It was not an illusion or trick of the mind for those who may have happened upon a peculiar-placed midday high-school athletic event at the Potomac School on Saturday, Nov. 27.
The wrestling team at the private school was hosting a noontime outdoor exhibition varsity match against Sidwell Friends, with one mat set up at midfield on the artificial-turf football field. Temperatures at times were in the low 40s, with a windchill causing the air to feel much colder.
A few sandbags were situated on the edges of the mat to keep it in place. There were working portable propane heaters on site as well as a fire pit to provide warmth.
The event is called the Backyard Classic, and now has been held twice at the school, each on Thanksgiving weekend to kick off the winter wrestling season for Potomac School. It took place for the first time in 2019, but did not occur last year because of the pandemic.
Wrestling is an inside winter sport, but a few college and high-school teams over the years have sometimes held such outside matches. Public-school teams Fairfax and Robinson of Northern Virginia met in an outside November exhibition during a recent three-year rivalry at the square in the middle of the City of Fairfax.
“It’s kind of like a tailgate atmosphere,” Potomac School wrestling coach C.J. Remmo said of his team’s event. “Spectators creep up close to the mat to watch. It’s become a nice event and a great way for us to kick off the season. It’s a new tradition for the school on Thanksgiving weekend, and we love hosting it.”
The classic included 12 individual exhibition matches. No team scoring was held, but the football scoreboard was working to keep the time and score of each match. Sidwell reprised its role as Potomac School’s opponent as it had been in 2019. Remmo used to coach at Sidwell and knows the wrestling coaching there.
Remmo also is the head football coach at Potomac School. Half of the 20 wrestlers on the Potomac School team this season are football players.
“There is a natural bridge between football and wrestling, and we are always looking for those connections,” Remmo said.
The season opens for real for the Potomac School wrestlers with a number of dual matches prior to Jan. 1, including two against the nearby Langley Saxons in a private-vs.-public-school showdown.
Potomac School and St. James are expected to be two of the top teams in the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference this season.