This weekend, wrestlers from multiple states will meet in the Southern Plains Regional Championships.
The event takes place at United Wireless Arena, and will feature both Freestyle and Greco-Roman style wrestling, the only two styles of wrestling done at the Olympic level. It will feature both boys and girls wrestling, with each divided into five age groups, and weight divisions within those age groups.
According to the event’s website, Freestyle wrestling “is exciting, creative and dynamic because points can be scored from almost anywhere.” Greco-Roman wrestling, meanwhile, “is known for powerful lifts and big throws, as all attacks must be made above the waist."
Not only does the event give athletes the opportunity to get extra competition experience, it is also a qualifier for various National Level events within USA Wrestling.
This weekend’s event is also a qualifier for the national tournament, which takes place in Fargo, North Dakota.
“You’ll get teams, obviously from Kansas, but Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska, you’ll some Iowa kids, Texas kids and stuff,” Dodge City High School head wrestling coach Lars Lueders said. “There’s seven or eight states in a region: Most of your best kids will be at this tournament this weekend.”
Besides competing in matches against often-unfamiliar and strong competitors, participants also get to experience and compete in the styles other countries’ wrestlers compete in. In both high school and college, Americans typically do what’s called “Folkstyle” wrestling, Lueders said. The best wrestlers, however, do Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling during the offseason.
Some of the differences between the styles include what can earn points and what is or isn't allowed. In Greco-Roman style, for instance, athletes cannot trip each other with the legs or touch each other’s legs, making the match it all upper-body work. This differs from Folkstyle, which has no such restriction.
Lueders said he doesn’t have any expectations in terms of kids competing. In this case, it’s more about experience.
“A lot of it’s just competing at a high level, learning from high-level matches and what to do against top-notch competitors and just getting better, that’s what we’ll be looking for,” Lueders said.
Those who go inevitably get better at wrestling, Lueders said, and that can be seen in the offseason. In Greco, for instance, it can force wrestlers out of their comfort zone by forcing them to rely on throws.
“It forces you to get into throwing situations,” Lueders said. “In Greco they don’t let you block off, and so you have to basically be in a throwing position the whole match.”
That makes many athletes uncomfortable.
“During the season, if they don’t feel good in those positions they’ll just get out of it and go to a different one,” Lueders said. “This style forces you into those situations and kind of just forces you to work in those types of situations.”
That experience can help during the Folkstyle wrestling season, such as when a wrestler is leading a match and an opponent is getting ready to throw them to get points.
“If you feel more comfortable in that situation, the chances of you not getting thrown and then winning the match increase a bunch,” Lueders said.
It also shows an added level of commitment, specifically that the wrestler participating wants to take the sport to a higher level. Because of the extra time participants devote to it, giving up often becomes harder for the athlete afterward simply because they have put more time and effort into improving, Lueders said.
Doors open at 6:30 a.m. Saturday and 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Competitions start at 9 a.m. both days. Admission is $5 for adults (ages 13 and up), $2 for students (ages 6-12) and free for children five years old and younger.