The Ohio High School Athletic Association made the difficult decision to cancel its winter sports tournaments.

The decision came on Thursday, two weeks after the tournaments were indefinitely postponed due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision was announced with a press release in the afternoon, saying “the winter sports tournaments of wrestling, basketball and ice hockey, which were postponed indefinitely on March 12, are now cancelled due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. It is anticipated that schools will not be able to reopen for many weeks, which prevents interscholastic athletics from taking place.”

OHSAA Executive Directory Jerry Snodgrass and his staff communicated the decision to the schools still participating in those tournaments earlier on Thursday.

“We are just devastated that the tournaments cannot be completed,” said Snodgrass. “But our priority is the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, communities and officials. Governor Mike DeWine is asking all Ohioans to do everything they can to stop the spread of this virus. That request, along with our schools not being able to reopen for weeks, means that school sports cannot happen at this time. Even if our schools reopen this spring, it will be difficult to find facilities willing to host the tournaments. Most campuses are shut down until mid to late summer.

“We are already planning for ways that these student-athletes will be honored at next year’s state tournament,” said Snodgrass.

The indefinite postponement came down on March 12 due to the pandemic. The girls’ basketball state tournament was so close to beginning that teams were warming up at St. John Arena for the first game. The state wrestling tournament was going to begin on March 13, while the boys’ basketball tournaments were in the regional tournament.

According to the release, “the 16 schools that qualified for the girls basketball state tournament and the four teams that qualified for the ice hockey state tournament will all receive state tournament programs. The 672 student-athletes who qualified for the wrestling state tournament will all receive a program, certificate and their weigh-in card.”

Athens’ Trey Finnearty, Alexander’s Wes Radford and Griffin Chmiel and Trimble’s Ian Joyce and Tabor Lackey were five of the 672 athletes that qualified for the state wrestling tournament.

Snodgrass held a press conference on March 19, and said the OHSAA was still only postponing the winter tournaments but indicated there were challenges in trying to find rescheduling dates.

One issue, as noted in his Thursday statement, was venue availability. Ohio University’s Convocation Center still had five boys regional tournament games to host when the postponement was announced. However, OU has closed face-to-face classes on campus and already canceled its annual commencement ceremonies, surely making it difficult to find dates when tournament basketball games could be held in the venue.

All Tri-Valley Conference girls’ and boys’ basketball teams had been eliminated from the tournament. The only teams remaining from the Southeast District were Fairland boys and Logan Elm boys. Fairland had advanced to a regional final in Division III, while Logan Elm was awaiting a Division II regional semifinal game, games that won’t be played.

According to the OHSAA, these four winter state tournaments and a few events during World War 2 (1941-45) are the only sports cancellations in the history of the OHSAA, which was founded in 1907.

There was no change in the current situation with the spring sports season. The baseball, softball and track and field seasons are currently being delayed. First practices are still set for April 6, with events beginning on April 11, with no practices being held in the meantime while school facilities are shut down.

However, the fate of the spring sports season still hangs in the balance. If Gov. DeWine pushes back the reopening of schools past April 6, the spring season will certainly be delayed further to align with the governor’s decision.

Email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @KevinWmessenger

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