Skirmishes on the sand: South Tahoe Beach Wrestling Championships make successful debut
South Tahoe Beach Wrestling Championships
July 25 at El Dorado Beach
Over 18 Heavyweight
Over 18 Lightweight
Under 18 Heavyweight
Under 18 Lightweight
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Wrestlers took to the sand at El Dorado Beach last Saturday — and started a new tradition in the process. Twenty-two grapplers competed in the inaugural South Tahoe Beach Wrestling Championships, marking a successful debut for the event hosted by South Tahoe Wrestling.
“It was awesome — I thought it was great,” South Tahoe wrestling coach and event emcee Ryan Wallace said.
Wallace came up with the idea for the tournament after the Vikings’ team banquet featured beach wrestling on the volleyball courts at Regan Beach. It was a hit among the South Tahoe wrestlers — and Wallace saw the potential for more.
“We did it for our banquet and it was so much fun, we decided to do it for real — there was no reason not to and we just got after it,” Wallace said.
The event was born with the help of both South Tahoe Standup Paddle founder Chris Brackett and Dave Borges. And last Saturday, the turnout for the competition that doubled as a fundraiser for the STHS wrestling program was even better than expected.
“We had always talked about it because USA Wrestling sanctions some beach wrestling events and it’s sort of gaining popularity,” Wallace said. “I think it can turn into a yearly fundraiser for us — with an emphasis on the fun.”
Wrestlers competed under modified beach rules inside a rope ring on the sand just a couple feet from Lake Tahoe’s shore. Each match went to three points — two points were awarded for a takedown with amplitude, one for a takedown and a “sumo point” was given for pushing an opponent out of the ring.
“That changes everything — normally on a mat, you can go out of bounds and reset with no penalty,” Wallace said. “That push-out rule changes how you have to position yourself.”
Beach wrestling shares some similarities to traditional wrestling on the mat, but the main strategy is different. And the unpacked sand provided an added challenge when it came to mobility.
“There’s no wrestling on the mat — no top and bottom wrestling,” Wallace said. “It’s all takedowns, so you really have to focus on your defense, offense and really getting that two-point throw is important.”
The 22-wrestler field mostly comprised of South Lake Tahoe locals, and all six titles went to local wrestlers. But it also included competitors from a pair of cities in California’s Central Valley — Bakersfield and Escalon.
“There was some really good wrestling — even the little kids did well,” Wallace said.
Saturday’s most competitive wrestling came in the 18-and-under Heavyweight division — and a local standout finished atop the podium. South Tahoe’s Andrew Herrera, a rising junior, prevailed in the expansive weight class despite trailing in multiple matches during the afternoon.
“No matter what event it is, he’s going to win — that’s the just the kind of guy he is,” Wallace said. “He’s just at a different level.”
Wallace said South Tahoe Wrestling plans to host more beach events in the future. It’s part of the program’s focus to become more involved with the local community — more information can be found on its Facebook page.
“We didn’t really know what we were going to do, and I took some mental notes to work out the kinks,” Wallace said. “I think it’s something that we definitely want to do at least once a year and maybe a couple times per year.”
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