Bulldog wrestler invited to Junior Olympics camp | CraigDailyPress.com

Bulldog wrestler invited to Junior Olympics camp

Elwood Shelton

Once every four years athletic spectators are treated to an obscure form of wrestling. It’s a form many don’t understand, and even more don’t fully appreciate Greco-Roman. Last fall, though, an event took place that brought Greco-Roman into the vocabularies of a few more people.

A wrestler from the Star Valley in Wyoming took to the mats in Sydney, Australia, and broke the stranglehold that Eastern Europe previously held on Greco-Roman wrestling.

Rulon Gardner was the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling since the Communist-boycottted, Los Angeles Games in 1984.

Gardners victory was the biggest upset in Olympic wrestling history.

A little south of the Star Valley sits another valley, the Yampa. This summer, a Yampa Valley Greco-Roman wrestler will take to the trail Gardner once followed.

Moffat County High School junior Mark Hastings will attend the Junior Olympics 2008 wrestling camp in July, at the World Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

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“It’s a great chance to become a better wrestler,” Hastings said. “It’s a chance to go up against the best wrestlers in the country.”

Hastings qualified for the camp last summer at a Fargo, N.D., tournament, one of the largest Greco-Roman and freestyle tournaments in the country. More than 3,000 high-school aged wrestlers gathered for the junior class portion of the tournament.

Only 30 wrestlers are invited to the Junior Olympic camp each year and all must qualify in their respective styles of wrestling. Hastings pulled in a third-place finish in Fargo to gain his berth.

“Fargo is a tough tournament,” Hastings said. “There’s class competition, and a lot of it, along with the push to perform well in front of a lot of college scouts.”

The Olympic camp is no guarantee that Hastings will ever adorn an Olympic medal, but that’s not the main reason he’s going. He wants to improve his whole style of wrestling in every facet, saying that much of his success is due to participation in other forms of wrestling.

“Greco-Roman and freestyle are the reasons I’ve done so well in high school wrestling, they’re the reasons why I’m so good,” Hastings said. “The more mat time you get, the more moves and styles you learn, the better off you are.”

Hastings has proved his theories about wrestling throughout his high school career. Last season he put together a 50-3 record, and placed third in the state tournament for the 125-pound weight class.

Outside of high school competitions, Hastings has captured two first-place finishes in Greco-Roman wrestling tournaments, and one second-place in freestyle wrestling.

He will participate in the Olympic camp, then head to Fargo to train, and continue on to another large tournament in Enid, Okla. He will also wrestle in several smaller tournaments throughout the summer.

“The tournaments and the camp will add new dimensions to my style and give me a chance to face some of the best in the country,” Hastings said. “It all comes back to becoming a more complete wrestler.”

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