For the second year in a row, Great Bend High School hosted the Grapple on the Gridiron, a team dual wrestling camp. The signature of the event did not happen though because of high heat.
The pinnacle of the camp would be wrestling under the lights of the football field.Event organizer and Great Bend Head Wrestling Coach Nathan Broeckelman said he made the call early in the afternoon to keep the event indoors. "At 4:30 PM, the heat index was at 116 degrees. I know it will get cooler when the sun goes down, but it won't cool that much that quick."
The wrestlers were happy to stay inside the Panther Activity Center and wrestle on the six mats laid out on the hardwood floor. The number of schools attending increased to 18 in this second year. All ten schools that came last year returned. Eight new schools made the trek to Great Bend. The bulk of the schools were from Kansas. Out of state attendees came from Colorado's Pueblo West and Ciobla, New Mexico. Wrestlers who came individually or in a small contingent were combined with other schools. At the end of this process, 15 total teams competed in the duals.
"We travel to Colorado to see different competition than we normally see here," said Coach Broeckleman who took his team to a meet in Pueblo the week prior. "Having teams from Colorado and New Mexico come here to give our Kansas kids that opportunity with less of a drive for them."
"We used to travel to Gunnison, Colorado for a camp like this one," said Bill Johnson, Norton Community's Head Coach. "Now we save that ten-hour drive and get to see out of state competition here.
"I also like that this camp has both technical training and live competition. We bring our younger wrestlers here to help get their feet wet with the skill level needed for high school wrestling."
This year saw training sessions by Preston Weigel and Beau Tillman. Preston Weigel graduated from Oklahoma State University this spring. The Hays High graduate placed third in the 197-pound weight class at the NCAA Championships this season and twice named as an All-American at OSU. Beau Tillman from Pratt helped instruct the young grapplers with the mental toughness needed for the sport. The wrestlers got in approximately 12 hours of mat time on Friday with one to two more rounds on Saturday.
Coach Broeckleman sees room for more growth in the event.
"This year we have six mats going, and we could easily go to eight. If we get to 18 competing teams, we can get the duals to flow much easier."
Broeckleman already marked the last weekend in June of 2020 for the third edition of the Grapple on the Gridiron. "I only hope it will be cooler next year so we can wrestle outside."