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‘We’re not in control': U.S. wrestlers finish Olympic qualifier amid uncertainty


Jacarra Winchester, from the United States, takes Canada’s Samantha Stewart to the mat during the Pan-American wrestling qualification tournament, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Ottawa. Winchester defeated Stewart to qualify for the Olympics. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)


In one of the rare sporting events not canceled this past weekend, U.S. wrestlers competed Friday through Sunday at a Pan American Olympic qualifier in Ottawa, without spectators and with an uncertain future.

Canada’s wrestling federation, after consulting with local health authorities, said Friday that the tournament would go on with essential personnel and limited family members.

“It’s been a hard week for everyone, I think, in the wrestling world and the whole world,” U.S. women’s national team coach Terry Steiner said after all four American women qualified a quota spot for the nation on Saturday. “To be able to just keep your eye on and stay focused on the task at hand was very important. They had to be really mentally resilient.”

The roster included Helen Maroulis, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. Maroulis is coming back this year after a concussion and traumatic brain injuries sidelined her for all of 2019. And David Taylor, a 2018 World champion coming back from a May 5 ACL tear.

Maroulis, Taylor and nine others clinched Olympic quota spots that would under normal circumstances be filled at the U.S. Olympic Trials. On Friday, it was announced that the April 4-5 trials were postponed indefinitely.

“Organizers are working closely with local officials and health experts in hopes of rescheduling the event at [Penn State’s] Bryce Jordan Center,” according to USA Wrestling on Friday.

By Sunday night, after the Ottawa event finished, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended not holding gatherings of 50 or more people in the U.S. over the next eight weeks.

Steiner said after Saturday’s competition that he didn’t know “from minute to minute” whether the Pan Am event would happen.

“Just try to keep their minds on the things they could control instead of getting into everything else was very important, and they did a great job with that,” Steiner said of the American women. “So now we’re waiting and seeing when the next step is.”

U.S. Greco-Roman coach Matt Lindland is waiting, too. His wrestlers competed Friday in Ottawa.

“Even now, we’ve got to take a little time, decompress,” Lindland said Friday. “We need a little bit of time just to let go, step away for a second, live life, keep our bodies healthy, spend some time probably with family, things like that, just get our priorities right. Once we find out more information, we start building a plan. We can speculate all we want, but we’re really not in control of what’s happening right now in the world.”

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