Tucked away in a makeshift training facility, in a serene little bedroom community, six boys work tirelessly to become wrestling champions.
The location isn't in powerhouse wrestling states such as Indiana, Iowa, or Michigan. It's right here in Brookings as the Brookings-Harbor/Del Norte Mat Club, a wrestling team comprised of youths ages 6 to 9, meets several times a week in preparation for one of the 20 meets a year in which they compete in around the country.
Their training regimen is strenuous, as they wrestle and compete for up to nine months out of the year. That training has forged a competitiveness that has produced championship results. At the Oregon State Kids' Greco/Freestyle meet in Independence, Oregon, several BH/DN Mat Club wrestlers finished at or near the top of their respective divisions.
Thunder Lewis, a 7-year-old who wrestles at 43 pounds, took home first place in both the freestyle (Olympic) and folkstyle (collegiate) wrestling events. Wyatt Lewis, Thunder's younger brother who wrestles at 46 pounds, won the folkstyle competition. Josh Hannan, a 9-year-old who wrestles at 64 pounds, finished second in the freestyle discipline. Hayden Rosencrans, who wrestles at 49 pounds, took third in both the freestyle and Greco competitions.
What may be more impressive is how high each wrestler placed at the Suplay Reno Worlds tournament on April 11-13, one of the largest and most prestigious amateur wrestling events in the nation. The meet, which attracts more than 2,800 wrestlers from over 34 states, boasts a highly competitive atmosphere with 20 to 30 youths per weight class, with most being ranked in the upper echelons of amateur wrestling.
"Getting on the podium at Reno is a pretty big deal," said Josh Lewis, father of Thunder and Wyatt. "It's a national tournament but these kids have been working seven days a week to get to that level."
At the Reno Worlds Thunder finished fourth; his cousin Billy Lewis, an 8-year-old who wrestles at 75pounds, finished fifth; Rosencrans finished fifth; while Wyatt Lewis and Hannan finished in sixth place in their respective weight classes.
All of the BH/DN Mat Club wrestlers, including 9-year-old, 70-pounder Eddie Hartwick, have qualified for the upcoming West Regionals June 15-21 at Holt Arena on the campus of Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. The regional meet features the best youth wrestlers from across 13 Western states. It will be another challenge for the team but, if their past performances provide any indication, they will be in the running for more medals and another place on the podium.