By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - While it seems impossible to come up with a realistic plan to save March Madness under the current circumstances, wrestling is different.
Wrestling is different because its national championship under normal circumstances is held at one location over just three days, whereas March Madness is held over three weeks, and at multiple locations.
That’s why there is hope that something might change with regard to the 2020 NCAA Wrestling Championships, which was supposed to be held next Thursday through Saturday in Minneapolis.
The next two or three weeks will be critical in determining how the sports world will carry on from the threat of the Coronavirus.
But even under the current conditions, there would seem to be an opportunity to hold the NCAA Wrestling Championships, at least at the Division I level where Iowa competes.
A caller to KCJJ radio on Saturday morning shared his plan to save the wrestling championships, and it made a lot of sense.
The caller said he works in Cedar Rapids with the mother of Iowa wrestler Spencer Lee, so the caller, obviously, has an emotional attachment and knows just how much Lee and his family members are hurting right now.
Lee was considered almost a lock to win his third consecutive national title at 125 pounds, and that would have moved him a step closer to becoming Iowa’s first four-time national champion at any weight.
The caller’s plan would have the wrestling championships cut to a one-day event that would include the top eight qualifiers at each of the 10 weight divisions.
It would take three victories to crown a champion at each weight, but that seems within reason for a well-conditioned wrestler who is chasing a dream.
Each of the wrestlers and their coaches would be tested for the Coronavirus and then held in quarantine, along with select family members of the wrestlers, for the week leading up to the event.
That would be less than 500 people that would have to be tested if you combined the 80 wrestlers with the parents and coaches.
And with South Korea reportedly conducting at least 10,000 tests per day, it hardly seems unreasonable.
Then you pick a smaller venue to stage the event and test everyone that would be needed to pull it off from an operational standpoint, and suddenly, the impossible would seem possible.
It wouldn't match the normal setup, but would be better than nothing.
The health risk would also be low if handled the right way, and the one-day event would serve as a nice distraction at a time when people are scared, confused and angry.
It’s hard to think of a way to save the spring sports season, which had just started at the collegiate level with baseball, softball and track and field.
But to stage a one-day wrestling tournament that means so much to its participants hardly seems beyond reach.
In no way is this an attempt to minimize the seriousness of the Coronavirus, and its potential danger.
We’re navigating through uncharted territory, and the best way is to proceed is with an abundance of caution.
But it still would seem possible to stage a one-day wrestling event while using an abundance of caution.
It’ll be interesting to see how Iowa fans respond to the caller’s idea because nobody has more to lose right now than Hawkeye fans.
Iowa finally was in position to win a national title for the first time in a decade.
Lee and his cohorts won the Big Ten title, and Iowa had national qualifiers at each of the 10 weights.
Penn State has won eight of the last nine national titles, but its current team was vulnerable, and not quite at Iowa’s level.
But that doesn’t mean for sure that Iowa would’ve stopped Penn State’s dominance.
That’s why you compete.
And this competition could all be decided in just one day, and under very safe conditions.
Some might say this plan is too far-fetched and not feasible. But if we’ve learned anything from the past few days, it’s that almost anything is possible.