The return of Highlands wrestling


Tessa Killen

A wrestling flyer that can be found throughout the halls of Highlands.

Highlands has always had its core sports: football, soccer, baseball, volleyball, etc. But in past years, the athletic program has added new sports, including ski club and archery. Now, posters are plastered all over the halls of Highlands High School detailing a new chance for student-athletes – an opportunity that will “push you harder than you have ever been pushed.”

For the first time in 100 years, any and all students can now compete on a co-ed wrestling team at Highlands High School. Wrestling is one of the fastest-growing sports in America, for both men and women divisions, so it’s not a surprise that Highlands has brought it back for student-athletes. This year, John Hazeres and Rob Pinkston will coach the wrestling team.

So far, Highlands had a decent turnout of interested students. Approximately 50 students have signed up for the team with a co-ed combination of 15 female athletes and 35 male athletes. However, students are still able to sign up until November 2 via the HHS Wrestling Instagram page (@hhs_wrestling.bluebirds) or by contacting Coach Hazeres (859-242-0365) or Coach Pinkston (859-322-5780). Hazeres and Pinkston are looking for any and all students, no matter the experience level.

“Wrestling is the hardest and oldest sport in the world.  It will challenge you physically and mentally. Wrestlers have to be tough, determined and have a must win attitude.  Being aggressive also helps,” Hazeres explained. “I believe that wrestling is going to help take [the Highlands] athletic program to the next level in football and many other sports. Wrestlers are the best athletes on the planet and the best students as far as I’m concerned.”

A wrestling match is a competition of two individuals in the same weight class on opposing teams. Teams consist of 14 wrestlers ranging from 105 to 285 pounds, spanning across the 14 California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) approved weight classes. Grouping wrestlers into weight classes ensures that no athlete has a weight advantage over their opponent, and each wrestler is weighed before their match to ensure that they “made weight.”

A match in high school lasts six minutes and consists of three two-minute periods. An athlete can win a match in one of three ways: pinning their opponent, their opponent being disqualified for breaking a rule, or by scoring more match points than their opponent. 

However, in the age of COVID-19, some students are concerned about the return of this contact sport. 

Senior Ethan Stuart is one of these concerned student-athletes. Stuart states, “I did martial arts for eight years, which is different from wrestling, but it’s still a high contact sport. So, I worry if 2020 is the right year to bring wrestling back to Highlands.”

In the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s (KHSAA) Return to Wrestling document, they stated, “Of the resumed sports and sport-activities, wrestling presents the most challenging return yet, simply due to its very nature in terms of continual contact, basic competition provisions, and the fact that it is primarily done indoors.”

In order to combat this, strict regulations and guidelines have been put in place to ensure the safety of our student-athletes.

“Wrestlers always have to worry about being clean because of the close contact,” Hazeres detailed. “However COVID-19 has brought new regulations like cleaning the mat after each match and wearing a mask when you’re not on the mat.”

Other regulations include symptom screening, limited schools/athletes at matches or tournaments, mats being separated by ten feet, sanitizing stations, eliminating pre and post-match handshakes with coaches, and more. 

If you are interested in signing-up, or have any questions concerning regulations and guidelines, feel free to reach out to Coach Hazeres or Coach Pinkston.