Ohio Coronavirus Rules Allow Wrestling, But Not Shaking Hands

Photos from a wrestling meet between three Des Moines high school teams: Hoover/Lincoln, North and Roosevelt.
Flickr/Phil Roeder

The Ohio High School Athletic Association released an update to their Coronavirus regulations December 1, with predictable rules such as the wearing of masks while in community areas and during team travel, and temperature testing before competition. However, it also included some seemingly contradictory rules such as the elimination of athlete handshakes pre-and post-match. Officials are also no longer allowed to indicate the winner of the match by raising the wrestler’s hand.

Fist bumping other wrestlers, coaches, or officials is also prohibited.

Dr. Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, wrote in May about handshakes in high school sports:

And then there is the new “no-no” that cuts at the heart of high school sports – the handshake. Shaking hands has been a part of our culture for centuries and a mainstream of high school sports forever. It is hard to imagine high school sports without handshakes.

In addition to emotional displays among team members involving handshakes, high-fives and hugs, the handshake has been a way of demonstrating good sportsmanship toward the opponent.

In wrestling, for instance, shaking hands before a match is actually a part of the rules, which, of course, will have to be relaxed for the coming season. There are handshakes at the coin toss in football and before the opening jump ball in basketball.

The rules state the procedure for declaring a match-winner as:

  • At the end of the match, procedure does not declare the winner of the match by raising the winning wrestler’s hand.
  • To conclude the end of match procedure, the official may point to the winning wrestler while raising his/her own arm (with open hand) having the requisite wristband color (red/green) of the winning wrestler.

High school wrestling has made headlines in 2020. In March, a high school wrestler took down a kidnapping suspect in a New Mexico convenience store, pinning him to the ground until police arrived. In January, a group of high school wrestlers helped a stranded driver by pushing his truck out of the snow near Flint, Michigan.


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