BHS wrestlers at nationals
FARGO, N.D. Seven Baldwin High School wrestlers are in Fargo, North Dakota, competing for Team Kansas in the Freestyle/Greco-Roman National Tournament held from July 20-27.
The Bulldogs competing are Joe Bonner, Luke Halford, Sam Hinton and Josiah Mason on the Cadet team; Sam Coffey and Nathan Deel on the junior team; and Stacy Lassman in the Women's Division. BHS assistant coach Bobby Bovaird is on the cadet team's coaching staff for the third year in a row. Bovaird competed for Team Kansas in 1998, winning one match in Greco-Roman.
"It really helped me last year. I'm hoping to win some matches this year," said Halford, who wrestled varsity at 145 pounds for BHS last year as a freshman. "I'm excited about going and looking forward to doing my best and seeing how well I can compete with the best wrestlers."
It is the third trip to nationals for Deel, a BHS state qualifier who is 14th on the school's all-time wins list heading into his senior season. Deel won one match in cadet freestyle last year, and will be moving up to the junior age division this year. It is the second trip to Fargo for Halford, who was a Kids State runner-up this past spring. It will be the first nationals experience for the other Baldwin wrestlers.
"I'm sure it will help me with my wrestling season next year. It will be a great experience," said Sam Hinton, who wrestled both varsity and junior varsity for the Bulldogs last year as a freshman. "It will be fun competing at the national level."
Lassman will be competing in the first-ever women's division in Fargo, which was added this year due to increased interest in women's wrestling over the past several years. Women's wrestling was recently added as a 2004 Olympic event. Lassman just returned from the first-ever USA Wrestling Women's Developmental Camp held in Colorado Springs, where she was also able to tour the Olympic Training Center and work out with about 50 female wrestlers from around the country, as far away as Alaska and Hawaii.
The team's training camp was held on the campus of Hutchinson Community College last week. The national tournament is held in the Fargodome, North Dakota State University's indoor football stadium which holds the 23 mats needed for the event. It continues to be the largest wrestling tournament in the world, with brackets as large as 150 competitors. The top eight placers at each weight are crowned All-Americans. The tournament is a primary recruiting ground for college coaches.
"If you want to get better at wrestling, you have to see this level of competition," said BHS coach Kit Harris. "Of course you want to win matches, but even if you don't it's a good experience. It is a fun time. These kids are taking advantage of a great opportunity."
"I'm just going up there to do my best. I don't really know what to expect," said Hinton.
The tournament also draws as coaches for each state's teams some of the most famous names in wrestling. In Fargo as coaches last year were undefeated four-time NCAA champion Cael Sanderson of Iowa State, 1996 U.S. Olympic coach Rob Herman, Sydney Olympic silver medallist Matt Lindland, Team U.S.A. wrestler Randy Couture, and Iowa Hawkeye All-Americans Terry and Troy Steiner. In attendance recruiting were coaches Jack Spates (University of Oklahoma), Brian Smith and Bart Horton (University of Missouri), Brad Penrith (Northern Iowa), Chuck Kearney and Ricky Stewart (Oregon), Bobby Douglas (Iowa State) and others.
"I think it's great to be able to go where all the best are," said Hinton.
Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling are the styles used in the Olympic games and all international competitions. The United States is the only country in the world that competes in folkstyle, the style used at the youth and scholastic level.
To follow Team Kansas, keep up to date on the USAW-Kansas Web site at www.usawks.com or USA Wrestling's Web site at www.themat.com.
OTHER BALDWIN WRESTLING NOTES:
It has been a successful off-season for the Bulldog wrestlers. Eight wrestlers took part in a Topeka camp with Olympic gold medallist Rulon Gardner in early June. Then in mid-June, 15 attended the Shawn Charles Championship Wrestling Camp held at Baker University. Twelve beginning wrestlers with between 0-2 years experience attended the Baldwin City Recreation Wrestling Clinic held in late June. Another Baldwin wrestler, Seth Halford, is attending the Kansas Folkstyle Wrestling Camp held at Kansas State University this week.
For more Baldwin wrestling news, results and pictures, check out the team's Web site at: www.eteamz.com/baldwinbulldogwrestling.