Wrestling tournament draws hundreds to Myrtle Beach despite COVID-19 pandemic

Wrestling tournament draws hundreds to Myrtle Beach despite COVID-19 pandemic
Wrestlers from around the country compete at the Myrtle Beach convention center while the pandemic continues on in Myrtle Beach. (Source: WMBF News)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Hundreds of wrestlers and their families gathered at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center for a three-day tournament.

This comes as coronavirus still remains active in Horry County. But the city of Myrtle Beach approved the event, allowing young wrestlers and their families to come to the Grand Strand from across the country.

“You know wrestling is a lifestyle, our kids give a lot to this sport,” coach Donovan Whitted, whose team traveled all the way from Texas to take part in the matches.

He said being able to compete is a blessing, despite the risks involved. He added that since the country started to open back up, they’ve been able to do their fair share of traveling.

“So we take all the precautions that we need to, keep our face masks on, check temperatures. We traveled from Texas, we went to Oklahoma, then a week in a half later we went to another tournament in Alabama and then we went straight from Alabama to here,” he said.

The city said it gave the event the green light because of the precautions that the Southeast Summer Championship tournament put in place to make sure everyone is healthy.

Mica Hendricks with the South Carolina Youth Wrestling Association said people are getting temperature screenings and they are strictly enforcing a mandatory mask requirement. The association is also making sure they’re cleaning down every surface and they have a device that can disinfect the air.

“That’s where the masking up comes in, that’s where all the extra things we’re doing to keep everybody safe, that’s where our part comes in,” Hendricks said.

Myrtle Beach city spokesperson Mark Kruea said the protocols the tournament submitted lined up with what the city required events to follow.

Kruea said as the first big event to come to the convention center for months, the city didn’t just approve the event without any hesitation or guidelines in place.

And as much as organizers can try to put every safety precaution in place, there can be a few holes. For example, doctors have said temperature checks aren’t foolproof because many people can have the virus without running a fever. And while masks are mandatory, wrestlers remove their masks when they get on the mat. The mats are also rearranged to be spaced apart, but chairs around the mats are not.

Still, the association said they don’t have any regrets hosting the event.

“I’m really proud of what my team has done covering all these bases,” Hendricks said.

The event will conclude after another round of matches on Friday.

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