High school wrestler sidelined with skin infection shares concerns

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Mountain Pointe varsity wrestler Matthew Garcia said he came down with a mysterious rash a day or two after one of his meets.

“It’s mainly on my forehead but also in my scalp,” he told 3TV.

What Garcia initially thought could be chickenpox was diagnosed by his doctor as impetigo, a skin infection caused by strep or staph bacteria.

“I have a lot of itchiness and pain, and medicine I have to take,” Garcia said.

Garcia is one of about 15 Valley wrestlers from five different schools recovering from skin infections, which are now under investigation by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

“This investigation is really just beginning,” Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine said. “What we’re seeing is a mix of different ... common skin infections anywhere from ringworm to staph and strep bacteria.”

The Arizona Interscholastic Association has decided to move forward with tournaments this weekend but with added precautions, including stringent skin checks by qualified medical professionals. Anyone with visible lesions will not be able to compete, including Garcia.

“As his mom, my heart's broken for him because he's worked so hard all season and this is what he wanted,” Otilia Garcia said. “He wanted a chance to be able to compete to go to state. That’s been taken away from him.”

The AIA said it sympathizes with those wrestlers, but the health and safety of students must come first.

Charles Schmidt, the organization's chief operating officer, said the scheduling of the competition could not be postponed any further.

“We’re taking every precaution,” Schmidt told 3TV on Tuesday.

However, parents and coaches question how the skin infection spread in the first place, since skin checks are supposed to be part of every meet.

“I think it’s pretty safe and obvious to say somebody dropped the ball somewhere,” Otilia Garcia said. “We, as parents, put our trust in them to do their job as far as being diligent, doing due diligence as far as body checks.”

Matthew Garcia said he’s not afraid to wrestle again but he will take additional precautions.

“I’ll probably bring wipes and spray to meets and practice,” he said.

As for having to sit out the sectional wrestling tournaments, Garcia said he is frustrated but determined to come back stronger and healthier than before.

“We’re just going to have to hope it doesn’t happen again and Matthew will get a chance again next year,” Otilia Garcia said.

For more information, see the statements issued by the Maricopa County Public Health Department and the Arizona Interscholastic Association.