In a span of three days, the winter season ended for two of our sports.

Wrestling and girls swimming came to a close with a number of outstanding performances at the state level from our athletes.

The state wrestling meet took place in Columbia Thursday through Saturday. Swimmers from Borgia and Washington headed to the St. Peters Rec-Plex Thursday and Friday for state meet action.

The two sports have much more in common than just the timing of their championships. And, it’s a shame they happened at the same time.

Both are individual sports and it takes a lot of training and dedication to get to the level where you can make an effective surge toward a title or even a medal.

Both are very technical as well. Swimmers can make the difference between going to the state meet and watching from the stands with smooth turns. And it takes a fluid motion to glide faster through the water. Wrestlers drill so long that they can probably execute moves in their sleep. So many times, it’s such a narrow difference in being able to pull off a move and having that move countered. With some of the high-risk moves, failure to execute means getting pinned.

Our area was fortunate enough to have medalists from both events.

It’s always difficult to do something like MSHSAA did with swimming in the middle of a cycle. This year, swimming was split into two classes, which meant double the sessions needed to execute the state meet. It’s not optimal for everyone to have a Thursday early afternoon session and a Friday morning final, but it’s what can be done right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the timing is changed for the next host contract.

Swimming also is different than other sports because there aren’t district qualifying meets. Instead, there are time standards (automatic and consideration). Hitting an automatic time means you’re going to St. Peters. Reaching a consideration time means you could go, depending whether or not the time is in the top 32 for the event. Even if you reach a state consideration time, it has to be officially entered into the state meet site. Sometimes consideration times don’t make it into the nomination process for a variety of reasons. However, one never knows when an athlete or relay team will squeeze in.

With the split into two classes, we had our first state medalist, Borgia senior Emily Reuwer (100 butterfly and 100 backstroke) and our first state qualifiers from Washington.

Washington freshman Aubrie Moreland was the only other individual qualifier from either school and it looks like she’ll take the baton from Reuwer as the area’s top state hope.

The sport is growing, probably slower than some would like to see, but it’s going to be a slow process until there is more success for area athletes and teams.

Wrestling is a sport that has gone through the growing pains and our schools and wrestlers are established.

We had 15 wrestlers from the area reach the medal rounds this year. Four made state championship matches. While none of the four won, it still was an outstanding achievement for all.

Most of our wrestlers on the medal stand won their last matches. I know some were disappointed they didn’t finish higher on the podium, but they were able to put any losses aside and drive forward.

State wrestling always is one event I enjoy. I’ve been going for most years since 1987 and the meet has changed in many ways. There are four classes now, compared to three the first time I went. In those days, the meet took place at the Hearnes Center and the layout was quite different. There was hardly a square inch of floor space that wasn’t covered by a mat. You literally were on top of the action.

When I first started, there were two four-time state champions. Now, there are four or five in a given year.

When I first started, it was an all-boys sport. We’ve started to see more and more girls wrestling now, but only one has ever won a state medal. St. Clair’s Randi Beltz won twice and she finished third as a senior in 2009, pinning her opponent in 14 seconds. That’s a retired 112-pound weight class record.

One thing has not changed. There always are a lot of quality young wrestlers doing a good job of representing our area schools. I’ve gotten to know many of them through interviews over the years and it’s always great to see them go onto bigger and better things.

I’m sure we’ll see this year’s group excel in the future as well.