CR wrestlers working through unusual conditions

Caesar Rodney’s Kevin Hudson.

CAMDEN — Kevin Hudson already owns a pair of DIAA wrestling state titles.

But the Caesar Rodney High heavyweight would love to win a third state crown this winter.

“I like to be the best — I like to wrestle the best,” said Hudson. “I want to show everybody what I can do. And as a team, we go hard every day and want to do great things together.

“I pray every day. I want it bad. I want my name on the wall again.”

That’s why Hudson and his teammates were at practice by 8 a.m. on Monday — in CR’s cafeteria — preparing for a season that might not even finish with a state tournament.

At the moment, the Riders have eight dual meets on their schedule, starting with a 4 p.m. home match against Polytech on Jan. 13. CR is slated to have its seven Henlopen North matches plus a non-conference date with Salesianum.

But those are all just two-team matches. Whether multi-team events like the Henlopen Conference or state tourneys will be permitted by state health officials is very much up in the air.

Simply competing with a mask on to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been more difficult. Matches are expected to last significantly longer because there will be delays when a wrestler’s mask comes of.

CR wrestler Brock Conner, who also plays football, said there’s a big difference in competing with a mask on between the two sports.

In football, the mask attached to the player’s helmet and there was a small gap between their face and the mask. In wrestling, though, the mask is right up against the competitor’s skin.

“Here, when your mask starts to get wet with sweat, it feels like you can’t breathe,” said Conner.

“It’s way harder than in football but you get used to it,” agreed Hudson, who also plays both sports. “After some hard practices, it’s soaked.”

However, Riders’ coach Dan Rigby points out that a two-hour practice is the worst-case scenario for wrestling while wearing a mask. In a match, a wrestler would only be competing with a mask on for roughly six minutes.

“We’ve tried four different masks now,” said Rigby, whose team has been working out since early December.

“We’re trying to figure out which masks stays on the face the best and also allows for breathability. It’s just like training with the headgear. If you train with your mask on all the time like you’re supposed to, it becomes a little easier.

“Everybody’s kind of finding the masks that they like and that works for them.”

As for stopping the match when a mask comes off, Rigby said his understanding is that it will be like when a wrestler’s headgear comes off. If a wrestler is in scoring position, the match will be allowed to continue.

If neither wrestler is in position to score, the match will be stopped while the mask is put back on.

“It’s not as much (of an issue) as I thought it would be — like only once every practice,” said Conner. “It’s getting a lot better. It makes you try to be more efficient so you’re not just wasting energy — so you don’t have to suck more air.”

CR is practicing in the cafeteria because it’s a much bigger space than the Riders’ wrestling room. The air flow is better.

The varsity practices separately from the JV, with the same wrestlers paired up every day. Different coaches work with each squad, too.

There isn’t expected to be a junior varsity season this winter because of the extra length of the matches. But CR has JV wrestlers working out in the wrestling room.

Rigby knows a lot is being asked of wrestlers in Delaware this winter, especially considering the uncertainty of the season.

But he likes that they’re at least being given a chance to have a season. And he wants them to be as prepared as possible for whatever that season looks like.

“If we get to practice, we should be thankful because this can all be taken away tomorrow or the next day,” said Rigby. “Right now, if we just make it another day, we’re happy. We have no control over anything except what we do here on a daily basis.

“This is grueling. You’re giving up your Christmas break to come in and wrestle and put a mask on. We kind of like the idea of fighting through this adversity. I told all my wrestlers, the team that’s going to persevere at the end of the year and be victorious is the team that can stay the most dedicated and the most disciplined.”

Hudson is pretty sure he’s going to be wrestling in college. So, if nothing else, he’s working toward something beyond this season.

For now, he’ll just try to deal with practicing in a cafeteria, waiting for a season to start and working to get better.

“I mean, I know where I am as a wrestler,” said Hudson. “But not being to wrestle against other people and other teams, it doesn’t give me a better feel. Like I’m wrestling the same guy every day.

“It’s a little different. I’d rather be in our wrestling room where I’ve been the past three years. But this is what we’ve got to do to make it work, this is where we get better. I’ll do anything we can.”