Jeff Rieck already had big shoes to fill when he took over the Centennial wrestling program ahead of this school year, following longtime coach Ed Mears‘ retirement.
That high school wrestling’s typical wintertime schedule was replaced by a spring layout in response to the COVID-19 pandemic gave Rieck an extra hurdle to clear.
But Rieck now will participate in an event that wouldn’t have been considered during Mears’ tenure: an outdoor meet.
The Chargers will host Clinton, Mahomet-Seymour and Westville/Georgetown-Ridge Farm beginning at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The quadrangular will take place on the turf at Tommy Stewart Field, typically accustomed to fielding football players instead of wrestlers.
“It’s a unique opportunity, and I think the chance to wrestle on a football field is hopefully going to be a once-in-a-high-school-career experience,” Rieck said. “Hopefully, we don’t have to wrestle in the summertime again. (But) it just brings some flavor to this wild season.”
Rieck, who was an assistant under Mears for two seasons prior to succeeding him, said Centennial athletic director Kaleb Carter deserves credit for the outdoor meet concept.
“There are some teams across the state who had been entertaining the idea ... and (we) thought, ‘That’s a fantastic idea. We’ve got enough space,’” Rieck said. “We thought, ‘What a fantastic way to find something ... to make the best of a unique season.’”
The Chargers will be the first area school to host an outdoor wrestling event this season. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley planned to hold one this past Tuesday but moved the triangular indoors because of the potential for rain. Back in November 2018, Illinois wrestling hosted Missouri in Grange Grove before an Illinois football game at Memorial Stadium.
Rieck said he’s unsure whether one or two mats will be utilized during Centennial’s meet. One concern the Chargers don’t need to worry about is damaging a grass football field — a problem faced by GCMS officials.
Rieck is encouraging those who might be free Monday evening to consider dropping by Tommy Stewart Field.
“It’s a great way to come out and support the local school and support the kids who have had an exceptionally challenging year,” Rieck said. “I know the school as a whole is excited about it.”