By Ray Hamill — Boys and girls high school wrestling returns to the North Coast this weekend, with an added bonus for local fans.
On Saturday, the Del Norte Warriors will host their Battle at the Border Tournament, with 16 teams traveling to Crescent City for the first real high school tournament in the area since the 2020 league championships.
In addition to several schools out of Oregon, all nine H-DNL teams will travel for the big event, including Ferndale and South Fork, who are both fielding teams again.
“I think the H-DN has some quality teams this year,” Del Norte head coach Clinton Schaad said. “We should have a good mix of talent (at the tournament). We’ll have some top-notch kids and a lot of competition at the mid-level too.”
The biggest thing at this stage of the season for the wrestlers is to get some valuable mat time, especially in the wake of a very short 2020/21 season this past spring.
“It is kind of a big deal,” Schadd added. “It’s been two years in the making, unfortunately. Everybody’s excited.”
Because of that, the tournament and this season will feature a “Back to the Mat” theme in celebration of the return to a full season.
“The kids have been out for so long that we wanted to make a little bit of a deal for the first tournament since the COVID shutdown,” the Del Norte head coach said. “We want to make it extra special.”
The tournament, which will feature a boys and girls bracket, gets under way at 9 a.m., with the championship matches starting at around 5 p.m.
Schaad is expecting between 250 and 300 wrestlers to participate and all 16 schools have been invited to bring their girls as well.
Del Norte expects to have around 12 girls in action, while the powerhouse Eureka Loggers will have around 17 and a large contingent of girls is also expected from Grants Pass.
In addition to the return of the Ferndale and South Fork teams, the Hoopa Warriors have a large roster this year and are expected to make some noise under second-year head coach Merk Robbins.
“They’ve always been a solid program and if they can add some numbers they’ll be good,” Schaad said of Hoopa. “And Ferndale and South Fork have brought their programs back this year and that’s fantastic.”
As the coach said, the higher quality of wrestling within the H-DNL will make the local high school teams more competitive outside of the H-DNL.
And the wrestlers are just glad to be back and have a full season to look forward to.
“Our sophomores, juniors and seniors all had to live through that COVID year and I think they’re very appreciative to be back and going to tournaments,” Schaad said. “They’re really excited, and I talked to a few coaches and they’re all excited to be back.”