SAN JOSE, Calif. – Archbishop Mitty High School wrestler Blake Flovin is trying to warn the California Interscholastic Federation: if the state wrestling tournament proceeds, a “mat herpes” outbreak is likely.
Flovin and his parents, with the help of an attorney, are trying to convince the athletic association to postpone the state wrestling tournament set for today after the senior contracted “herpes gladiatorum” at a recent wrestling meet at San Jose Independence High School, The San Jose Mercury News reports.
“I’m not asking them to shut it down forever, but it absolutely needs to be delayed to allow for the incubation period to pass with all the wrestlers Blake wrestled with,” said Robert Powell, the family’s lawyer.
The virus, commonly known as “mat herpes,” is a lifelong infection that can remain dormant for long periods of time, but typically results in skin lesions that spread it to others.
“The lesions look like red bumps, or they can look like small blisters,” San Jose sports medicine doctor Bob Nishime said. “Sometimes they don’t look suspicious at all. They can just look like a red patch.”
Flovin said he believes he contracted the virus at a tournament at San Jose Independence High School last month, and is concerned he may have spread the virus to others, including students at several schools he last competed against at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino Feb. 25, according to the news site.
“Either they need to be stopped from wrestling or the state tournament needs to be postponed,” Flovin told ABC 7, adding that he’s “just trying to prevent this disease from getting to other people.”
The California Interscholastic Federation doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, and have vowed to hold the tournament anyway.
“We’ve had many times where our doctors have removed an athlete who was showing symptoms or some sort of skin lesion. This is something we deal with on a regular basis,” federation senior director Brian Seymour told the Mercury News.
“We follow protocol to the letter of the law,” said Seymour, who is also directing the state tournament.
Flovin noted that the “protocol” didn’t stop the spread of “mat herpes” in San Jose.
He believes wet and unsanitary restroom conditions lead to his current condition – an outbreak of small lesions across his face that resembles severe acne.
“The kids were walking in there with their wrestling shoes, then straight out of the bathroom and onto the mats. Kids’ faces were shoved into the mats where those feet were,” Flovin said. “It’s disgusting. Kids were joking that if you walk in there, you’re probably going to get pink eye.”
Flovin and his parents said many wrestlers and their coaches work to get around the rules by covering lesions with Band-Aids or ignore the symptoms under pressure to perform, and any wrestlers he’s come into contact with could continue to spread the herpes to others.
“How many people are going to get this, one more, two more, three more?” he questioned.
Despite placing second in the San Jose regional tournament, the lifelong infection convinced Flovin to give up wrestling to focus on his promising college football career at Holy Cross, where he’s set to attend this fall.
“I’m never going to wrestle again,” he told the Mercury News.
“It’s mainly scary and it’s pretty embarrassing to have it,” he said. “No one wants to be known for having herpes.”