Freshmen Wrestle with Pandemic Setbacks


Akshay Raj

At socially-distanced wrestling practices, very few new freshmen join returning upperclassmen at daily after-school practice. New wrestlers have time to communicate and ask both athletic-and academic-related questions to their team as they wrestle against social distancing guidelines.

From tryouts to team bonding, COVID-19 has disrupted the organization of all athletic teams, leaving one group on campus to be uniquely affected: freshmen. With a lack of in-person promotional events and standard sports camps and tryouts, students new to Portola High have been left out of the loop when it comes to information about participation in sports.

“I have a total of two freshmen for sure,” head wrestling coach Joshua Razo said. “There are supposed to be a couple more, but due to not having freshmen orientation and not a good turnout of freshmen for athletics on club night, we didn’t get a lot. Freshmen came through their siblings or past wrestlers, or heard of us last year and had an interest in wrestling in eighth grade because they had siblings that wrestled.”

The difficulty with outreach not only impacts team numbers, but also plays a role in shaping the team dynamic in a nontraditional way.

“Being one of the few freshmen seemed scary at first, but as I got to know my team better, I felt more comfortable and relaxed in the environment,” wrestler and freshman Kyle Yin said. “Social distancing has made it harder for us to make contact with each other, but we still find our way around it.”

Even with measures taken to improve communication and teamwork, including weekly Zoom calls for check-ins and advice, physical team bonding activities were completely brought to a halt.

“[The pandemic] gives us a smaller group to work with, so it’s influencing a closer bond between the guys that are here, but it’s hindering a lot of growth and connection between the students that we do have,” Razo said. “It’s hindering a lot of connection and team bonding that we usually build in the preseason.”

With difficulties enrolling in sports and forming typical team connections, freshmen athletes are left to persevere through limitations in order to find a place in their sports teams as the school year progresses.