BILLINGS -- Wrestling inside First Interstate Arena on a Friday afternoon usually signifies the onset of Montana's all-class state wrestling tournaments in February. But not this time.
Friday marked season-opening matches for Billings West and Billings Skyview, who both appeared in mid-season form hosting duals against Bozeman High and Bozeman Gallatin.
West marched out of the Big Barn with a 76-0 win over the first-year program at Gallatin after beating Bozeman 72-5. Skyview took care of business 54-24 over Gallatin and handled Bozeman 57-18.
Friday's matches were moved to First Interstate Arena to accommodate social distancing. A limited number of spectators were admitted free of charge.
It’s no secret that wrestling may be the closest-contact sport seen anywhere, with athletes literally nose-to-nose at certain points. Regardless, here's why some coaches say it may also be the safest to guard against infection.
"I think it's better," Skyview's Ben Sulser told MTN Sports mat-side prior to Friday's matches. "You have two people out there. You have five people in one sport (basketball), 11 in another (football), now we're talking 22 people on the field, 10 people on the floor at one time. We've got one person against another out there, so there are two people. And everything gets sanitized every time. And the kids get wiped off every time they come off the mat. It's probably the best sport you could actually have (for infection safety)."
West's Jeremy Hernandez agreed, noting that the sport was cautious against spreading disease and infection long before COVID-19 struck.
"We're always worried about sickness, skin infections, ring worm, so we've been conscientious about that stuff since I started wrestling," Hernandez told MTN Sports. "We've got a good thing called Defense Soap Wipes. They're body wipes, we use them before practice, after practice, we have stuff to spray the bottom of our wrestling shoes. We just follow the guidelines that are set in front of us."