A clutch of 26 beastly warriors took to the mat to compete for top medals during the second annual South Park Wrestling Camp in-house tournament March 30.
“The tournament went really well; I feel I had challenging matches, and my coaches did a good job teaching us and setting up each bracket. I only wish everyone would have stuck it out and finished to enjoy it as much as the rest of us did,” seventh-grade wrestler Monte Downare said.
Wrestling competition is based on weight of each athlete and the wrestlers were placed in their specific bracket for the set up of the tournament finale.
In full-combat grappling, the tournament consisted of a total of 25 matches in two rounds and concluded in a championship round. Divided into four two-man brackets, five three-man brackets, and two exhibition matches, the wrestlers tussled in three one-minute periods.
“The kids took on the challenge and did a good job. Wrestling is not an easy sport, but they wanted to improve their skills, and hopefully, they have been inspired to continue in the sport,” Coach Monte Downare said.
Team captains Vaughn Downare (weighing in at 47 pounds) and Lincoln Mills (weighing in at 203 pounds) launched the championship round in a crowd-pleasing exhibition match.
“We would like to thank Lincoln for his participation in the exhibition. He showed great sportsmanship in the way he wrestled with Vaughn and entertained the crowd. I hope that he knows that his mentoring in the event has enhanced a little boy’s dream of becoming a future wrestler,” Coach Downare said.
Wrestling out of Bracket-A in two rounds, Johnnie Fiedelman and Izaiah Ryszkowski were each able to raise their hand at the end of their matches and tied for first place.
In round-robin competition, Bracket B saw Jarrett Nevius pinning both of his opponents and taking first place. Henrik Newton positioned at second place with a single win, and Adam Keeling placed third.
The single round-robin schedule continued into Bracket C, where Jonas Kuepper captured the gold medal with double victories, followed by Kenny Metcalf at second place, and Kian Bresnahan held the bronze medal.
Climbing the scale, Dusty Jones placed first over two competitors and was pursued by John Gore with the silver medal. Micah Allen took third place in Bracket D and was awarded the bronze medal.
In strong competition, Bracket E finished with James Bertram stepping high on the podium after a tight overtime match with Calvin Brissey, who took second place, and Grady Miller wrapped up the group in third place.
Another win-on-win found Jackson Miller and Frankie Just tying for first place in Bracket F after each defeated the other in two rounds.
Finishing the three-man brackets, Monte Downare pinned both of his opponents and held the gold medal in Bracket G, while JW Miller took the second-place medal with a single win and JT Hutcheson took third on the podium.
Not limited to just the boys, Kally Downare took first place, while Rylee Shirley seized a second-place finish in Bracket H, Gracy Downare grasped the gold medal in Bracket I, with Keira Metcalf receiving the silver medal.
“I was proud of the kids that stuck it out. We taught a lot of moves in only eight days and knew we had a good group of kids that had focused on bettering themselves as they had definitely learned and demonstrated their skills in competition. They all did very well competing at the tournament, and we hope to see them all back next year,” Coach Micky Downare said.
Competition was brought to an end with an exhibition match, which consisted of Luke Mills and Monte Downare.
“Although wrestling is a one-on-one contest, these wrestlers developed a team chemistry, and no one was left behind because of that team support. Luke is a very dedicated athlete and wanted to compete, so Monte stepped up to make sure that he had a match for the tournament,” Coach Myles Downare said.
In addition, the coaches wanted to offer their appreciation to the Gore family for their financial contribution in support of the tournament, where all of the wrestlers who competed were rewarded with medals and certificates of completion.
“There were a few upsets during the tournament that I don’t think anyone expected, but that’s why I love sports. Anything can happen when you give it your all,” Athletic Director Alex Normansell said.
The camp, hosted by the South Park Athletic Department, offered current third through eighth grade student-athletes a chance to learn and train in basic fundamentals and techniques for eight days prior to the tournament, March 19-29.
“We wanted to host another wrestling camp because we are ideally trying to gather enough interest in the sport that we can offer it at the middle school next year. Just like we have done with the middle school cross country program, you have to build interest in that sport at the younger ages if you want to eventually offer it as a high school sport,” Normansell said.
“We will absolutely want to continue this camp in the future. This camp had more than 20 elementary students that signed up, and that is a great starting off point, and I hope that it continues to keep growing.”
Kicking off with a nine-wrestler increase from last year, the camp saw participation from five third graders, 10 fourth graders, eight fifth graders, six sixth graders, seven seventh graders, and one eighth grader.
“I think it was fun. The coaches did a really good job, because I learned a lot and I am excited for next year,” sixth grade wrestler Gracy Downare said.
The two-week event was led by former South Park wrestlers Monte Downare, Micky Downare and Myles Downare, along with former South Park head wrestling coach Bryan Shane.
Skilled and knowledgeable in the sport, Monte was a three-time state qualifier and two-time state placer, and Micky was a three-time state qualifier and state placer. Besides being a state qualifier, Myles holds the school record as South Park’s most dedicated wrestler; having put in 13 years of service. Heading the former South Park program for six years, Bryan was able to coach 13 state qualifiers during his time as coach.
“I was really happy with our coaches. They are extremely knowledgeable about the sport, and that shows when you see these kids wrestling on the mat,” Normansell said.
Future in the sport
Seeing interest in the sport of wrestling continuing to grow within the South Park student-athletes, the Athletic Department is currently looking at implementing a program into next year’s middle school schedule.
“With the middle school basketball season changing among our league next year to have the boys during the second quarter and the girls during the third quarter, that is almost 40 boy basketball players that will need to be put somewhere during seventh period. Now that we have had two years of this camp, I think there will be a huge interest in wrestling,” Normansell said.
South Park is a long-time member of the West Central League, which also includes Cotopaxi, Custer County and Cripple Creek-Victor. The League will be holding a one-year trial period for the basketball season where the boys will play in a separate season than the girls.
“I will be contacting athletic directors in Custer County and Center to get an idea of where they take their athletes to (wrestling) matches. If the one-year trial period for the basketball season is successful and enough middle school students enjoyed wrestling, I think that we will most likely keep wrestling as a sport and, eventually, we want to bring this sport back to our high school students, as well,” Normansell said.