OHSAA seeks to move athletics out of state, wrestling to one venue – Business Journal Daily
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Coronavirus restrictions have prevented the state high school wrestling and track and field championships from being held at a single venue this school year, as each event was held at three separate high schools.
Other high school sports associations across the country agreed as their state meetings were also separated.
Ohio High School Athletic Association executive commissioner Doug Ute is looking to join Divisions I through III in every sport. Ahead of the 2021 season and ahead of the COVID-19 cancellation of both tournaments in 2020, the state wrestling meet was held at the Jerome Schottenstein Center and the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium for track and field – both on the campus of Ohio State University.
The Schottenstein Center can accommodate over 19,000 fans, while the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium can accommodate 10,000.
“We all intend to make this happen, so we are in negotiations and communication talks with the venue so to speak to make it happen,” Ute said. “I hope it will be finalized here in the near future.
“We are currently in communication with the State of Ohio at these two sites. “
The State Wrestling Tournaments in mid-March were held at Hillard Darby (Division I), Marengo Highland (Division II) and Marion Harding (Division III) High School. Marengo and Marion are approximately 40 to 50 miles north of Columbus. Athletics in early June took place in Hillard Darby (Division I), Pickerington North (Division II) and Westernville North (Division III) – all suburbs of Columbus.
According to a 2017 OHSAA financial report, wrestling and track and field were the fifth (wrestling) and sixth (athletics) top revenue generators for the state association among all sports. Wrestling accounted for 6.6% of income, but 7.8% of expenses (fourth most). Athletics generated 5.5% of revenue, while costing 7.9% (fifth more).
Ute was happy that the state’s athletes could compete last season, even though it was at separate venues.
“It was really cool to sit down and watch our kids compete in front of big crowds, which they didn’t have the chance to do for about a year to a year and a half,” he says.
Liberty High School wrestling coach Hadi A. Hadi says he has competed in the state wrestling tournament almost every year since 1990. One year was when his mother died, while the other was last season.
Even if it had wrestlers competing or not during those seasons, the beauty of the tournament is that you saw all three divisions at the same time, he says.
State coaches also use the state as a middle ground each year, watching the sport’s greats inducted into the State Wrestling Hall of Fame or seeing famous high school wrestlers from across the country. ‘State compete.
“There is a certain aura that you get at the state wrestling tournament with all the divisions,” Hadi says. “When it’s split up and you’re in high school, it feels like you’re at another wrestling tournament.
“I think most coaches want to see him come back.”
Austintown Fitch boys’ track and field coach Seth Steiner said last season had been like “culture shock”. His athletes competed at Hillard Darby.
He used to see other schools in Mahoning Valley from different divisions competing and supporting them as well.
“You’re so used to stepping into Jesse Owens, and it’s obviously such a unique and beautiful place,” Steiner says. “It’s perfect for athletics.
McDonald’s boys track coach Lou Domitrovich, whose team was a Division III finalist, said the state’s initial glimpse did not have a “mind blowing factor” as some of the facilities were not up to the competition at the state level.
“When kids get off a bus, especially for any kind of state tournament, you want them to be able to say, ‘Wow, I got it,’” he says. “It was a high school. It was showing.
“When we were in Dayton in the late 1990s and early 2000s at Welcome Stadium, a public stadium for schools, it had more of an effect than we have experienced this year.”
However, Domitrovich and Steiner praise the two high schools for hosting state tournaments without ever doing so before, adding that it couldn’t be easy for them. Each site was more than accommodating, making their athletes and coaches feel welcome.
Steiner says local meetings throughout that area and northeastern Ohio have done an incredibly good job of keeping meetings as normal as possible, navigating through COVID-19 restrictions. The end of the season did not seem like a high point like in previous years.
“It didn’t live up to the hype,” Steiner says.
Even if state tournaments don’t return to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium and Schottenstein Center, Ute says the OHSAA will pursue other options.
“We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t explore every possible place and put our kids in the best place we can afford and make possible at that time,” he says.
For now, talks for the state tournament venues returning to the Ohio state campus are resuming.
“We try to sort out the details and reduce them to the small details,” he says. “I hope to finish them in the very near future.”
Pictured: The state track meet was last held at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the Ohio State University campus in early June 2019. The 2020 season has been canceled due to COVID-restrictions. 19, but the State of 2021 meets in Divisions I through III were held at three separate high schools in the Columbus area.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.