Hundreds of youngsters roamed the halls of Manhattan High School Saturday, but not for school or even detention. They were there to compete. Manhattan High hosted the Little Apple Classic, one of the area’s long-running youth wrestling tournaments.
Aricca Wallace, tournament director, said the tournament, which is in its 41st year, drew about 625 kids from ages 4 to 14. The Manhattan Optimist Kids Wrestling Club fielded 78 competitors alone —several of them being medal winners Saturday afternoon. Wallace said 35 clubs from across the state were represented.
The tournament’s growth has been aided by cooperation with the high school.
“With the new remodel of the high school it makes it a lot easier for families to spread out and not be so cramped in the gyms,” Wallace said. “That helps.”
She added that all skill levels were represented, from beginners to wrestlers who have placed in national tournaments.
The youth wrestling season runs from the middle of December to the end of March and consists of tournaments much like the Little Apple Classic. Despite the size and frenetic atmosphere, Jim Lund, of the tournament team, said tournaments such as the Classic are commonplace. Lund said clubs travel to one almost every weekend. But competing at home does have its advantages.
“That is always much nicer, you know, for the reason that you get grandma and grandpa in the crowd,” Lund said.
The young wrestlers competed and will continue to compete for a chance to go to kids’ state after the season ends. Lund and Wallace agree that it takes a special kind of kid to wrestle. They said young wrestlers show a high level of dedication and determination that differs from playing a team sport. .
“When you go out and lose, it’s not ‘he didn’t catch the ball, he didn’t hit the ball, that guy didn’t tackle.’” Lund said. “In this sport, you can’t blame anyone but yourself.”
Lund noted that the kids are still on a club, so coaches and parents try to remind them teamwork is important.
“I have two boys that wrestle, and I can definitely say it makes them better students and makes them better team players on the group sports,” Wallace said. “I think it just helps them.”
Even considering the dedication that goes into youth wrestling, the kids still have fun. Wallace’s son, Marcus, saw success Saturday with a second place finish.
“It is fun and you get to hang out with your friends and learn new moves,” Marcus Wallace said.
Lund said the Manhattan wrestlers seemed to enjoy their time at the Classic.
“Most of the kids I’ve seen —big smiles on their faces,” he said.