Tom Ryan said his Ohio State wrestling team was heartbroken Thursday afternoon with the news that the NCAA would cancel its winter and spring championships because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Big Ten also announced that it would cancel all conference and nonconference competition the rest of the academic year, meaning spring sports will not take place.
A football team spokesman said it has not been determined whether Ohio State’s spring practices will be canceled.
Ryan’s team was preparing for the NCAA championships next weekend in Minneapolis. Two of his wrestlers. Luke Pletcher and Kollin Moore. were the top seeds in their weight classes.
“There’s a lot of emotions,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking. You’ve got seniors in Pletcher and Moore who were eight days away from accomplishing something they had their hearts set on for at least 15 or 16 years.
“I think both of them are really logical people, and as crushed as they are and as much as they're in the midst of grieving and trying to make sense of it all, the reality is sometimes things just don't make sense.”
But Ryan didn’t take issue with the rationale for canceling the championship.
“We don’t know what we don’t know (about the virus), and apparently people in the know have information that’s greater than what we can comprehend,” he said.
Though so many events and tournaments have been canceled since the NBA announced it would suspend play Wednesday night, Ryan said he was surprised by the NCAA’s announcement Thursday. The Ohio State men’s hockey team was preparing to host a Big Ten semifinal series, and the women’s hockey team had flown to Minneapolis for the NCAA quarterfinals.
“It seems like it was somewhat of a tsunami over the last 48 hours,” Ryan said. “It went from people being ill and the virus spreading to a mass shutdown. It happened so fast.”
Ryan said he told his wrestlers to rely on the bond among them.
“I think the biggest thing we shared is that there’s a brotherhood and to lean on each other and be there for each other, because this is hard,” he said.
Ryan preaches to his team that part of life ― and a huge part of wrestling ― is overcoming pain and adversity. That was part of his message.
“The core of who you are has got to stay intact,” he said. “This isn't a time to go out and do anything other than what you would do as a man. You’ve got to do well in school. You’ve got online classes. Just keep your core strong and battle through this.
“I'm heartbroken for these guys. I think just in general, human beings give our attention to the things that touch us. And right now, this is touching my team in a difficult way.”
Ryan said that 40,000 tickets had been sold for the wrestling championships. He is disappointed that the sport won’t have such a showcase. But he said he understands the bigger picture.
“No one here is angry in a way that’s illogical,” Ryan said. “I mean, lives are more important than wrestling.”