This usually marks the time of the year Steve Lander is ready to go full bore, getting his vaunted Roseburg High School wrestling program off and running toward another successful season.
But the coronavirus pandemic has been running the show since mid-March, wreaking havoc on the high school sports scene in Oregon.
The Oregon School Activities Association moved 2020 fall sports (football, volleyball, soccer and cross country) competition back to March of ’21. Winter sports (basketball, wrestling and swimming) — called Season 2 by the OSAA — will tentatively start practice on Dec. 28 and begin competition Jan. 11.
Spring sports (baseball, softball, track and field, tennis and golf) are scheduled to open practice on April 19, with games beginning May 3.
We’ll remind you there are no guarantees here, depending on the severity of COVID-19 at the time of those dates. The OSAA will hold a board meeting on Dec. 7 to discuss whether Season 2 can go on as planned.
Meanwhile, Season 1 has allowed all prep sports to practice and this period runs through Dec. 27.
Lander is in his 19th year as the head coach of RHS’s most successful sports program. The Indians have won 11 Class 6A state championships over the past 14 seasons.
The Roseburg wrestling team has held around 12 practices in the mat room this fall, but has been limited in what it could do. As per Oregon Health Authority guidelines, full-contact is prohibited for basketball and wrestling.
Student-athletes have been able to do in-person training and conditioning without contact. The last workout for the RHS wrestlers was Thursday.
Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday a statewide “freeze” will be implemented to attempt to slow the spread of the virus throughout Oregon. The two-week restrictions begin Wednesday.
Only indoor and full-contact K-12 sports were impacted by the governor’s order; conditioning for outdoor sports could continue, but the school district elected to halt all practices and workouts.
All RHS sports teams are shut down for practice through at least Dec. 6.
“Normally I’d be tired, exhausted and excited (about the season). We’d have 50-60 kids and I’d be wondering what the heck they’re doing,” Lander said. “Now I’m anxious and have a different feeling, wondering if we’ll even have a season.
“I have to tell the kids to be ready and plan on the season starting. Obviously it doesn’t look good. It’s been eight months of negative ... I’m growing tired of it and it’s very frustrating.”
The Indians finished second behind Newberg in the 2020 state tournament at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, ending their streak of six consecutive first-place finishes. The Tigers scored 310.5 points to earn their first state crown since 2009, while Roseburg compiled 262.5 points.
Roseburg lost five state placers to graduation, but tentatively returns five who placed in the top four.
Junior Nash Singleton (120 pounds) and senior Darian Thacker (170) captured state titles, senior Kahleb Diaz (126) finished second, and seniors Kaden Schlatter (113) and Rogan Coffman (195) placed fourth.
“The most we’ve had at any workout (this fall) is 24,” Lander said. “There are a lot of kids working, and since they’re not allowed to come to school (for in-person learning), they’re making money. I don’t blame them.
“There’s no substitute (for contact). The actual feeling of the lungs burning and muscle fatigue, you can’t replace that. We’ll wait to see what we’re told to do, or can’t do.”
Stay tuned on what the OSAA will decide in December.