Two Nashville schools recently shut down their wrestling programs for eight to 10 days, sending a disease scare through Tennessee.
"You can't ask schools to handle the situation any better than they did," TSSAA assistant director Mark Reeves said. "They shut down their programs, informed their parents and informed the folks they'd been in contact with."
The two schools, Ensworth and Father Ryan, have resumed wrestling activities. Father Ryan is scheduled to be in Cleveland tonight to wrestle the Blue Raiders before competing in the Cleveland duals Saturday.
It was never reported what disease each school dealt with, but Reeves said the most common infections are herpes and infantigo. Also there is ringworm and, in worst-case scenarios, MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), a "staph" germ that doesn't respond well to antibiotics.
The TSSAA hits the skin-condition issue at its annual wrestling rules meeting and sends out reminders to officials.
"The big thing is showering every day after practice, whether at school or first thing when they get home," Reeves said. "We suggest not wearing the same practice clothes and cleaning the bag in which they carry their gear."
Most Chattanooga-area wrestling schools mop their mats with disinfectant solutions before and after practice, and a number use germ-killing fogging devices in their facilities.
"We double up on our fogging, clean the mats during the day (after physical education use) and after practice and again if it's a kid's club night," Bradley Central coach Ben Smith said. "So the mats are cleaned a minimum of two-three times per day. We also wash their laundry for them and highly encourage them to take showers before going home."
Smith and Ooltewah's Wendell Weathers are among the coaches who also clean the mop heads daily.
"We're convinced that skin problems -- fungus, ringworm and things like that -- are brought into the wrestling room through the wrestlers' hands, especially the fingernails," Weathers said. "We preach keeping the nails trimmed and filed tight along with constant cleaning. We encourage them to clean their nails with a surgical type nail brush."
Since he instituted the in-depth clean-hands program, skin problems have dropped, Weathers said.
"We've seen only isolated cases of skin problems, and we've also found the sickness levels are down as well," he said.
As for ringworm, probably the most common skin issue for wrestlers, Weathers said he had seen the fungus dry up much more quickly when treated with multiple brands of antifungal cream and/or spray.
"Of course we give them the national federation skin form and have them see their doctor immediately," he said. "After 72 hours of treatment, the ringworm is deemed noncontagious and the athlete can participate."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...