Coach Chris Messina, from Hauppauge High School uses the SteriLaser,...

Coach Chris Messina, from Hauppauge High School uses the SteriLaser, a machine used to sterilize the mats used in wrestling between matches. (March 12, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Ed Betz

The New York State bill to regulate hygiene practices in high school wrestling will require schools to clean mats before competitions and practices, ensure that all facilities holding tournaments have functioning showers with hot and cold water and mandate preseason education for coaches and athletes on the prevention of bacterial infection, according to a final draft of the document.

The bill, which was drafted by state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), will likely be sent to the Senate education committee later this week with the hopes that it will receive a full vote by both houses of the legislature before the regular session ends on June 20. Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) is co-sponsoring the bill.

The legislation comes after Hauppauge wrestler Nick Mauriello contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and a serious secondary infection that nearly cost him his life earlier this year. MRSA, an infection-causing bacterium, is known for spreading in unhygienic environments.

Zeldin said that he was optimistic about the bill's chances.

"It's reasonable, it's responsive and it doesn't create a fiscal impact on the school districts," Zeldin said. "In fact, it relieves it . . . I don't anticipate any opposition."

If passed, the bill, which will take effect at the beginning of next school year, would make mat cleaning a reimbursable expense.

It also requires that all wrestlers previously suffering from a skin infection get cleared by a physician before being allowed to compete, and limits liability for school districts "acting in good faith" if a student becomes infected.

"We went through about 10 drafts and continue to improve it along the way," said Zeldin, who added that he met with representatives from the state high school athletic association, wrestling coaches, janitors and administrators. "This was an ideal cooperation . . . we wanted to make it as close to perfect as possible."

Coaches will be required to attend a "webinar" on skin infection, while athletes will be required to sign a statement saying they read the provided information about skin infection -- either given to them by their school or accessed on the Department of Health website.

"If the Hauppauge wrestling team travels upstate, they shouldn't have to worry if the showers have hot or cold water," Zeldin said. "We want to make sure school districts exercise reasonable care."

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