Hundreds compete at youth regional tourney

Posted 2/8/10

The air crackled with the excitement of fierce one-on-one competition and the field house filled with cheers, applause and smiles on the faces of the …

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Hundreds compete at youth regional tourney


The air crackled with the excitement of fierce one-on-one competition and the field house filled with cheers, applause and smiles on the faces of the victors and even a few tears of disappointment from the eyes of losers at Feb. 7’s South Suburban Youth Wrestling League Regional Tournament.

It was almost standing room only as friends and family came to watch the 4- to 14-year-old wrestlers batting for the honors in the season-ending competition that attracted about 500 wrestlers.

Youth wrestling is as much about teaching the sport and having fun as it is about winning matches.

To try to keep the competition as fair as possible, the wrestlers are divided into age groups, under 6, under 8, under 10, under 12 and under 14, plus each age group is split into weight divisions. Another effort to make the competition as fair as possible in each age group, a wrestler is placed into the A, B or C division, based on the young athlete’s ability on the mat.

As the tournament got under way, 10-year-old Sam Westra of Englewood faced off against a Rangeview opponent. He battled hard but he lost it.

After the tough match, he said he really enjoys wrestling, even though he moved up to the A division, which is the highest skill level in the age group.

“Moving to the A division has been very challenging but I still have a 9-3 record,” he said. “I really like wrestling. It pushes you to build endurance and I really like the fact it is a one-on-one competition. It’s just you and the other guy out there.”

Westra is continuing a family tradition and, at his match, his dad Steve, a former Pirate wrestler and football player, looked on.

“I wrestled and, when my son showed an interest in wrestling, we decided to join the Englewood team,” Steve said. “It was a good choice because everything about the team is dedicated to the kids. I also like the fact the numbers are small so each wrestler gets a lot of personal attention and encouragement from the coaches and the parents of all members of the team.”

The family tradition also ran deep when 4-year-old Chase Apodaca took the mat.

“Our family has always been involved in Englewood wrestling,” his dad Mike said. “My brothers and I both wrestled for the Pirates as did our dad. I also had a nephew who wrestled for Englewood.”

He said Chase loved the sport as does his other son, Chris, who wrestle each other at home all the time.

While youth wrestling is open to anyone, not many girls are like Maxine Smith, who said she really likes the sport.

“My brother was in wrestling and I got interested in the sport and have been with the team for about seven years,” the 12-year-old said. “Some guys don’t care that I’m a girl and we just go out there and wrestle. But, sometimes, the guy’s buddies get on him to be sure not to be beat by a girl. Then, I step it up a little and try to get the win.”

Englewood’s team hosted regionals in the high school field house and the job of organizing this year’s event fell to tournament director Chuck Nour.

He seemed to be everywhere with a microphone in his hand, calling out the the number of an available mat or working with schedulers to keep the tournament moving.

“This is a busy day of wrestling that will see probably more than 1,000 individual matches,” he said. “We put out six mats, spilt each mat in half for we have 12 matches going on at the same time in the first rounds of the tournament.”

He said the high school was very cooperative as were the high school coaches and the Pirate wrestlers, many who served as time keepers and referees.

“Things have been going pretty well and we are moving right along,” Nour said. “Everyone is working together really well and, who knows, we might just complete this tournament ahead of time so everyone can get home and watch the Super Bowl.”


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