COVID-19 forcing Colorado high school athletes to commit to college programs early

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DENVER (KDVR) — Isaias Estrada can’t remember his life before wrestling, and he can’t envision a future without it. The sport is a part of his family’s DNA.

“I have five kids. Four wrestle. The baby doesn’t, but she wants to start wrestling,” said Isaias’ mother, Delia.

No one was shocked when Isaias won Thomas Jefferson High School’s first-ever state wrestling title last spring. Colleges interested in recruiting him started calling.

Isaias was offered a scholarship by the University of North Carolina last spring and he committed to the school, worried about what could happen this season because of coronavirus.

“I just feel like if I didn’t take the opportunity when it was presented, it could have just gone away. Somebody else could have taken that,” Isaias said.

Isaias isn’t alone.

Bill Bufton is an assistant athletic director at Valor Christian High School. He says he’s not surprised to hear some high school seniors at various schools are leaving Colorado, transferring to schools in other states where fall sports are still being played in the fall.

Most fall sports in Colorado have been moved to the spring because of COVID-19 concerns.

“Right now I would say football is the most impacted,” said Bufton.

Football practices in Colorado will begin in February, long after seasons in many other states have ended, and after those athletes have submitted fresh film to college programs looking to sign players.

“It’s just going to be a great advantage for players in those other states,” said Bufton. “My advice right now to any athlete: if you have a really good deal and the school fits you, I would probably take the deal. I think a lot of schools are probably pretty much full, especially the elite schools. They probably have 20 or more commitments out of their 25 kids.”

Estrada is thankful he committed to the University of North Carolina, but even so, he and his mother are still worried about how COVID-19 will impact his senior year and beyond.

“My worry is we get out to North Carolina and he’s not where he needs to be for college,” said Delia.

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