Wrestlers grappled their opponents to the mat with aggression and parents yelled with excitement from the stands. A few feet off the mats, teammates and coaches shared words of encouragement as spectators filled the stands for the annual Douglas Middle School Invitational.
For the first time, the largest middle school tournament in the state featured over 500 wrestlers - 524 to be exact.
The annual invitational brought together 20 schools this year from all across the state and even Nebraska. The Bearkits earned the second-place team trophy with 165.5 points behind Dean Morgan of Casper who finished with 180 points. Douglas will have the chance for redemption Nov. 30 when the two teams dual head-to-head.
After an increase from 371 wrestlers in 2016 to 487 last year, the tournament continues to grow at a rapid pace and according to Douglas coach Clay Ewing, the hopes are that it will only grow larger in the coming years.
The Bearkits finished the tournament with six finalists as Tanner Johnson and Luke and Lane Ewing each took first in their respective weight classes. Christian Johnson, JT Vrooman and Kenia Bergquist each took second. Blaine Johnson, Jackson Hughes and Carter Archuleta finished third for the Bearkits.
In the third-place match of the 70 pound weight class, Blaine Johnson won by fall over Aiden Myers of Clear Creek. In the 75 pound class, Tanner Johnson won by decision over Braden Torstanbo of Rawlins for the top spot.
At 80 pounds, Vrooman was defeated by fall against Kaden Orr of Centennial to take second. Christian Johnson fell in a decision to Zachary Covolo of Rawlins in the first-place match at 95 pounds. Luke Ewing won by a 5-0 decision in the 105 weight class, Hughes won by a decision in the third-place match at 127 pounds and Lane Ewing took first at 133 pounds by injuy default over Dakota Tobin of Sage Valley.
Douglas began the season Oct. 15 and this year’s team features 35 wrestlers. They’ve already competed at the Gillette Tournament, Lusk Dual, Wheatland Tournament and will next host Wheatland Thursday at DMS.