Thanks everyone. I tried a two glove approach during my last session. It was cumbersome at best. I didn't scratch anything, but I was constantly rinsing as I was processing one frame at a time and fumbling with faucets, lights, timers, etc. in between. The gloves were vinyl.

Here's an example of where the tongs damaged the emulsion (vertical squiggly mark, top center):

I have more extreme examples.

Am I hearing that once the film is in the fixer and starts to clear, that it's a bit more durable (i.e. less prone to scratching)?

By the way, I'm using the pre-wet to avoid a problem I was having with uneven development. Also, I'm developing with a dilution of Ilford PQ Universal Paper Developer -- not lith developer.