Junior Eric Miller (182), and sophomore Tate Geiser (145) qualified for the state tournament, and sophomore Sean Geiser (170) was an alternate. The Ohio High School Athletic Association decided March 26 to move the winter sports tournaments from postponed to canceled. PHOTO BY MANDY GEISER
By ARIEL STAHLER
Gazette & News sports writer
The Ohio High School Athletic Association made the decision March 26 to move the winter sports tournaments from postponed to canceled, which officially ended the season for many athletes, including three Dalton wrestlers.
The tournaments, including wrestling, ice hockey and boys and girls basketball, were postponed indefinitely on March 12 due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The start of the spring season remains postponed.
Three of those wrestlers who were set to go to the state tournament are from Dalton High School. Sophomore Tate Geiser (145) and junior Eric Miller (182) both qualified for the state tournament and sophomore Sean Geiser (170) was an alternate.
Dalton head coach Kenton Lemon said his wrestlers qualified the Saturday before the scheduled tournament and spent the following Monday trying to secure tickets for people to go cheer the athletes on. By Tuesday, they received news the tournament would possibly be postponed and tickets would be limited. The tournament was then postponed shortly after.
“At this point, no one really knew what to do or expect,” Lemon said. When the wrestlers learned of the cancellation, they were disappointed, he said.
“They had all worked extremely hard for the past four months and they had ‘made it,’ but they had just found out that they most likely wouldn’t get to compete at the highest level of high school wrestling. There were no words that I could say to fix this problem. It was a very helpless feeling. I had to take a page out of my own book and tell myself to not feel sorry, but to control the things that were in my control,” he said.
The team will have its annual wrestling banquet when the time is right. During the banquet, they will recognize the achievements of the team and individuals.
“One thing that I think we need to hang on to is the fact that Tate and Eric are both state qualifiers and Sean is a state alternate,” said Lemon. “There is nothing that can ever take that away from them. My heart goes out to these kids because they deserved their shot in Columbus.
“With the current situation, I truly believe that the powers that be made the right decision in doing what they thought was best for the well-being of our state and nation. While it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, I know that I am proud of our kids and I know that they are going to come back next year stronger because of this unfortunate situation.”
Besides these four winter tournaments, the only other cancellations in the history of OHSAA, which was founded in 1907, were for a few events during World War II.
“We are just devastated that the tournaments cannot be completed,” OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass said in a news release. “But our priority is the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, communities and officials. … Even if our schools reopen this spring, it will be difficult to find facilities willing to host the tournaments. Most campuses are shut down until mid- to late-summer.”