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07/03/2013 -

More than 500 wrestlers from around the state came to the University of Texas at Arlington earlier this month to compete for a shot at joining the Team Texas squads that will represent the state at their respective National Duals tournament next month.
The winners from each weight class in the Cadet and Junior Divisions automatically qualified for the team, with runners-up becoming the first alternates, followed by third-place finishes, and so on. The Cadet Division team is bound for USA Wrestling’s Cadet National Duals in Daytona Beach, Fla., from June 11-14. Two Junior Division teams will compete in Oklahoma City from June 25-29 at USA Wrestling’s Junior National Duals. Texas normally would only have one team entered in each division, but when some of the other states could not bring a team to the Junior National Duals, Texas was awarded an extra slot.
Jason Nickal, the director of Texas USA Freestyle-Greco Wrestling, said Team Texas is still being assembled by the organization’s officials as they continue to process wrestlers’ availability for the events. Texas USA Freestyle-Greco Wrestling sponsored the qualifying tournament and exists to help promote competitive opportunities to Texas’ amateur wrestlers in all styles.
“We’re busy trying to get our winners and our best wrestlers to commit right now,” Nickal said. “It’s hard to get them all with everyone’s summer schedules and because of the sheer size of the state, getting them to attend training camps and coordinating the travel.
“We had great numbers at the tournament, with more than double the number of participants than we had last year, which was our first to have a qualifying tournament. The word’s gotten out on this event. It used to be we would hand-pick the guys to invite on the team. Now the opportunity’s up for grabs and that’s attracted a lot more kids.”
The Cadet Division is for 15- and 16-year-olds, and the Junior Division for 17- and 18-year-olds.
There is an expectation of success at this year’s national tournaments. Texas finished sixth overall at both tournaments last year. The top eight teams in each division earn All-American honors.
Fundraising was another facet of the qualifying tournament. Jeff McCall, who helped secure UTA as the host site as head coach of the UTA wrestling club through the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, said the tournament raised more than \$5,000 to help offset Team Texas’ travel costs.
UTA also sold t-shirts that read “Keep Wrestling in the Games 2020,” in reference to the International Olympic Committee’s recent decision to drop wrestling from the Olympic Games beginning in 2020.
“We’re always trying to do what’s best for wrestling here in Texas,” McCall said of Texas USA Freestyle-Greco Wrestling. “The Olympics decision is an important issue, both nationally and on a local level. “The next generation needs to be able to dream about wrestling in the Olympics like we did growing up.”
Results from the state qualifying tournament can be found at www.TrackWrestling.com.
Nickal said the official Team Texas rosters will be released at a later date.