In a year of uncertainty, the Napoleon Gold Medal Duals provide a small sense of normalcy.
The two-day wrestling tournament will have some obvious changes to protect from the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, but for the most part it will follow the same format as in the past.
“We are not allowing any spectators from any other schools,” said Napoleon wrestling coach Jason Seiler. “We are limiting the number of kids on the floor, instead of having the whole team down on the floor at once.
“But at the beginning of the year I had no idea if we were even going to play or we might have to cut back to one day,” Seiler continued. “We always wanted to keep it a two-day tournament. To be able to keep the same format and have a two-day tournament, we feel very fortunate.”
Many of the teams are new to the tournament, while some are returning to the tournament after missing it for several seasons.
“The teams that are coming are completely different,” said Seiler. “They are different from what they were a couple of months ago. There were teams that weren’t able to travel and we had a large number of teams that wanted to get in.”
Along with Napoleon, Fairview and Genoa have been regular participants at the Gold Medal Duals. Back this season after an extended absence is Eastwood, which is considered one of the favorites to win the title.
Also participating this year are Galion, Toledo St. Francis, Versailles, Firelands, Bluffton and Huron.
“The teams have changed so much I don’t know a lot about the ones that are coming in,” said Seiler. “I know there are some solid wrestlers on every team and I think there is going to be a mix for everyone.”
The Wildcats enter the tournament with a record of 25-7, but went 2-6 at the Perrysburg Duals last weekend.
“We learned a lot about ourselves last weekend,” said Seiler. “I knew we were going to be tested like that sometime this season, I just didn’t know when. It was good for us, not only technique-wise but in the way the kids need to wrestle on the mat.”
Napoleon is led by senior heavyweight Demitrius Hernandez, who is 29-1 this season. Other top wrestlers for the Wildcats are Harrison Bohls (23-6 at 106), Ayden Shank (22-8 at 120), Omar Estrada (19-5 at 126), Claude Buckmaster (17-7 at 132), Brayden Hull (17-11 at 145), Angelo Gonzalez (17-7 at 170) and Landon Eberle (21-9 at 182).
Roman Cordoba (13-6) or Alex Gonzales (5-1) will wrestle at 113 this weekend.
Seiler said this weekend is the last chance for the Wildcats to gain so much mat time (a potential nine matches) before the Northern Lakes League Championships (Feb. 6) and the sectional tournament (Feb. 26).
“There is not a whole lot of time left,” said the Napoleon coach. “Our kids have 30 matches in and this weekend they could get another nine matches. We have to make the most of this time to improve ourselves. We can’t take a step back this weekend.”
As for competing for the title, Seiler said the Wildcats have the potential to compete with Eastwood and Versailles.
“We’re young, but we have every opportunity to win it,” said Seiler. “We have to see if the kids show up and work for it. If we do that, this is a tournament we can win.”
Action begins Friday at 3 p.m. in the Grand Canyon with the first five rounds of wrestling. The teams return Saturday for the final six rounds, beginning at 9 a.m.