Late bus pins wrestlers

Published 10:36 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2014

After training and watching their weight in the preceding days for a meet at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, wrestlers from King’s Fork High School were ready to take on their opponents on Saturday.

But they wound up defeated by their own school system’s transportation system, which failed to get them a bus in time to get to Virginia Beach.

Coach Brett Heberling was joined by six wrestlers, a few assistant coaches and statisticians at King’s Fork before 7 a.m., when the bus was scheduled to leave for the 9 a.m. competition at Tallwood.

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Around 7:30, when the bus had still not arrived, Heberling began making phone calls, but was unable to get help for the group, whose wrestlers finally gave up and went home after waiting until about 8:30 a.m., he said this week.

“I had the kids there, we were ready to go and I had to send them home,” he said. Knowing the trip to Virginia Beach would take at least 30 minutes, he finally notified Tallwood’s head coach they could not make it, Heberling said. The other coach then reformatted brackets to account for King’s Fork’s missing wrestlers

Bethanne Bradshaw, public information officer for Suffolk Public Schools, provided details on what occurred in an email on Monday.

“According to the transportation department, the driver assigned to this field trip had mechanical problems with his bus,” she stated. “When a bus arrived to KFHS more than an hour late, no one was there to pick up. Bus drivers assigned to field trips are required to immediately contact a dispatcher when there is a problem. In this case, that communication was not made in a timely manner.”

She added that winter break was a complicating factor.

“When the transportation office is closed during holidays and weekends, communication and quick resolution might be difficult,” she stated.

Heberling said the waste of time, energy and likely money were what made the situation so frustrating. He had traveled from his home in Portsmouth to be at the school by 6:30 a.m. Some of his wrestlers had been closely watching their weight in order to be ready that particular day for their respective weight classes.

Participating in the event also involved an entry fee. As of Tuesday, Heberling was doubtful the wrestling program could get it back, since it likely went toward resources like trophies and referees.

“Essentially, we just threw away $275 for the entry fee for this tournament, because we didn’t go,” Heberling said.

The coach said the bus has been a no show in the past for his team.

“Over the seven years I’ve been doing this, I’ve probably had three, maybe four events where the bus didn’t show up,” he said.

In those instances, he always found alternate ways to get his wrestlers to the event, including calling a friend who had a bus driver’s license. That was not an option on Saturday. Though parents can drive their own children and some volunteered to do so, Heberling said that also was not a fair solution, since the parents of all wrestlers were not necessarily available.

Consequently, Saturday was the first time he had to cancel an event due to bus issues.

To help avoid this situation in the future, Bradshaw stated, “The transportation staff plans to review with drivers the expected procedures.”

The Bulldogs aim for a return to the mat today at Lakeland High School and on Friday at Northampton High School in Eastville.