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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Dodge City wins three-year bid for Southern Plains

  • Over 500 wrestlers came to Dodge City this past weekend for the Southern Plains Regional tournament, one of the premiere wrestling meets in the country. Monday morning marked the third and final day of the tournament, a dream come true for event organizer Scott Edwards.


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  • Over 500 wrestlers came to Dodge City this past weekend for the Southern Plains Regional tournament, one of the premiere wrestling meets in the country. Monday morning marked the third and final day of the tournament, a dream come true for event organizer Scott Edwards.
         The Southern Plains Regional featured three days of competition in three different styles of wrestling — Greco-Roman, Freestyle, and Folkstyle. The tournament held this past weekend at the United Wireless Arena marked the first time that folkstyle had been implemented into the schedule, as over 130 enrants competed.
         All in all, wrestlers from 14 different states made the journey to Dodge, including competitors from as far as New York.
         "I thought it was a great weekend, we had a lot of important people here and we had a lot of compliments on the venue," Edwards said, who volunteers as a head coach of the Wrangler wrestling club. "We were able to set a new record for attendance, in terms of wrestlers, so with that I was very pleased how this weekend went."
         Among those in attendance was Oklahoma State wrestling coach John Smith, a 2-time Olympic gold medalist who was there to watch his son compete as well as get eyes on many of the potential wrestlers that could wear the orange and black of the Cowboys in the future.
         "There is a lot of youth here that shows a lot of promise and it's not just about the juniors and seniors, but potentially those 7th and 8th graders that show a lot of potential," Smith said. "I'm very impressed with the way the tournament has been ran, the facility, and the town. It's been a nice place to have the Southern Plains.
    Making the move
         This year marked the first time in the past five years that the tournament had not been held in Hays, as air conditioning issues forced them to look for a different venue in Kansas.
         Dodge City eventually won the right to move the meet to town, with the backing of the then-brand new United Wireless Arena as the backbone of the proposal.
         With the tournament being centrally located in Dodge, kids flooded into the arena during the three day competition. And with that, local wrestlers were given an opportunity to step up in their hometown and wrestle against some of the best talent in the area.
         "With this being our first year starting up freestyle and Greco, I thought our kids performed very well," said Tate Lowe, who serves as a head coach of the Southwest Kansas wrestling club. "A tournament like this brings in some of the nation's best. These are kids that have wrestled their whole life and they're trying to get recruited. To be able to compete the way we did, it really makes you proud."
    Page 2 of 3 -      Among the placers in the tournament were Damian Mendez, who captured 2nd place in Greco and freestyle, and Dane Edwards, who placed 3rd during the Greco tournament on Saturday. Wresters who finished in the top-3 in their bracket qualified for the national tournament, which will be held in Fargo, N.D.
    Winning the bid
         This year also marked the year where the tournament went back up for bid within the seven state region that makes up the Southern Plains. Kansas (Hays and Dodge City) held it for the past six years and on Sunday morning, USA Wrestling executives listened to proposals from four states to bring the tournament to them.
         Kansas made their pitch to keep the tournament in Dodge City, citing the central location and use of the current venue to bolster their chances. However, there were several other strong proposals from Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico.
         So with competition like Dallas, Albequerque, and Pueblo, the Dodge City bid had some obstacles to overcome. After two voting ties, the third vote finally came in and declared the Kansas bid the winner, cementing the Southern Plains Regional in Dodge for the next three years.
         "I was extremely excited, I put a lot of work, a lot of hours — almost two years to bring this year," Edwards said. "It kind of feels like a dream come true. I accomplished something that I set out several years ago to do and I'm excited about that."
         It was a difficult decision for those in charge of the tournament, but Dodge City was given the ultimate go ahead because of the work shown on Saturday inside the arena.
         "What put us (Kansas) in the running was the facility here in Dodge," said Mike Juby, the Southern Plains tournament director. "I think what sealed it for us was our workers. We've gotten unbelievable support from the wrestling community and it takes a lot of people to make things run right. Everyone wants to see it stay in Kansas and I'm confident that is what put us over the top."
    Making future plans
         But now that the competition has been locked down in Dodge City for the next three years, the United Wireless Arena executives finally see their facility being used the way it was designed so many years ago.
         "To be able to bring this caliber of tournament to Dodge City, this is exactly what this building was built for," said Ralph Nall, executive director of the arena. "This particular tournament helps us achieve our goal of economic development in the city. Also, this will help promote the avenue that we need more hotel rooms, which was one of the challenges we had."
         Now that the tournament has ended, the work has already begun to make it even better next year. During the final day, suggestions and recommendations were given to turn an already successful competition into a national commodity in a year or two.
    Page 3 of 3 -      One thing that is already being discussed is moving the dates of the tournament from a Saturday thru Monday to a Friday thru Sunday event. And now that the tournament is locked in to coming back, arrangements can be made with hotels and lodging to secure enough rooms for potential athletes and their families.
         "Actually, the work has already started and is underway," Edwards said. "The motels that already had us booked are really excited that it's coming back for three years. But, it's going to be pretty important for the wrestling clubs and high school teams and their parents here in Dodge to pull together to make it go."
         In terms of a wrestling standpoint, Lowe is excited about the possibilities presented by keeping the Southern Plains tournament in Dodge. With the number of club wrestlers growing each year, the prospects of a national-size meet going on in your own backyard could do wonders for the Dodge City program as a whole.
         "Getting the tournament back here is huge and will have a big impact down the road," Lowe said. "In a few years you're going to see more kids getting involved and wrestling at a higher caliber. It will get clubs around here really excited to start freestyle and Greco and things will really grow in this area. It's an exciting time to be involved with wrestling in Dodge City."
     
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