LHS opts out of wrestling season

LHS opts out of wrestling season

Lincoln head coach: It's best 'to err on the side of safety and caution'

LINCOLN – While Lincoln High broke out its bats, gloves, tennis rackets, hurdles, and lacrosse sticks on Monday for the start of its spring teams’ workouts, its wrestling mats remained tucked away in the storage area.

Last Thursday, Gov. Dan McKee gave the green light for high-risk indoor sports in this state to return to action, and while that meant the RIIL’s 2020-21 wrestling season could roll out its mats on Monday, it still kept a few schools on the sidelines.

One of those schools was Lincoln, whose head coach, Mike Tuorto, confirmed last Friday that the Lions, who had opted out of this season prior to McKee’s announcement, will still take the spring off and set their sights on the 2021-22 season that is slated to begin after Thanksgiving.

“The administration, the coaching staff, and (athletic director) Greg O’Connor decided with (wrestling) being a high-risk sport, and with close proximity, to err on the side of safety and caution and opt out,” he noted. “When you err on the side of safety and caution, you’re never wrong in my opinion.”

Tuorto gave quite a few reasons why it was in the best interest for his team to opt out, and as a coach in another high-risk sport, serving as an assistant on the North Providence High football team, he saw on a weekly basis the number of games across the state that were either wiped out or postponed because of COVID issues.

While the Cougars were fortunate enough to play in four games after their season opener with Scituate get cancelled because of COVID issues in the Spartans’ camp, the Lincoln football team took the field for its first two games before missing its final three for the same reason.

“Obviously, I hope everyone that’s wrestling is all healthy and that there are no cancellations,” said Tuorto. “But after coaching football and seeing what happened because of COVID, I’m sure that there are going to be some positive cases that arise during wrestling.”

“Obviously, our administration didn’t want to go down that path, especially with all the senior events coming up that the kids missed out on last year,” he offered. “I would have hated to see it if we wrestled and ended up going into some type of quarantine, and because of that, seniors weren’t able to walk across the stage for their graduation. That would be very unfortunate.”

If you took a look at the expected roster that Tuorto would have carried this winter had there been a normal season, you could see another reason why it was best to opt out early. More than half of his wrestlers are multi-sport athletes, and some of the names on his roster are also on the Lions’ baseball, lacrosse, volleyball, and track and field teams.

“We weren’t going to hold them hostage just in case that we weren’t cleared for competition,” Tuorto said. “We wanted them to be able to play their spring sports, especially after not having a season last year.”

Tuorto also noted the protocols that have been put into place for wrestling this spring, such as the mandatory COVID testing, the washing of the mats after every match, and the wearing of masks, which he frowned upon the most.

“Wearing masks to wrestle is not the most ideal thing,” he added. “I said from the get-go that if we were going to be coaching and wrestling wearing masks, that was something I didn’t really feel comfortable with because of the safety aspect of it. What if a kid’s mask gets stuck? If he has braces and a mouthpiece? What if he has asthma?”

Despite sitting out the campaign, Tuorto still plans to follow the RIIL season, “and I wish all the other schools nothing but success,” he said. “Obviously, it’s disappointing that we’re not going to wrestle, but we’re still in a pandemic, and like I said, we’re always going to err on the side of safety and caution.”