Young wrestlers are expected to flock to Commerce on New Year’s Day for the city’s first sanctioned Team Georgia Wrestling tournament.
The Commerce Wrestling Club is sponsoring the event at Commerce High School. Funds raised mainly benefit the Tigers’ varsity team as well as the high school’s booster club, said tournament director Rick Flint.
He expects 300 youth wrestlers from across the state at the competition, along with 700 or more parents and coaches.
Weigh-ins start at 1-1:45 p.m., with wrestling to follow at 2 p.m. Admission is $7 for families, $5 for adults and $3 for children.
Participants typically compete for independent wrestling clubs, which teach the sport to children ages 5-14. The Commerce event is geared toward beginners, Flint added, with only first-year and second-year wrestlers allowed to compete.
No wrestlers who placed at the year-end state tournament in March are allowed to wrestle.
“Wrestling is sport where if you throw a first-year in with (an experienced kid), he’s going to get discouraged and be done with it,” Flint said. “This type of meet is to encourage kids in a positive atmosphere.”
How the matches are designed support this, with a first-period pin resulting in a winner – and a learning opportunity. Losing wrestlers can choose to continue wrestling in order to get mat time after their defeat, Flint explained. Doing so makes a big difference in experience, a chief aim of the contest, he said.
“That’s what this is about,” he added. “That is the biggest thing it does for kids is it builds their confidence.”
The Commerce Wrestling Club is made up of about 50 wrestlers. Participation typically increases over the course of the youth season, which runs from mid-November to mid-March, Flint said.
The local group is one of more than 150 similar youth wrestling clubs in the state, which are sanctioned through Team Georgia Wrestling. Team Georgia is connected to USA Wrestling, which is the governing body for the sport and its competitors, youth to Olympic contenders.
Though in existence for more than five years, the Commerce club has never hosted a meet of this size and scope, Flint said.
About 500 matches will happen over the four-to-five-hour event, with more than 60 volunteers enlisted as helpers.
The construction of the new high school gym made sponsoring such a meet possible, Flint said.
“Basically, we’ve been wanting to do it for years,” he said. “We finally got a gym that was big enough to host this type of event.”
I hope this was the first of many tournaments to be held here in Commerce.
So many of the parents, siblings, teammates and even varsity wrestlers volunteered their time and made it a spectacular competition. I appreciate all that the coaches do for the kids, how hard they worked bringing this match to Commerce and then running and going above and beyond to organize it.
From Russ Brown's performance of the National Anthem to the photographs of winners of each bracket on the podium, from the mouth-watering aroma coming from the coaches Hospitality Room to the Commerce Mat Tiger mascot wearing a Commerce singlet - so much detail went into the tournament making it an exciting event for everyone.
I'm not sure how we could top this event in the future - but I know it will be exciting to see.