The 51st annual West Coast Swiss Wrestling Association's Championship Schwingfest rolled through Truckee's Riverview Park on Saturday. The Sierra Swiss Club-sponsored event hosted the region's best traditional wrestlers for a lively tournament complete with six rounds of wrestling, exquisitely handcrafted trophies and a feast of Swiss delicacies.
Swiss wrestling, known as Schwingen, is a national sport in Switzerland that spawned from roughhousing around the farm in the rural Northern Alps. Though it shares some commonalities with Greco-Roman wrestling and even Judo, Schwingen has a much different attitude and rule book.
Schwingen matches take place in a ring made of sawdust. The sawdust pile acts as a pad and defines the boundary of the ring. The goal of each match is to pin an opponent's shoulders to the sawdust while maintaining a firm grip on the belt of his Schwinghosa, the burlap shorts that each wrestler must wear. If either contestant touches outside the sawdust ring, or if both contestants lose grip of each others belts, the match is reset to mid-ring.
In most Schwingen tourneys, including the Sierra Schwingfest, contestants wrestle six times. In each match they are awarded up to 10 points that are tallied to decide which wrestlers will battle in the Schlussgang, the final round. Points are determined by the grace of the takedown in the case of a win or the activity of each wrestler in the event of a tie.
Advanced Swiss wrestlers employ a variety of throws and takedowns similar to Judo. Eleven-year old Schwinger Clint Schallberger from Lodi, Calif., has been wrestling for three years and knows his winning move.
"My favorite move is the Slunk," said Schallberger. "To do it you grab the back of their belt, bend down and throw them to the right. I've had a couple wins with it."
Wrestlers in the Schwingfest traveled from near and far to participate. Though a few were from Truckee, many were members of recently immigrated Swiss families from around Northern California who had been wrestling in the sawdust for many generations.
Such a family atmosphere was the order of the day, as despite the rough and tumble play, fans of all ages sat ringside cheering the contestants in the four divisions " ages 8-11, ages 11-13, Juniors (ages 13-18), and Seniors (ages 18 and older). Nathan Aufdermaur of Ripon, Calif., took the overall title as the winner of the Senior division.
1. Nathan Aufdermaur - Ripon, Calif.
2a. Heinz Schneider - Bern, Switzerland
2b. Peter Betschart - Modesto, Calif.
3. Martin Beeler - Ripon, Calif.
1. Steven Schonenberger - San Ramon, Calif.
2a. Raymond Widmer - Lathrop, Calif
2b. Lucas Schallberger - Stockton, Calif.
3. Grant Widmer - Lathrop, Calif
Group A (11-13 years old)
1. Jakob Schallberger - Lodi, Calif.
2. Clint Schallberger - Lodi, Calif.
3. Lucas Widmer - Ripon, Calif.
Group B (8-11 years old)
1. Ian Schmidig - Truckee
2a. Nic Arnold - Truckee
2b. Trent Hawes - Ripon, Calif.
3. Cole Marchy - Ceres, Calif.