RAPID CITY - The high school state wrestling tournament may be over, but for fans who can't get enough this weekend will provide a great opportunity to see current and future stars take to the mat at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
The South Dakota AAU State Wrestling Tournament is in Rapid City for the second straight year. The two-day tournament will have wrestlers ranging in age from 6 to high school age, battling on 21 mats.
"It is a great tournament because we will have several wrestlers who just won state titles here competing, and people will have a chance to see some of the younger kids wrestle at the same time," Sam Benne, who is one of the event's organizers, said.
In all, the tournament will bring together 1,170 wrestlers - both boys and girls - from throughout South Dakota. Benne expects about 5,000 fans to pack the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center over the weekend as champions are determined.
Fans will watch the traditional style of wrestling they are accustomed to during the high school season for all competitors 14 years old and younger. Those 15 to 18 years old will take part in a takedown tournament.
"It was a change that was made three years ago," Benne said of the takedown tournament. "It forces the action between the two wrestlers on their feet. It is something coaches wanted and as soon as one wrestler is taken down the referee blows the whistle and they start again on their feet."
Only the top eight wrestlers survive the first day with Sunday reserved for the medal round with each wrestler finishing in the top eight receiving a medal.
The road to state began with wrestlers qualifying from 10 districts and moving on to five different regions throughout the state, with the top three in each weight class making it to Rapid City this weekend. The tournament is set up in a 16-man bracket for each weight.
"The tournament had been in Mitchell until six years ago, then we had it for a couple of years and now we have it back," Benne said.
The Black Hills are home to some of the best prep wrestling in the state which was demonstrated just this year as Rapid City Stevens won the state A wrestling title, Rapid City Stevens was third and Rapid City Central also finished in the top six.
Sturgis advanced 13 individual title winners to this weekend's state event, Rapid City Westside has nine region champions and both Hot Springs and the Rapid City Cobbler Kids will send eight champions to state.
The massive tournament doesn't go off without the help of many with over 200 volunteers needed to keep things running smoothly while 25 certified officials keep track of the action on the mat. The tournament is run by the Cobbler Kids, Westside Wrestling and Stevens and Central wrestling teams.
Last year was the first time that coaches were allowed matside and because it was such a success, they will be back there again this year.
"There is a lot of great action, but there are a lot of heartwarming things that go on to," Benne said.
"You will see parents there to pat their kids on the back whether they win or lose."
Weigh-ins begin Friday at the civic center, Saturday's action begins at 9 a.m. and championship Sunday has a 10 a.m. start. Doors open at 7 a.m. each day.