The high school athletes were back at the gym on Monday, January 4th, practicing in preparation for the season.
The Monticello and Big Lake winter sports teams were thrilled to be back at the gym, but there was a huge elephant in the room – face masks.
During training, coaches, athletes and assistants must be socially distant and wear a mask.
According to the latest updates from the Minnesota State High School League, all sports, except swimming and diving, wrestling, and gymnastics, must continue to wear a mask while competing.
Big Lake Wrestling head coach Ryan Prom felt for his kids.
"It's nice to be back, but it's so weird," said Prom. "There are so many rules to follow and the kids just want to keep up."
Monticello Wrestling Head Coach Jason Thompson agreed to the decision to exempt wrestlers from wearing a mask during a game. He said it was for the safety of the athletes. High school wrestlers strive for six minutes and give all they can in that short time.
"Wrestlers are a different breed," Thompson said. “The physical aspect of sport and what we have to do every day is different from other sports. We're just focusing on our goal and the guys did a great job today. "
The high school athletes were just thrilled to be back in the gym.
Big Lake's Christian Noble won the state in his wrestling weight class last year and is a junior eager to return to the state this year.
"It felt good to be back with the boys and wrestling again," said Noble. "I have a mat at home to practice on, but it's not the same. It's better with your team."
Monticello's lone wrestling senior Jacob Cole said the mask had faded because he was so happy to be wrestling with his team again.
"I've never been so excited about going to high school in my life," said Cole. "I don't mind the masks because I've been wearing them for a while and I think I was just so excited to be in the gym."
However, basketball teams are still forced to wear masks throughout the season. Everyone gets used to it.
Big Lake elderly basketball Mia Huberty tried to wear a mask every time she practiced basketball alone, but she said it will be some time before she feels completely comfortable.
"It's definitely different when you actually play basketball," said Huberty. "It's hard to keep up and it's distracting, but I hope I get used to it."
Gym teams are required to wear masks during training, but not when performing at meetings.
Monticello Gymnastics head coach Kelly Osland said it was different but exciting.
"I know it will be very different," said Osland. "We cannot take anything for granted and have to do our part to train and compete."
All winter sports teams have worked hard in the gym to focus on the positives and are looking forward to the competitions starting Thursday January 14th.