Missouri high school wrestling tournament delayed after fans fail to follow COVID-19 guidance

By Michael Smith
The Examiner

A Missouri State High School Activities Association official said there are no plans to change the rules for spectators at the rest of this week’s MSHSAA State Wrestling Championships in Independence despite a delay in the action because of COVID-19 concerns Wednesday.

The Class 1 tournament — the first of the four consecutive boys wrestling state meets at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence this week — was marred Wednesday by a mid-competition delay because of the failure of spectators to heed COVID-19 guidelines.

Several spectators are seated closely together without masks or social distancing at the Class 1 MSHSAA State Wrestling Championships Wednesday afternoon at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence. MSHSAA officials delayed the tournament for several minutes Wednesday because fans were not following mask and social distancing guidelines. The tournament resumed after people were moved from no seating areas and put on masks.

During the semifinals and third-round wrestlebacks, the tournament was stopped for several minutes by MSHSAA officials after some fans failed to adhere to social distancing guidelines and mask mandates.

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Greg Stahl, MSHSAA director of wrestling, had the wrestlers clear the mat around 4 p.m. to announce that the state tournament would stop until the crowd adhered to the guidelines at the arena.

He told the crowd that only wrestlers and on-mat officials are allowed to not wear a mask at the tournament.

“I absolutely don’t want to pause this tournament as we’ve done,” Stahl said. “I want to resume this outstanding day and this wonderful event. But there are kids in the tunnel right now waiting to wrestle – once I get the green light from the people I have to answer to.”

Signs at the entrance of Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence Thursday morning warn spectators to wear their masks before the start of the Class 2 MSHSAA State Wrestling Championships. The Class 1 tournament was delayed for several minutes Wednesday because many spectators failed to adhere to social distancing guidelines and mask mandates.

He then asked the crowd to move out of seats that are “clearly marked as not available to sit.”

Competition resumed a short while later after adjustments were made.

According to MSHSAA communications assistant Tyler Wall, there aren’t any plans to change the rules for fans attending the state tournament for Classes 2-4 Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He said fans must wear a mask and not sit in seats that are marked with blue tape to avoid any more delays.

The girls state championships on Tuesday started the string of state tournaments this week. It went off as scheduled with no delays.

Because of COVID-19 concerns, the tournament format was changed this year. Normally all of the five tournaments are held in a three-day span at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, but MSHSAA decided to hold five one-day meets at Cable Dahmer Arena – one for girls and one each for the four classes of boys March 9-13.

A sign inside Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence Thursday morning warns spectators to wear their masks before the start of the Class 2 MSHSAA State Wrestling Championships. The Class 1 tournament was delayed for several minutes Wednesday because many spectators failed to adhere to social distancing guidelines and mask mandates.