Top placers from Del Norte

PEEWEE

1st-place: Chase Bachmann, Nemechay Bates, Remy McCovey, Jase Price-Lewis, Romeo Thompson, Jionni Vengas-Ochoa

2nd-place: Requa-Henry Cedillo, William Gillis, Zaiden Navarro

BANTAM

1st-place: Manuel Contreras, Josie Dowd, Lucas Lopez, Emmett Mello, Dillon Pulley

2nd-place: Mateo Chadwick, Louis Evenson, Lucas Fox, Asher Fry, Oscar Gensaw, Colson Hernandez, Benjamin Hogan, Travis Jackson, Jaxson Meyer-Zlokovich, Bradley Osborne, Angel Taggart

INTERMEDIATE

1st-place: David Burshem, Amaziah Cole, Cameron Crayton, Issak Nielsen, Edward Norris, Sophia Reyes-Villegas, Gustavo Vengas-Ochoa, Xzavier Ybarra

2nd-place: Ty Blue, Abel Davis, Jaxon Johnson, Kellen Rice

NOVICE

1st-place: Chulh-Ts’a’s-Ne Bates (Smiley), Ka-Get Dowd, William McCovey, Colby Moore, Robert Reyes-Villegas, David Risling, Colton Schaad, Russell Walters, Jaxon Wells

2nd-place: Segep Bates, Cody Burshem, Alexander Cole, Camden James, Jason Turner

SCHOOL BOY

1st-place: Jace Bergman, Eddie Hartwick, Braydan Johnson, Nakai Magana, Eric Stansbury

2nd-place: Curtis Bartley III, Tyrone Crayton, Caden Harrison, Soren Lewis, Isaac Lopez, Adenne Schaad, Aliana Sciple

CADET

1st-place: Poy-Wuson Aguilar, Nik-Wec Bates

2nd-place: Joel Campbell, Autumn Turner

JUNIOR

1st-place: Danika Scott, Ashley Turner

The Redwood Empire Wrestling Association opened its 2019 season with record numbers at its first tournament of the year at Del Norte High School with a total of 353 wrestlers participating in the tournament.

“As far as I can tell it is probably the largest ever — definitely the largest since I’ve been involved,” said Del Norte Youth Wrestling head coach Clinton Schaad. “It is open to everybody and people do travel for these tournaments. We are getting pretty big numbers up here so people want to come and wrestle new competition, meet new people, and have new matches.”

In addition to REWA, consisting of wrestling clubs from Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, the tournament in Crescent City also hosted the Brookings Mat Club as well as a few wrestlers from as far away as Placerville.

“Overall it was a really fun day. We had a really good turnout and I thought it was a huge success,” Schaad said. “League-wide everybody seemed to be in good spirits, and in it for the kids. That is where we need to be. Everybody did a good job of being supportive win or lose and not bagging on the refs too much. It was a good fun tournament and a good start to our season.”

Although wrestlers from outside the Northern California Coast added to the event’s total, the Del Norte Youth Wrestling team accounted for a significant portion of the tournament’s size with 132 wrestler competing — almost 40 percent of the entire field.

At the first tournament of the year, the Warriors had 37 first place finishers while 69 Del Norte wrestlers placed in the top two in their respective age and weightclasses.

“We had a lot of winners and had a really good showing,” Schaad said. “By being such a large squad I told the kids, ‘You are going to wrestle your teammates, but that’s OK.’Hopefully our teammates are our best competition so that when we go other places we are doing better.”

But Schaad said he was more pleased with the way the Del Norte wrestlers carried themselves throughout the first tournament than the win totals the team racked up.

“I was really happy with what I saw from Del Norte. We didn’t win all of our matches, but that is part of the learning curve — that’s expected,” he said. “The kids worked really hard and gave a lot of good effort. Even when we lost the kids were smiling and having fun, which is what we are looking for. Sometimes people can get a little over the top with their competitive nature, but we saw really good even keel throughout the day. Win or lose they kept things in perspective and had fun. That is our main focus here.”

The Del Norte youth team has grown in size every season that Schaad has been the head coach. That trend continued this year even though the Warriors were already the largest single club in California with just over 140 wrestler in 2018.

“We are at about 170 kids which is about 27 or 28 more than last year — a little more than 15 percent growth,” Schaad said of the program. “We are a big program, which is fantastic. We have a lot of coaches and we are broken up into different locations. So it takes a lot of volunteers and a lot of help. Off the top of my head I would say we probably have about 20 coaches when it is all said and done.”

As the club has grown, so to has the scope of Del Norte’s operation. The Warriors hold separate practices with each of the five different age groups throughout the week in Crescent City. Klamath also holds its own practices with all of the various age groups represented.

“We are running six different practices per week in three different locations, which is great,” Schaad said. “It is getting to where it is up and running and going well. We have different head coaches for each group and we are all working on the same overall goal and the same technique which is nice. So as they get older they are getting shown the same things, but they are getting better at it and refining it.”

The youth program is still coed, but Schaad said the number of female participates has also continued to grow.

“We have a lot of girls wrestling this year,” he said. “We would like more, of course, but we have almost 30 girls on the team. They don’t have to wrestle with the boys — its optional. Most of the other clubs don’t have a lot of girls. So we don’t have the ability at the freestyle level to break it out and have girls only yet, but that is definitely something we want to do. The sooner the better, it just takes numbers.”

Schaad said the youth wrestling program wouldn’t have been able to grow as quickly as it has without increased parental support coming along with the increase in participation.

“We have a lot of good parent involvement and a lot of volunteers and that is really what it takes to make any of our youth sports work — we need a lot of volunteers,” Schaad said.

As the hosts of the first REWA tournament of the year, that parental involvement was put to the test right away and Schaad said they responded admirably, helping the largest tournament in recent memory go off without a hitch.

“I want to thank all the volunteers for this weekend,” he said. “We had great help at the tables, in the pairing room, the snack bar, medals, registration — it takes volunteers everywhere. So thanks to every one who volunteered.”

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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