Athletics at the Wharton County Junior College, like the high schools in the area, did not get to complete their spring season due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The WCJC only has three sports, baseball, volleyball, and rodeo. With the closure, baseball and rodeo will remain incomplete and tough loss for both sports. The baseball program had just opened a nearly $2 million complex, Corbett Park, and had 15 remaining home games.
“We finally got Corbett Park finished and it was a showcase for the community and our college,” WCJC Atheltic Director Keith Case said. “People really enjoyed coming to games there, but Corbett Park is going to be there.”
Along with the field not getting to be used for a full-season, the player’s season was cut short. The governing body for junior college athletics after canceling the season, extended eligibility for athletes.
However, with most of the sophomores who play for WCJC moving on to four-year universities, only a few will take advantage of the extra year, Case said.
Baseball at the college level will be more competitive next year and should trickle down to WCJC. The Major League Baseball draft this year will be only five rounds, compared to 40 rounds normally. Along with seniors who can play an extra year, good players will be looking to find places to play and the WCJC could have an influx of talent next season.
While rodeo doesn’t involve much person-to-person contact, it was also canceled when colleges around the county closed. WCJC had a tradition of sending cowboys and cowgirls to the national rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, Bret Garza (bull riding) and Kolton Mazoch (tie-down roping), both represented the college last season. Before ending the season, three WCJC athletes were ranked number one in their conference. Jordan Hanna (team roping heeler), Cade Powell Boettcher (team roping header) and Ryan McKay Nettle (steer wrestling) had locked up their spots in Wyoming.
“You’ve got to feel for those guys, we had three that had already qualified and a possibility of a couple of more that could have qualified,” Case said. “That (would have been) big for those cowboys and cowgirls, that’s broadcast on ESPN and it (would have been) good publicity for the school. They worked their tails off, but it’s something that’s out of our control.”
While the college is still closed, WCJC now awaits direction on how to re-open the campus. Volleyball, a fall sport, was not impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. However, their first game last season was Aug 21. just under three months away. Case is expecting an update from the NCJAA in June, which should share some light on this upcoming year.
“(We’re) kind of in a holding pattern,” Case said. “We’re getting things worked out and getting things ready to go as normal. We’ll also have plans B and C also.”