAC executive director Bernie Dolan said the decision was made Thursday to suspend those weight classes.
“You’d like to keep it on schedule but with herpes you don’t want an outbreak,” Dolan said. “We felt with that particular infection that was the best thing to do.”
The specific cause is herpes simplex virus type 1. The condition can cause lesions on the head, neck and shoulders.
Dolan said he would meet with tournament director Bill Archer to determine when those weight classes will be rescheduled.
“We need a minimum of 18 days to get beyond the incubation period and any treatment that anybody might need,” he said. “We’ll set a date in the future and we’ll meet with Mr. Archer to see if the arena is available.
“We know it [will be rescheduled] after March 8. There wasn’t a good way to resolve it. We felt like this was the best of the worst.”
Nine Kanawha Valley wrestlers — Hurricane senior Chase Gibson, Riverside sophomore Raequan McCray and St. Albans junior Josh Humphreys at 145; South Charleston senior Gary Anderson, George Washington sophomore Brayden Elswick and St. Albans sophomore Austin Atkins at 152; Hurricane senior Orian Pifer, Riverside freshman Christian Ramsey and St. Albans sophomore Isaiah Casto at 170 — are now forced to wait and see when they will compete for state championships in their respective weight classes.
St. Albans coach Daren Gilfilen, who now has three wrestlers in limbo, said he does not think the decision is fair.
“The rules were set in place,” he said. “If you didn’t pass a skin test, you shouldn’t be wrestling. On the double-A side, two Herbert Hoover boys went home today [for failed skin tests] and nobody said anything about that. If this was Kanawha County kids that had been infected they would have said, ‘Goodbye, see ya!’ It’s kids from Region 4 so they’ll work around it.”
Communicable skin conditions and skin checks are listed in the SSAC’s Interscholastic publication under “Points of Emphasis” for wrestling officials.
“This kind of takes away from the team thing,” Gilfilen said. “Now you have to figure out for three more weeks how to have practice for three kids that thought they’d be done this weekend. They’ll have to weigh in again, they’ll have to have another skin test in three more weeks. I don’t think it’s fair at all.”
Herbert Hoover’s E.J. Caldwell (195) and Ben Bailey (220 ) were both barred from competing this weekend due to failing the pre-tournament skin test.
Their weight classes, however, are still on schedule.
“Two of ours weren’t allowed to participate because they couldn’t pass the skin test,” Hoover coach Richard Harper said. “They got something over the weekend [at the regional tournament]. We treated it like crazy on Sunday. We worked on it and worked on it. We got here and took them back, it looked like it was healing up but daggonit you only have four days. They hadn’t had anything all year, then boom — week of the state tournament. I really feel bad for those guys. They’re heartbroken.
“We didn’t practice them in the room all week. We kept them at home to try and get medication, so I thought we had a chance to get them through, but, the physician on call here looked at them and didn’t think they could pass. Then all this other stuff popped up.”
When word of the decision began to find its way around the arena, many responded with anger. Several parents had to be escorted from the hospitality room after heated interactions with Dolan and tournament officials. Introductions over the arena’s public address system were drowned out by boos and other sounds of disapproval from the crowd after the initial delay. Wrestling, scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, did not begin until after 7:30.
“There’s no consistency with what they’re doing,” Harper said. “Some kids can pass, some can’t. Some kids have matches postponed for three weeks. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not consistent. I’m sure there are a lot of people upset. Me, I just figure it is what it is. I have to focus on my five other kids in this tournament.”
The state tournament continues Friday and Saturday in Huntington.