The town square used to be the place where the community came together.
That little patch of real estate where the derring-do’s of the past days were rehashed, where grandpas watched grandkids, where parents held hands, and vendors let you taste the wonders of the culinary world.
Much like the gymnasiums of old they were.
You could eat anything and say anything, as long as you kept it off the floor.
You could watch heroes save the day and many times those heroes were related to you or someone you knew or were someone you wanted to be like.
On Saturday the town square moves indoors to the JDHS main gymnasium as the wrestling community gathers to crown the Southeast Region V champions and send the toasts of the town up north.
Somehow wrestling popularity has fallen by the wayside.
Somewhere a tricycle wheel has went askew and a toddler was left crying over a scraped knee and the square was deemed imperfect.
Thanks to the generosity of the Juneau Youth Wrestling Club, anyone that happens to stumble upon the square mats at JDHS can come on in, sit down, kick off their shoes, feast and frolic, and squeal in delight as heroes young and older battle against foes from across town and down the narrows.
Yes it is so.
Saturday’s Region V Wrestling Championships at JDHS are free to the public.
The entrance fees have been waived.
Hey, ASAA does not allow great things like this to happen often... free?
Juneau School District activities director Sandi Wagner stated, “Gates received for the wrestling tournaments have always been very minimal. I think this is awesome that JYWC has paid for everyone. The more people we can get to come support JD and TM kids, the better it is for the kids. We need to give a very large Thank You to the Tornados for allowing the public to see great wrestling for free.”
I will be the first.
If I were a sports fan I would jump at the chance to watch wrestling.
As a sports writer I don’t have to jump.
I just go.
Thank you to JYWC coaches Paul Davis and Josh Houston.
“We wanted to create a free event for the public to get people pumped up about wrestling in our town,” Davis said. “We wanted to take away a deterrent or an excuse someone might have to stay away. If it is free to the public we should be able to fill up the gymnasium and show our kids the town’s support.”
Sign me up coach!
Even the die hard ski bum can get some runs down Eaglecrest and still make the finals!
There is no reason the stands are not full of basketball or hockey fans, parents, schoolmates and faculty on Saturday. Those games and matches don’t start until 8 p.m., long after the last grappling arm has been raised high in the air by the referee.
And there will be a lot of arm raising.
At least 60 JYWC athletes will be on another mat alongside 40 or so high school grapplers.
The Crimson Bears and Falcons want to stop the dominance of the Kayhi Kings this season and send, potentially, a dozen local boys up north. The Tornados have four nationally ranked little tykes that what to show what they and their club mates will bring to the middle school and high school ranks.
I am losing 20 pounds just thinking about all the throws, takedowns, escapes and pins to be unleashed.
JYWC coach Houston stated, “We felt it was a great investment for our community to donate the money to open the gym to the public. We want the public to feel the excitement of wrestling matches. If we can ignite a passion or a curiosity in a few kids because of the event, then it was money well spent.”
And this is our community!
As senior wrestler John Nichols told me, “You don’t have to know anything about wrestling to come and cheer... and we know you are there, and it really motivates us.”
The JDHS Crimson Bears, Thunder Mountain Falcons and Ketchikan Kings will be vying for two spots in each weight classification to advance to the state tournament on Feb. 1-2. The Region V champion and the runner-up move on.
I can’t wait to be sitting front and center, watching the heroes go round and round, buying a 50/50 raffle ticket or a snack from the cheer teams, throwing my tourney booklet down in disgust or hurriedly poking through it with vigor, clasping my forehead in exasperation or weeping with joy...
... ah, the town square...