2000 AAU Grand Nationals
June 27 through July 2, 2000
Despite a last minute problem with the team van we had rented, a good size contingent of Southern Maryland Wrestling Club wrestlers traveled to the AAU Grand Nationals in Dayton, Ohio, June 27th through July 2nd. SMWC has done wery well in team competition at this event over the years, and with our team success this season so far we had high hopes of continuing our tradition. Kim Gabrielson coordinated the trip and also worked weighins for the many female wrestlers entered this year. Like Coach G, she is retiring from all wrestling activities after this event.
The trip was uneventful but team bus didn't arrive until evening the first day of SOMBO competition. Coach Jason couldn't wrestle due to his recent surgery but was available to officiate and coach the few SMWC members entered in SOMBO. Eric Hoffman (right bottom) dominated his class in winning Tots. While Eric was competing, several members including Brent Jones, Coach G, Tomas Ovalle, and Flynn Ficker missed weighin by a small amount and had to go out in the parking lot to run. It was interesting that most of the parking lot runners belonged to SMWC. Poor Flynn forgot that he was in Espoirs and worked about 2 hours with Coach G before he figured out he didn't need to make the 192 weight class and could wrestle 198. He was well under at weighin.
Greco-Roman started the next day and a much large group of members were on hand. SMWC did very well with 8 champions plus several seconds, thirds, and fourths. Among our numerous champions were Eric Hoffman, Brent Jones, Jason Kiessling (left), Scott McAdoo, Mike Faust, Flynn Ficker, Kevin Gabrielson, and Tomas Ovalle. Others on our team who did well included Ryan Forman (right) and Jon Peters (below left). Ryan entered at 154 and looked tough until his final match when he ran into a tremendous GR wrestler. For Jon, this was his first national event and also his first major freestyle and Greco-Roman competition. He looked a little overwhelmed by all the great bouts going on but still managed to do well in his matches.
In Greco-Roman, only an overall team and overall association score is kept. Nine teams entered the team events with SMWC finishing second behind Florida and ahead of the Ohio All-Stars. SMWC's Mike Rowe is also a member of the All-Stars and entered for them in the team scoring. It didn't help them much and Ohio's coach looked a little dissappointed when SMWC was announced in the runner-up spot. Mike's parents were sitting in our cheering section and staying with our contingent, in a suite at the hotel no less (when the hotel ran out of rooms before they checked in), but fortunately for Mike he didn't draw any other SMWC members during his matches.
Freestyle started Friday with the opening cerimonies. SMWC club members marched into the arena, carrying our club banner in front and looked ready to do battle with the multitude of others there. Battle we did with our superstar team ready for action. Freestyle drew a much larger group then Greco-Roman, and most weight classes were stacked with tough wrestlers. We had our age group teams entered with our strongest teams in Espoir (led by Scott McAdoo and Mike Faust) and Elite (led by Luke Palumbo - at right, Kevin Gabrielson - below right, Tomas Ovalle, and Evan Sola - below left). Luke showed up late and only entered freestyle while Evan Sola took it easy and didn't enter GR. Mike and Scott dominated their classes taking first in Freestyle like they did in GR. Luke, Kevin, and Tomas each finished second, Luke and Kevin loosing to wrestlers they had defeated previously (Kevin defeated his opponent in GR while Luke defeated his in an earlier FS match). Tomas lost a tough one right at the buzzer in his match. Our single freestlye champion in Elite was Evan Sola in dominating fashion. It was great to see Evan win one after competing with our club for many years since he was small and despite many placements he never took home the gold in freestyle. Unfortunately for Evan, this was the first time in years that his dad Mike hasn't been coaching our team during the competition. Evan (who won PA HS states) and Mike were both voted into our Hall-of-Fame this year.
In cadets, Jason Kiessling suffered the same fate as Luke, Kevin and Tomas, he finished second in one of the largest draws in the tournament. Flynn had the same problem in Espoirs. One consolation our club has is that all our Elite wrestlers are only juniors and still have next season to repeat if they wish.
The lone competitor for us in masters was Coach G (below left wearing a VA singlet no less). He vowed that this was the very last time he went out there, particularly with the new age groupings making him by far the oldest in his bracket. He did OK but did get thrown by a "young" gun.
When the team awards were announced, SMWC had a shock. Although our tots entry was very small, we took home the Tots Team Title. This was mostly the result of our lone champion and superstar, Eric Hoffman (below right). Eric had been impressive the entire tournament, but we really didn't know how impressively he had dominated his classes. Look for Eric to be our youth team's contender at 50 lbs next year. SMWC also won the Elite (jr/sr in HS) and Espoir (HS and early college) age groups. Elite and Espoirs are difficult to win because of the many great wrestlers in all weight classes.
SMWC's AAU National Championship Team
Another Champion who became SMWC's third ever AAU Triple Crown Winner was Brent Jones. Brent fought his way through numerous very tough matches, sometimes pulling wins out at the last moment, to win both Greco-Roman and Freestyle. Since he also won AAU Folkstyle Nationals earlier this year, Brent won all three. Great job Brent and good luck at USAW Kids Nationals this week.
Since this tournament was Coach G's very last competition, it was fitting that two of his long time friends, one of whom he competed against in the 1960s, were there to watch his final matches. The Hazewinkles, Jim and Dave, still coach in Florida and said they plan to last a few more years before they too retire.
Long time friends and former competitors Jim and Dave Hazewinkle with Coach G
The club held a party at the hotel Saturday night but most were too tired to carry on much of a "normal" club party. We did find out that some of the wrestlers held their own party in another room and weren't much use to anyone the next morning on the drive back.
SMWC's Espoir Grand National Champion and #1 Ranked Mike Faust
SMWC's Tots Champion Eric Hoffman
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