USA TODAY answers a question you may be wondering: Is coronavirus worse than the flu? USA TODAY
The Iowa wrestling team's NCAA Championship drought will extend another year.
This time, though, it has nothing to do with their performance on the mat.
The NCAA announced Thursday that the Division I, II and III national wrestling championships, as well as all remaining winter and spring championships, have been canceled amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships," the NCAA said in a release.
"This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities."
The Division I tournament was originally scheduled for March 19-21 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. It would have been the first time an NFL stadium hosted the event, and organizers hoped for more than 40,000 fans for all six sessions, which would’ve shattered attendance records.
The Iowa wrestling program, the nation’s unanimous No. 1-ranked team all season, was seeking its first NCAA team title since 2010, which would've capped a wire-to-wire 2019-20 campaign that included a 13-0 dual record and a Big Ten tournament title last weekend.
All 10 Hawkeye starters, as well as nine wrestlers from Iowa State, seven from Northern Iowa and five other former Iowa high-schoolers were among the field of 330 participants. The Cyclones finished second at last weekend's Big 12 Championships while the Panthers finished third. All three of Iowa's Division I programs are ranked in the top-15 of Trackwrestling's latest poll.
"Our coaching staff is disappointed for our guys, their families, and our fans," Iowa coach Tom Brands, the Big Ten Wrestling Coach of the Year said in a statement.
"I understand the Big Ten Conference and NCAA made decisions based on information available and are acting in what they believe is in the best interest of the student-athletes.
"We will process this and move forward, as we always do. Our guys have a lot to be proud of and much more still to accomplish."
Even more, the Division II and III tournaments were both scheduled for this coming weekend, March 13-14, but were also cancelled. Cedar Rapids’ U.S. Cellular Center was set to host the Division III tournament, where a slew of Iowa teams, including Loras and Wartburg, were expected to compete.
The Division II tournament was going to take place at the Denny Sanford Premiere Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. The state’s only Division II wrestling program, Upper Iowa, had five wrestlers qualify.
Instead, the competitions won’t happen, an action made official in a release from the NCAA. One source close familiar with the discussions told the Des Moines Register that the NCAA has discussed potentially giving all NCAA qualifiers an extra year of eligibility to make up for the canceled championships.
"I respect the decision of the NCAA and potential severity of the virus," Iowa State coach Kevin Dresser said in a statement to the Register. "I do believe that this virus is very real and needs to be taken seriously.
"However, I am extremely said for our nine guys. This is a very personal and individual sport, right in the month of March. I sure hope the NCAA finds a way to give everyone an extra year if so desired. It would sure lessen the sting.
"We are living in a very historic situation, and I get that, but it's hard for a 20-year-old that is focused on winning a national championship to make sense of it right now."
The cancellation of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships is the latest in a growing number of sporting events and seasons to be either canceled, postponed or suspended because of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The National Basketball Association suspended its season on Wednesday night — hours after NCAA president Mark Emmert announced that NCAA Championship events would continue with limited fan attendance — after it was discovered that Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
More dominos fell Thursday. A slew of conference basketball tournaments, including the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, were cancelled after having already started. The National Hockey League followed by suspending its season indefinitely. Major League Baseball canceled spring training and delayed the start of the 2020 season by at least two weeks.
The NAIA announced that all remaining winter sports championships, “including those that are currently underway,” would be canceled as well, including the women’s wrestling national invitational, set for this weekend in Jamestown, N.D. Grand View’s women’s wrestling program, in its inaugural season, had seven wrestlers expected to compete. Waldorf had five.
The cancellation of these tournaments will impact future wrestling events, too.
The individual champions of both the NCAA Division I Championships and the NAIA women’s wrestling invitational qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials, set for April 4-5 at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center. Their cancellation now eliminates that opportunity.
USA Wrestling, the sport’s national governing body, announced Wednesday that the Olympic Trials, trials qualifying events, and other age-level world-team trials events will remain on schedule, but others may be cancelled or postponed to a later date.
"Events and activities deemed essential will be conducted in a way that puts the health and safety of those involved as the primary focus, while still meeting the responsibilities of the organization," the statement read.
The essential events and activities, according to USA Wrestling, include, "the qualifying and final trials events which select the U.S. Olympic Team, as well as the qualifying events and final trials events for U.S. age-group World Teams."
The Last Chance Olympic Qualifier is set for March 27 in Millersville, Penn. The UWW Cadet world team trials are set for April 21-23 in Las Vegas. The UWW Junior and U23 world team trials are set for May 29-31 in Ohio. The women's age-level world team trials are scheduled for May 8 in Texas.
USA Wrestling hopes to keep all of these on schedule, but added that they will monitor the situation daily, adding: "All options will be considered in this process."
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
Your subscription makes work like this possible. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal