Young wrestlers get a workout at tourney
Phil Lobb Gymnasium in Tonganoxie High School on Sunday looked somewhat like the venue for the Olympics' opening ceremonies.
Athletes entered the arena club by club, each sporting different team colors as spectators cheered their entrance.
But for these athletes, they were competing in just one event wrestling.
The ceremony was the parade of wrestlers, a tradition in which 305 wrestlers from 13 clubs participated.
The festivities were part of the third annual Tonganoxie Invitational for youth wrestlers. Wrestlers age 6 to 14 and weight classes 43-205 pounds wrestled in 65 brackets. Clubs from as close as Baldwin, Bonner Springs and St. Thomas Aquinas in Overland Park to more distant clubs such as Rossville competed in the tournament.
The Tonganoxie Wrestling Club hosted the event that started at 9 a.m. and finished in the late afternoon. Scott Underwood said the event was hectic, but a definite success.
"We were really happy with the way things ran," Underwood said. "It kept me busy all day."
Underwood has been involved with the club for four years. He took charge of the organization this year, replacing Darryl Starcher, who ran the organization since its inception eight years ago.
"I'm the president I guess you could say," Underwood said.
The club practices Monday and Thursday evenings at the THS multi-purpose center with nine coaches conducting sessions among 50 wrestlers.
Underwood, a 1997 Tonganoxie High School graduate who started wrestling when he was 8, said the club has really grown in the last few years.
"Every year it seems like it gets bigger," Underwood said. "That's kind of been our goal."
Some wrestlers have gone on to the high school level. Underwood said he's seen THS wrestlers Andy Koontz, Hunter Samuels and Chad and Ross Starcher, come through the club.
"I saw Chad and Ross come up, but all their credit can go to their dad," Underwood said, referring to Darryl Starcher.
Wrestlers get their share of experience through the club.
Practice in the folkstyle season started after Thanksgiving and will run into mid-March. The freestyle season starts in April and runs through the summer.
"We go to a tournament just about every weekend," Underwood said.
Open or more experienced tournaments usually run on Saturdays, while Sundays usually involve novice tournaments.
Most local tournaments are novice, as De Soto and Gardner have novice tournaments coming up. Some club members have competed in open tournaments in Wichita and Effingham, along with a larger tournament in Ahearn Fieldhouse in Manhattan.
Underwood looks for the numerous tournaments to help the wrestlers in the future.
"We've got some pretty good athletes who will coming into the high school who have been in the program for four or five years," he said.