By Ray Hamill — The Humboldt Del Norte Wrestling Officials Association is looking to add to its roster of officials with the new high school season just around the corner.
Association head PJ Lynch is pushing for more young officials to join their ranks after seeing their numbers dwindle in recent years.
“Officiating across all sports is hurting, and wrestling is definitely no exception,” Lynch said.
The local association is responsible for providing officials for all of the H-DNL dual meets as well as four annual tournaments in the area, including regular-season tournaments at Del Norte, McKinleyville and Eureka and the H-DNL championships.
The association has just four officials right now, which is down from pre-COVID years when they would regularly carry between six and nine officials.
The four officials do have plenty of experience between them, but keeping younger officials on board has been problematic.
“Wrestling has been one of the hardest sports to get officials to stay because it does take a lot of commitment,” Lynch said. “It’s a challenge.”
So too is providing enough officials for the annual local tournaments.
“We would need anywhere from five to 10 officials for the tournaments,” Lynch said. “We have to bring in officials from outside the area, so we’re definitely in need.”
“Even at the grade school (level) there’s a shortage,” he said. “It’s just something that has been going on for years.”
Anyone interested in joining the Humboldt Del Norte Wrestling Officials Association can email Lynch at email@example.com.
And the association head says no new officials would be thrown in at the deep end.
“We have orientation, we have training for the officials,” he said. “We’ll shadow them with an experienced official so we don’t them throw to the dogs right off the bat.”
The officials also have regular meetings throughout the season.
Wrestling has a long and storied tradition here on the North Coast and the sport continues to thrive and expand locally.
This year saw the return of College of the Redwoods men’s wrestling for the first time in four decades, while Cal Poly Humboldt is expected to bring back a men’s for the first time since 1991 in the near future.
CR will also field a women’s wrestling team for the first time ever in the spring of 2024, as high school girls wrestling continues to build a strong foundation in the H-DNL, especially at Eureka and Del Norte.
“The majority of the coaches and everybody involved with the sport (here), they all came out of the Humboldt (and Del Norte) county program,” Lynch said. “And they love the sport and love the work ethic it produces.”
Local officials also get the opportunity to regularly travel out of the area to officiate at other tournaments.