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Midland wrestlers barred

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 12:42 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Cabell Midland High School was barred from competing in one of the state's largest and best-attended wrestling tournaments because of concerns team members had been exposed to a form of herpes that manifests in a skin rash.

The state health department contacted WSAZ Invitational Wrestling Tournament officials Friday afternoon, the first day of the event, and told them Cabell Midland should not be allowed to participate.

The condition, herpes gladiatorum, is not uncommon in wrestling, and is generally caused by exposure to unsanitary conditions transferred through skin to skin contact. An outbreak occurred after the West Virginia State Wrestling Tournament in Huntington in February 2011.

Roane County Schools had a similar issue, and did not attend the WSAZ event. It was unclear whether Roane County was told they could not attend, or whether the school canceled their trip voluntarily.

As for Cabell Midland, Bill Archer, who is the lead organizer of the tournament, said a school from outside the region contacted the state about the concern, and then he was told "a school" could not be allowed to compete.

Archer would not name the school that made the call, nor the school barred from competition, though Dr. Harry Tweel, director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, and Cabell Midland athletic director Jack DeFazio confirmed it was the Knights.

Still, officials said they were totally blind-sided by the call, which came in just hours before Cabell Midland would have started competition.

Tweel said he wasn't contacted until after the state office had talked with tournament officials.

"I was getting calls from parents, and finally (the state) thought it might be a good idea tell me about it," Tweel said. "It's my understanding that anyone who works with or trains with someone who has been exposed to this has to be observed for eight days, because that is the incubation period of the condition. If a rash occurs within that time, that person can't compete."

DeFazio said there were four Cabell Midland wrestlers who were still within that eight-day window who were told Thursday they would not be allowed to compete, but he didn't expect the entire team to be excluded.

"We're just disappointed for the kids who don't get a chance to wrestle," DeFazio said. "It was the right thing to do if every wrestler was checked and this was determined to be a risk. I don't know if that happened. I wasn't there."

Tom Scarr, the father of a Cabell Midland wrestler, said it was his understanding that two members of the team in the 106-pound division actually had the illness last week, and had not been in training with any other members of the team within the last eight days.

"(The state) doesn't understand that a 106-pound wrestler doesn't practice with a 200-pound wrestler," Scarr said.

He said the wrestlers learned of the decision after they had been cleared by the team physician, cleared by event staff that check for skin lesions and had been weighed.

"We don't know if a rival school called this in or if there were ulterior motives," Scarr said. "But the state went off half-cocked. Their decision is no one should be in contact with these kids, well these kids wrestled with (several regional teams) over the past week, and they all used the same scales (Friday), and the mats they're using are Cabell Midland's mats.

"If they're that concerned, then it shouldn't just be one team that's excluded," he continued. "These kids had been checked out and were ready to wrestle, and then told they were disqualified."

Archer said it was unfortunate, but there was nothing tournament officials could do.

"It happens in wrestling, and we've dealt with this kind of thing before," Archer said. "We've always had to keep up with the changing (health standards).

"You have 80 schools, and 1,100 people, and something happens before everyone gets in, that's basically the story."

DeFazio said he just hopes something positive comes from the situation.

"We check our kids every day, and a physician checks them once a week," he said. "We sanitize, clean mats and take every precaution we can take.

"It's a lesson not only for us, but for every school out there."