PHOENIX -- High school wrestling tournaments are back on in Maricopa County, but with increased medical precautions.
Recent high school wrestling sectional tournaments were postponed after tournament officials learned that at least 15 wrestlers at five schools in Maricopa County contracted skin infections or showed evidence of skin lesions.
"We had information from Athletic directors, coaches, trainers, etc. that wrestlers after participating our past week had come down with either herpes gladiatorum, impetigo, some were concerned with MRSA," said Charles Schmidt of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
The Maricopa County Department of Public Health is investigating and said a diagnosis has not yet been made, despite speculation.
Public Health Officials hope to learn more information in coming days once they've contacted the students affected. In the meantime, AIA has decided tournaments will move forward this weekend, with added precautions.
"We're going to expand our skin check process we're taking on some additional qualified medical professionals to do those skin checks, and indeed move forward with an event," said Schmidt.
"At no point are we ever, and I want to repeat 'ever' going to put the health and safety of kids at risk," said Schmidt.
Local coaches say precautions were already being taken every time the wrestlers compete. The precautions include a skin check and a medical release form for any student with a skin lesion.
"The thing I'm having trouble grasping is how are these kids getting on the mats, who's dropping the ball," said Valley Lutheran Coach Bob Wolf who questions why the skin scare happened in the first place.
Coach Wolf says the postponement of the tournaments has affected wrestlers who had prepared last week for competition and maintained a specific, target weight.
"It's my last shot; it's definitely really frustrating," said Valley Lutheran Kase Randazzo. "Hopefully, everyone who deserves to go to state tournaments gets picked."
Randazzo is still waiting to figure out whether he'll qualify, since Division 3 and 4 sectionals were canceled. The Division 3 and 4 Tournaments will begin on Friday with an expanded bracket. Division 1 & 2 sectionals will take place Saturday.
Tuesday, this statement was posted on the AIA website:
Wrestling Post-Season Tournament Update
After the investigation of the reported skin infections, the AIA has rescheduled the Division III and IV State Wrestling Tournaments to Friday and Saturday, February 14 & 15, at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, Ariz. The Division I and II Sectional Wrestling Tournaments have been rescheduled for Saturday, February 15, taking place at their original locations as well. The Division I and II State Wrestling Tournaments will be held on Friday and Saturday, February 21 and 22, at Tim’s Toyota Center.
County Health officials say they have just now begun the investigation into the infections, and do not yet have a diagnosis. This weekend, staff will carefully check the wrestlers. Anyone with a suspicious rash or lesion will not be able to compete.
A fact sheet from the Maricopa County Health Department is available online.
You can visit the AIA web page here.