For anyone wondering just how big youth wrestling has become in the Four Corners area, the Cortez Youth Wrestling Tournament would have been a good place.
Held at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds on March 22, the tournament hosted 619 wrestlers between the ages of five and 11.
Hailing from Utah, New Mexico and Colorado, the young grapplers competed with vigor and enthusiasm befitting of their age.
When all was said and done, several members of the Cortez Wrestling Club received first place trophies while building solid foundations for their wrestling futures.
The youth movement
In a sport such as wrestling where technique and mental toughness are paramount to success, hitting the mat at an early age is paramount to success.
Recent Montezuma-Cortez High School state champions Casey Lynn and Seager Oliver both began at the youth level, as did several local state qualifiers.
“I think it’s very important to learn the basics and have fun the whole time,” said Jarrod Wyatt, who assists with the Cortez Wrestling Club. “(Wrestlers) can carry that through their youth, middle school and high school, where they can really excel.”
Cortez club growing
Cognizant of the importance of starting wrestlers early, Cortez Wrestling Club head coach Shelby Buffington has worked hard to grow the local youth program.
According to Buffington, roughly 70 wrestlers are members of the Cortez Wrestling Club and the group is still growing.
With roughly 50 wrestlers competing in the Cortez Tournament last weekend, Buffington had his hands full.
According to the M-CHS graduate and former high school state champion, things went extremely smoothly however, thanks to help from event organizers Misty Valdez, BJ Valdez, Tyson Cox, Eddie Abeyta and Teri Goodall and several others.
“I thought it went well,” said Buffington. “We had a few hiccups setting up … but we had a pretty good idea of what we needed to do.”
Cortez wrestlers excel
With 13 teams present at the tournament and many of the area’s top wrestlers on the mats, competition at the Cortez Tournament was tough.
Even so, several Cortez wrestlers, including Aizen Padilla, Gabriel Crowley, Jayven Valdez, Kael Buffington, Karston Cox, Manual Hayes, Lucas Sanchez, Miles Frost, Noah Harris, Trey Hall and Wes Atcitty finished first in their division.
Several other young wrestlers performed well while savoring the big-tournament experience.
An exciting event to say the least, the Cortez Wrestling Tournament beautifully showcased youth wrestling in the area while providing lessons for all involved.