BIG LAKE — Children and teens from across the state put their countless hours of practice to the test during the 2021 Alaska USA Wrestling State Tournament at the Big Lake Lions Recreation Center over the weekend.
The three-day tournament ran from April 29 through Mat 1. Dedicated young athletes worked their way through brackets as their supportive families and friends cheered from the sidelines at several stations set up across the ice arena.
“There’s a lot of great stories here,” event director Bob Ottum said.
A 12-year-old athlete from the Kenai Peninsula, Titus Watts walked away with three victories under his belt. His father, Casey Watts said that his son was beaming from the achievement.
“He’s very, very proud. He’s just got a smile ear to ear,” Casey said.
Casey said that his son has been wrestling for six years. He said that Titus has made friends throughout Alaska, and even some from out of state through the sport.
“He loves it. He’s a wrestler for life,” Casey said. “Wins, losses, It doesn’t matter. He’s just friends with everybody. He’s a real sociable little fella.”
Casey said they always make a family road trip out of their travels to state tournaments. He said they really enjoyed their time in the Valley, visiting numerous parks and other places. He noted that it was really special to get the kids out of the house after a long and socially distant year.
“I’m so glad we came,” Casey said.
Another wrestling dad, Jeremy Kean, is also glad that his son, Royce Kean, was able to come to the tournament. He praised all the tournament officials’ efforts.
“We think they ran a great tournament today. They did really good,” Jeremy said.
Royce said he was pleased with how he did during the tournament.
“I feel pretty good; lost one, won one,” Royce said.
Royce does other sports, but wrestling is his favorite. He said that he looks forward to the fun games they play at the end of practices. He said that he looks forward to learning new moves and competing in more tournaments.
“That’s what we work for,” Royce said.
Jeremy said that wrestling is a great sport and helped instill independence, toughness, and character in his son, who gave his all on the mat.
“I think he did a great job,” Jeremy said. “I think it teaches him to solve his own problems. There’s no one to help him on the mat.”
Eagle river athlete, Liam Rogers said that he had a great time at the tournament.
“It went pretty good...I learned a lot,” Liam said.
Liam’s father, Brian Rogers was proud to see his son’s dedication on full display.
“All that hard work paid off,” Brian said.
Numerous families parked their RV’s and trailers in the parking lot, mingling with fellow families in the parking lot over the three-day period.
Liam has been wrestling for seven years. He said that his favorite takeaway is the people. He said that he’s made a lot of friends through the sport despite the high level of competitiveness. He said most athletes treat it with respect and see it as a friendly competition, cheering on athletes no matter what team they’re on.
“All the people are so nice,” Liam said.
For more information, visit usawrestlingevents.com.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org