Here’s How Head Coach Dustin “Dirt” Howa and West’s Wrestlers Overcame Challenges Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic During their Competition Season

Hugo Escobar

West High athletics just underwent the most tumultuous few seasons in quite

some time. With an ongoing pandemic, there were lingering questions about the safety of high

school sports, especially those in the fall/winter seasons, which are predominantly indoors and

thus even likelier to cause the spread of the virus. Sports like wrestling appeared to be kicked to the curb, but despite pressure from the health department, Dirt Howa, head coach of the boys’ and girls’ wrestling teams, managed to carry out a successful season for West’s wrestlers.


Mr. Howa, referred to as “Dirt” by his pupils, was vital in accomplishing any semblance

of a decent wrestling season. Despite multiple cases of COVID throughout the season, Howa was

able to still hold practice sessions through “online Zoom training that [he] led.” With regards to

the guidelines that the health department had imposed on the sport, Howa says that “we were

under a different set up […] than every other school district in the state even though we were the

safest school without being in person for classroom learning.”


West’s wrestlers would be forced to have some training sessions over zoom while

juggling the possibility of not being able to compete if tested positive. Luckily, Howa was able to

secure “a testing day […] to get kids out of quarantine to be able to compete” when divisionals

came around. Because of this, Howa was able to have at least one of our wrestlers take a state



When asked if the pandemic was helpful to West’s wrestlers at all, Howa had this to say:

“The pandemic was a terrible thing for high school wrestling as it simply restricted us and took

opportunities from all the kids away. It broke apart the team as we had to separate more during practice, and [the] administration was focused on pandemic items rather than wrestling-related

items. We lost 5 home events and all of our fundraising opportunities.”


Ultimately, West High’s wrestlers just endured one of the most unstable seasons in high

school sports in a very long time, but what gets overlooked with wrestlers is their tenacity and

heart, and those, along with a sturdy presence at the helm in Mr. Howa, are what allowed them to

succeed in spite of once-in-a-lifetime circumstances.