Sebastien Rubino / [email protected]
Battle Ground High School held a wrestling tournament on April 16 as more than 500 students from multiple states came to wrestle on the mat.
BGHS wrestling coach Karl Johnson was happy to see the return of a full-scale tournament after being suspended for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson is also a trainer and manager of the Southwest Washington Wrestling Club.
“We’re just trying to get wrestlers to be better,” Johnson said. “We are rebuilding the fight post-COVID. It comes to life, and it’s a lot of work because I’m really trying to get athletes out of their homes and out of this COVID depression.
Johnson said the tournament incorporated Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling, which each had their own respective tournaments. The tournament featured eight mats with matches taking place simultaneously.
He said the tournament also raised $16,000 through donations and concession sales, which will allow the school to purchase another mat for the competitions.
“There was $5,500 in direct donations from the community. We have people who want to invest in our athletes at all levels, and I am now dedicated to being a year-round wrestling manager and bringing those kids out,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the tournament went well, despite some minor hiccups.
The tournament was dedicated to Merle Crockett, who Johnson said held a tournament on a similar scale to BGHS that included “Olympic qualifiers”.
“After the (Crockett’s) tournament he developed some health issues, so when I brought him back everyone thought it was an endearing tournament,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Merle attended the tournament which took place on April 16.
“He was very happy with what we did,” he said. “(We had) wrestlers from all over.”
For individual wrestlers, Johnson pointed to senior Gunnar Henderson, second Braeden Munson and rookie Landon Punua.
Henderson was the champion in the Greco-Roman and Freestyle categories, while Munson placed in the top three for both events. As for Penua, he also placed third.
“The whole thing with wrestling is that you have to grow somehow in the offseason. To do that, it’s about games,” Johnson said. “A lot of these guys are new to this idea of just getting games, winning or losing. But they’ve bought into it now.
Johnson said training off-season might not be fun, but he noted the wrestlers were dedicated to it, which would make them better.
Johnson said he was optimistic that some of his wrestlers would make the top three in future tournaments. The Washington State Wrestling Association State Tournament is scheduled for May 7-8.
Wrestlers who place in the tournament will then move on to the Fargo Junior Nationals tournament in North Dakota from July 15-July 22.
“I think we’ve got a lot of new wrestlers, but we’ve got a lot that qualify and go,” Johnson said. “If they don’t make it, there are other tournaments and camps in the summer that we can connect them with.”
The Southwest Washington Wrestling Club operates Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and Tuesdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. for new wrestlers.