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LHU hoping it can still wrestle this winter season

PHOTO PROVIDED Lock Haven University wrestling coach Scott Moore watches one of his wrestlers compete at the NCAA Division 1 championships two years ago.

Scott Moore doesn’t know when his Lock Haven University wrestling team will compete again. He hopes its this season sometime. But in truth, he really doesn’t know.

The Bald Eagles haven’t competed since the NCAA canceled the national tournament in March. After the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s cancellation of mandated winter sports competition and championships Wednesday, Lock Haven University announced it would not participate in either the men’s or women’s wrestling season.

“The decision was made for the welfare of the student-athletes,” Moore said Thursday. “We have to stay positive and work toward a solution and hope there’s some clarity across the country as far as the virus that may allow us to opt back in down the road.”

There is still an opening which could allow the Bald Eagles to compete this season. During a conference call with the Mid-American Conference – where Lock Haven is a member, along with fellow PSAC schools Clarion, Edinboro and Bloomsburg – on Tuesday, the MAC did not put a door-closed date on any school returning to competition this season. But Moore said situations around the COVID-19 pandemic would have to greatly improve from the current spike the entire country is going through for that to happen.

As for now, Lock Haven is allowed to do only strength and conditioning work in the weight room in small groups. They haven’t been able to wrestle on campus in the eight months since the pandemic began. Members of the team have been able to find places to workout through USA Wrestling and the club system, according to Moore.

“Probably the biggest challenge is keeping everyone motivated through this,” Moore said. “We’ve been through that once already through the summer, so we have a little experience with how to deal with that. We’ve discussed and worked on and planned what we can do to be ready whenever the time comes that we can compete. But we understand it’s not about competing this month or even next month. It’s preparing and developing so that we are ready when our name is called. We’re focused on the things we can control, which is our mindset and our growth with strength and conditioning.”

This was set to be one of the most exciting seasons for Moore and the Bald Eagles. It was supposed to be a season representing a shift from the class of wrestlers which helped take Lock Haven from the bottom of the Eastern Wrestling League to a nationally-known commodity, to a new freshman class of wrestlers which FloWrestling ranked as one of the 25 best recruiting classes in the country.

That’s all on hold. But with such a young and talented group, it may not be the worst-case-scenario for Moore, his staff and the team.

“It’s all about how you sell it. You have to have a consistent message,” Moore said. “It takes time to develop. Some of these classes we’ve had in the past, it took guys two or three years before they were making a presence in the Top 10 or Top 15. This group is talented, but it’ll take some time to develop without competition.”

Moore said he had “limited conversations” with Lock Haven Director of Athletics Dr. Tom Gioglio about the eventual decision which was made by the school’s administration regarding winter sports. They looked into ways to make it affordable for the school to compete in limited competitions within the MAC, but Moore said the administration felt there were too many risks to the student-athletes based on the current surging status of COVID-19.

Of the four PSAC wrestling schools which also compete in the MAC, only Lock Haven and Clarion have announced their intentions. Clarion announced Thursday it will participate in the wrestling season. Both Edinboro and Bloomsburg have yet to make decisions on whether or not they will compete.

Moore said the focus for he and the coaching staff will stick with the team’s strength and conditioning program. They will also continue to work with fans and alumni on fundraising projects until they’re again able to compete.

“I think (Wednesday) was a tough day for everybody,” Moore said. “I definitely had some moments of weakness where negative thoughts cross my mind. But we’re fortunate to have so many supporters and alumni reach out and offer advice. No matter what situation occurs, we’ll continue to pull the program in the right direction.”

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