Sports deemed high-risk try to make most of hand they’re dealt  

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

As players and coaches waited for word on the winter sports season, the handwriting was on the wall that sports deemed a high risk for spreading COVID-19 — including competitive dance, competitive cheerleading and wrestling — would not have any competitions this season.

When the CIAC on Jan. 14 announced its plan for the season, it became official. The plan limits wrestling, competitive cheerleading and competitive dance to only small-group conditioning and non-contact skill work.

Indoor track, which is categorized as a moderate-risk sport, won’t have competitions until possibly March at the earliest due to a lack of suitable facilities throughout the state.

“I’m sad and upset with not having a wrestling season this year,” said Naugatuck senior Logan Wilcox, who has wrestled as a team of one with Pomperaug. “I wholeheartedly agree with the decision to cancel and feel terrible that kids are going to miss out on the great sport of wrestling.”

“You learn about discipline, work ethic and grit,” Logan added. “But putting the athlete’s health and the community’s health first is a lot more important than high school sports.”

Woodland junior wrestler Elias Sturdevant, a two-time Berkshire Valley champion, said he will take advantage of the opportunity to condition this season to stay in shape for next year.

“Although I’m disappointed with the lack of competition this year, I understand the cancellation and will continue to work hard during the offseason,” he said.

Woodland won its first Naugatuck Valley League dance championship last season and was looking to repeat under first-year coach Charlotte Stenz, who graduated from the University of Alabama last May and was a member of the Newtown High School dance team.

Stenz said the team was looking forward to defending its title, but the girls have had a great attitude about the constant changes this season.

“We are extremely disappointed that there will not be a competitive season but we are excited to still have the opportunity to practice,” she said. “We will continue to dance together for the duration of the season, but it will look a little different with some fun projects in the works.”

Stenz said the team will start conditioning in a couple of weeks and training for next season.

“We are just excited to be able to get back together and make the most of it,” she said. “I think the reason the sport is deemed high-risk is because of the transitions of formations where dancers could be in close contact.”

Naugatuck would only have competed in competitive cheer this season — the Greyhounds don’t have a dance team this year — but now cheerleaders will only be able to cheer along the sidelines at basketball games.

“As far as our cheerleading team goes, they are only allowed to sideline cheer,” Naugatuck athletic director Brian Mariano said. “Sideline cheer excludes stunting, tumbling and lifts. But they will be allowed to cheer at the basketball games.”