Western Hills' Ethan Franklin, top, wrestles Franklin County's Justin Lowe in the 145-pound weight class Wednesday at the City Championships at Franklin County. Franklin won the match. (Linda Younkin)

Western Hills wrestling coach Sean Wilkins had gone through a COVID-altered football season, so he had a good idea what was coming when the KHSAA Board of Control met Wednesday.

The Board of Control for the high school sports association voted unanimously to postpone the start of the winter sports season to Jan. 4. The sports include basketball, bowling, competitive cheer, dance, indoor track and field, swimming and wrestling. Competition had previously been set to begin next week.

“Being a football coach and seeing what we went through in football, it wasn’t big surprise,” said Wilkins, an assistant football coach at WHHS. “I am a little pleased they’re trying so hard to get this year’s season in.”

When the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, the KHSAA canceled the spring sports season.

Fall sports played an abbreviated schedule, and the football playoffs, after a one-week delay, start Friday.

Basketball season was slated to begin Monday. Instead, it will have an eight-week season beginning on Jan. 4, with the Sweet Sixteen planned for March.

While other winter sports also start on Jan. 4, an end date to their seasons hasn’t been announced.

A press release from the KHSAA Thursday said the season calendar for each winter sport, as well as current virus data and any potential adjustments to the start and end dates for spring sports, will be reviewed at a follow-up meeting of the Board of Control scheduled for Dec. 10. 

“We’re very fortunate to get a basketball season,” Franklin County boys basketball coach Tony Wise said.

What concerns him is the suspension of practice, which began Oct. 26.

Gov. Andy Beshear said at his Wednesday press conference that indoor sports activities would be shut down until Dec. 13. While that didn’t specifically include high school athletics, the KHSAA, in its press release Thursday, said that “in congruence with the governor’s order,” all official practice ends Friday and can’t restart until Dec. 14.

“We usually have four weeks of practice before we play our first game,” Wise said. “Now we’re taking about a month off and we'll have three weeks of practice, including the Christmas holiday, before our first game.

“It’s not about learning our zone offense or press offense; it’s more about conditioning and preventing injuries.”

But to Wise, its about even more than that.

“It’s good for the kids,” he said about practice. “They’re all in the gym, and we can love on them and coach them up. It gives us an hour and a half, two hours a day, we don’t have to worry about them.”

Practice for Franklin County Schools has been shut down since the county went into the COVID-19 red zone last week, indicating heavy spread of the virus.

“I really want it for the kids so badly,” Wilkins said. “You can see sports helping kids. They need sports more than ever, just getting in the gym, the discipline and seeing their coaches.

“I’ve never seen kids miss their coaches so much, and we miss them so much.”

The FCHS wrestling team was scheduled to host the Pittman Duals, a middle school event, Thanksgiving weekend and the Frankfort Duals, a high school tournament, on Dec. 12. Both of those are in limbo right now.

“We start in January, and I have no idea,” Flyer wrestling coach JJ Townsend said about his team’s schedule. “We have to coordinate with other teams and figure out when we can get the gym. There’s all kinds of uncertainty at this point.”

The Flyers’ Capital City Classic is still on the schedule at its original date, Jan. 23.

“We still have that as a goal,” Townsend said about hosting the tournament. “That’s the only tournament on our schedule the whole year. The other places we go for tournaments, either we can’t do it because it’s out of state, or because of policy a school has and it’s decided that it’s not able to host this year.

“Tournaments are a big deal in wrestling and last forever,” he added. “Teams that are able to host love to host them.”

The delay could alter the schedule for district basketball games this season, which decide the district tournament seeding.

The district teams normally play each other twice a year, at home and on the road, but there’s a one-year change in a bylaw that because of COVID-19, teams can play each other just once this season and have it count toward district tournament seeding.

“It looks like we’ll play Great Crossing and Frankfort High once,” Wise said. “We’re looking to play Western Hills twice, but only the first game will count in the district seeding.”

In addition to schedule changes, FHS is looking for a place to play its home basketball games this season as F.D. Wilkinson Gymnasium undergoes renovations.

FHS Athletic Director Joe Peach said the district is talking to The Frankfort Christian Academy about using its gym, but nothing has been finalized.

It’s been another item to contend with in his first full year as AD.

“I thought things went well,” Peach said about fall sports. “I knew it would be a challenge, but the constant change was the biggest challenge. Every time something seemed to be working, there would be a change. I’m learning things in my first full year as athletic director, things that you would normally learn, and then the challenges of COVID added another layer.

“Don Miller and Tracy Spickard have really been helpful, and Craig (Foley), who’s done this before, has been a big help.”

Miller is the athletic director at WHHS, and Spickard is the AD at Franklin County. Foley, FHS’ football coach, has served as the school’s athletic director in the past.

Miller, in addition to being WHHS’ football coach and AD, has been a basketball official in the Eighth Region for about 10 years. He plans to continue doing that this season.

“I was a kind of surprised,” he said about the KHSAA’s decision to end basketball season in March.

“I was watching (the meeting) yesterday, and with the clientele on the board, it looked like they were nostalgic about the Sweet Sixteen being in March.

“I thought it was a good idea to go ahead and start Jan. 4 and play a full season and then look at late April or May for the Sweet Sixteen.”

While that would be more overlap than usual between basketball and spring sports, Miller pointed out that inclement weather often causes games early in the spring sports season to be canceled.

March 22 is currently the start date for baseball and softball listed on the KHSAA’s scoreboard page at its website khsaa.org.

While there have been changes and adjustments, for coaches, the most important thing is getting a season in.

“All sports are important,” Wilkins said, “and all kids deserve a chance to participate.”

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