Zoo of youth wrestlers hits the mats in CloquetLast Saturday’s sixth annual Cloquet Area Youth Wrestling Association (CAYWA) open meet was the largest-ever in the organization’s 15-year history.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
After Saturday’s Cloquet Area Youth Wrestling Association (CAYWA) open meet, Dave Erickson described the atmosphere at Cloquet High School perfectly.
“I’ll tell you this: The bleachers were packed solid and there were even more people on the floor surrounding the mats,” he said. “I think the gym’s capacity level was even a little small for it.”
That’s a small testament to how far the CAYWA program has come. Starting from scratch more than 15 years ago, the program has grown immensely. Erickson said Saturday’s sixth annual event was the largest-ever in the organization’s bright history.
“Every year, it gets a little bit bigger and bigger,” said Erickson, CAYWA treasurer. “It can get a little chaotic, but it’s a blast.”
According to Erickson, wrestling sign-ups and weigh-ins began in the morning, and after bracketing kids based on weight and age, more than 250 wrestlers competed in around 700 matches in about four hours.
“We used nine mats and things flew by,” Erickson said. “And everyone gets a trophy. Some places do medals, but we’ve stuck with the
His daughter and high school junior wrestler, Kristina, refereed all day, while Dave’s wife, Julie, worked in the concession stand most of the time.
Julie agreed about the trophies, saying that win or not, most youngsters were pumped to show off their shiny new mementos after they left the mats.
“It’s just such a joy to watch them with that trophy they earned,” Julie Erickson said. “No matter where they’re from, they all want to show you.”
Julie roughly estimated close to 1,000 people were in attendance between wrestlers and spectators. It was a zoo.
“We had a steady stream,” said Julie, laughing, “and we sold a lot of food.”
She explained that one of the more rewarding factors of the hectic day was all of the acknowledgement they received from visitors.
“We heard some really nice comments,” said Julie. “Those are always great. I think we even had more kids than ever before. It sure was exciting.”
According to CAYWA Coach and vice chairman John Elias, things can get a little heated at times.
“It’s a very intense, physical sport,” said Elias, who has been involved with CAYWA since its inception. “We are trying to teach kids to be aggressive, but also to be sportsmen, too.”
Elias, who coached throughout most of the morning and afternoon event, said a majority of the wrestlers will participate in anywhere from two to four matches throughout the day. For some youngsters in the Pre-Kindergarten to eighth-grade range, it’s their debut.
“For some it’s their first attempt at competition,” said Elias, whose wife, Nancy, is also the CAYWA secretary. “Some kids get very surprised and parents even get pretty pumped up, too.”
The bottom line, though, is it’s for the kids.
“Wrestlers come in from all over the area,” Elias said. “It’s a really busy and exciting day. The place is packed to the hills and just a lot of fun.”
While all individuals received trophies, the top three teams were also recognized at the end of the day. Although Dave Erickson couldn’t remember the official individual or team champions without notes in front of him, none of that really mattered, as everybody went home a winner – trophy in hand.
“You can see the trophies light up most of those younger kids’ eyes,” Dave Erickson said. “It’s fun for them. And that’s what matters most.”