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What Could Year Number Two of NCAA Wrestling Look Like in the Era of COVID-19?

Pictured: View from inside the Rutgers Athletic Center (The RAC) on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Image courtesy of Rutgers assistant coach Joe Pollard's Twitter Page  (@JoePollard1) ahead of the 2020 Big Ten Championships) in March 2020. 

The 2021 Senior World Championships are right around the corner in Oslo, Norway, early next month. And, yes, the U23 World Championships aren't far behind in Belgrade, Serbia, in early November. That said, as the calendar approaches October, the attention of the wrestling community switches to Folkstyle for high school and NCAA wrestling.

That transition was on full display this week. The prominent headlines in wrestling media included: FloWrestling's Who's Number One in Dallas, Texas; the Penn State wrestling schedule was released; plus a bombshell coming out of Evanston, Illinois, and Northwestern regarding the anticipated firing of Andrew Howe (Associate Head Coach) and Jimmy Kennedy (Assistant Coach) for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine by October 1, per university requirements.

Due to that pending firing, Northwestern lost its top recruit in the 'Cats Class of 2021, Carter Young, a three-time OSSAA state champion with a 124-5 overall record. Most recently, Young also stormed to a third-place finish at 61-kg at the Senior World Team Trials in Lincoln, Nebraska, earlier this month to earn a spot on the Senior-level National Team for the USA. While in the Cornhusker State, Young took out two former NCAA champions to finish third and was the story of The Trials.

Without Kennedy, Young's primary college coach, a former three-time All-American and former U.S. World Team member on staff at NU, Young decided to transfer home to Stillwater to wrestle for John Smith and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

"One of the main reasons I went there was because of them, too," Young said in an interview with the News-Press earlier this week. "I was training with Jimmy Kennedy every day and was going extra with him. … So ultimately it was like, 'Might as well come home.'"

Northwestern, too, is in a tough spot as a talented Wildcat squad that placed 10th in the 2021 team race, its highest placement since 2014, may have only its head coach, Matt Storniolo, on the coaching staff heading into the upcoming season.

Transfer decision and pending firings aside, this saga brings to light one inevitable truth regarding the upcoming 2021-22 college wrestling season.

That truth is that getting through an entire college season is anything but certain.

Here's why: Differing university vaccination policies.

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