Tuesday's double-dual at RIchmond was 2019-20 grapplers' first competition since Dec. 21. For at least one veteran, it had been more than five weeks since he last wrestled competitively

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — As Chillicothe High School’s wrestling Hornets took the mat at Richmond Tuesday (Jan. 14, 2020), facing Richmond and Carrollton in a double-dual, it ended a 23-days hibernation from competition and initiated what could be an intense 11 days of preparation for the biggest competition of their regular season – the Jan. 25 Midland Empire Conference Championships.

The 3-weeks-plus gap in the schedule – extended by three days when bad weather eradicated last Saturday’s planned Cameron Duals tournament – might well be the longest for a Hornets mat squad in over a decade (perhaps longer).

It is exacerbated by the fact that:

A) illness either limited or eliminated several would-be varsity-lineup regulars from the most-recent action prior to Tuesday’s matches – the Dec. 20-21 Spartan Duals tournament at Moberly, and

B) the Tuesday preceding the Moberly event saw a double-dual again future district-tournament foes and top-drawer Cameron and Odessa squads also fell victim to the weather.

As a consequence, one Hornet had not competed for over a month prior to Tuesday and several others had less than a handful of bouts in over five weeks.

“This has been a tough (time) on our team with illness during (the Moberly tournament) and with the cancelation of big-time matchups between us, Odessa, and Cameron,” admitted CHS head coach Chad Smith Monday.

The health-related individual absences and the eliminated events could have an impact beyond the technical sharpness of the CHS wrestlers leading up to the conference tournament.

The lesser number of bouts many of those Smith and his assistant coaches will decide to have in the varsity lineup for conference tournament – and eventually the postseason district/state tournament series – could affect their seeding on the brackets for those events. Additionally, a potential lack of head-to-head bouts against others in their weight class in the MEC or district tournament and a more-limited number of bouts against common opponents could lead to a tougher sequence of opponents than might otherwise have been.

“As far as ‘commons,’ Smith notes, “we will most likely get to see Cameron opponents in several weights at the conference tournament and we go to the always-tough Odessa tournament” on Feb. 1. However, while the MEC tournament would be rescheduled, there is no guarantee there won’t be weather interference that would scrub the Odessa tourney, costing the Hornets an up-close look at the very strong Odessa squad.

Last January saw a mid-January tournament and late-January double-dual cancelled, due to the weather, as well as a bunch of days of school being closed, which meant no practices on those days.

“Dealing with the weather can be tough. We had a really good team last year and I feel that the weather and all the missed practice time and competition hurt us down the stretch,” the coach admits with candor.

He’s understandably wary of the impact of the now-past layoff, particularly if additional postponements or no-school days materialize.

“We need to get used to competition. We have had really good practices, but we are all ready to compete!”

If the weather cooperates, there are slated to be six more dual matches and this coming Saturday’s Kansas City: Center-hosted tournament between now and the conference tournament.

With the likelihood of opponents having vacancies in their lineup for some of those events, that seemingly-busy schedule still could mean no more than 10 bouts or fewer actually wrestled in that stretch by some Hornets. For someone like senior 2019 state qualifier Isaih Kille, who is just now trying to return from a late-football-season injury, and for others trying to latch onto a spot in the lineup, that’s not a lot of chances to sharpen or prove themselves.