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NCWA holds national championships despite coronavirus

NCWA championship trophies (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)

The National Collegiate Wrestling Association held its annual national wrestling championships in Texas this weekend, in contrast to other sports organizations such as the NCAA which had canceled major sports events such as national wrestling championships, because of concerns of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), according to multiple media reports.

The NCWA national championships, held at the Allen Events Center in Allen, Texas, just outside Dallas, welcomed over 600 athletes from 84 colleges. Eleven schools decided not to participate in the event.

When asked by the Dallas Morning News on why he didn't cancel the event, Jim Giunta, NCWA founder and executive director, said, "I think a lot of this is driven by fear. "We're going to do everything in our power to create an environment that's more than safe for our athletes. But after we do everything we can do, we're going to operate on faith rather than fear."

At least two coaches weighed in publicly with their support of the NCWA national championships.

"From a philosophical perspective, do I think it's overhyped? Yes, I do," said Liberty University wrestling coach Jesse Castro about the fear generated by the coronavirus. "You know the talking points. We've dealt with this kind of stuff before … We're vigilant and we use common sense, but I refuse to live in fear. I'm not gonna do that."

"I think when we start to cancel these events, the actual athlete and the hard work kind of fades away from them," said University of Texas-Arlington coach Collin Stroner, who noted that his concern about the coronavirus was "on the back burner."

"It's the event," Stroner said. "It's just a basketball game. It's just a hockey game. But for a lot of these guys and theirs, it's their last match. … I'm really proud that we're keeping this act on."

Launched in 1997 and headquartered in Dallas, the NCWA features approximately 162 wrestling programs from colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Some schools once had intercollegiate programs competing in NCAA until those programs were eliminated by Title IX, and now compete in the NCWA, separate of the NCAA. "Think of it as club wrestling, for teams outside of sanctioned NCAA competition," is how Nate Scott of USA Today described the NCWA.

The NCWA National Wrestling Championships appear to be an outlier in terms of sports organizations and how they are handling the growing coronavirus situation.

In addition to the NCAA canceling all winter sports championships -- including the 2020 NCAA Wrestling Championships for Division I, II and III, and "March Madness" NCAA Basketball Tournament -- most professional sports organizations have canceled or postponed their seasons, including the NBA and Major League Baseball. What's more, a number of major individual sports events -- including The Masters golf tournament, and the Kentucky Derby -- have also been postponed.

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