Volunteers key to tourneyPRESHO — The biggest team at the Mid-Dakota Monster wrestling tournament won’t step on a mat this weekend.
By: Aaron Saunders, The Daily Republic
PRESHO — The biggest team at the Mid-Dakota Monster wrestling tournament won’t step on a mat this weekend.
Twenty-three wrestling teams are entered in this year’s meet, which is in its 39th year of existence. But the largest, most important team is the group of volunteers that puts together one of the area’s biggest regular-season tournaments of the year.
Scattered all across the Lyman gymnasium Friday were volunteers who dedicate their time to help put together the tournament, which is a two-day affair and runs annually in Presho. Although they’re likely working just as hard as a wrestler on the mat, the volunteers won’t garner the attention at today’s championship round.
“It is a lot of work to put together a tournament like this,” Lyman Wrestling Club President Steve Hayes said, “but I tell you what, we have a lot of volunteers and they really help get everything done.
“We have people helping out whose kids graduated 10 to 15 years ago. They are coming back to help out whether it’s with concessions stands or taking tickets.”
The wrestling club works to organize fundraisers and wrestling tournaments for AAU, middle school and high school kids. Hayes has been a part of the club for nearly 15 years and his son, Nick, is wrestling for Lyman High School this weekend.
“We don’t have a big economic boost every day of the year, so we have to take advantage of those opportunities and this event is one of those opportunities, which is why our community pulls together,” Hayes said.
In order to be successful each year, the club receives donations from the Lyman community for the tournament.
“We have a great community here and everybody is willing to help, even if their kids are not in wrestling anymore,” club treasurer Sara Griffith said. “They are always willing to donate whatever we need. We ask parents and grandparents for donations of hamburger, so they brown up the hamburger for us so we can turn that into the taco meat. We also ask for donations of baked goods, everything else we buy out of the club’s money.”
Griffith, whose sons currently wrestle in AAU, has been involved with the club for roughly five years. She described the contingent of volunteers as “one big family.”
And because all families need a mom, the club’s is Gloria Johnson, mother of Lyman wrestling head coach Chad Johnson.
For the weekend, the elder Johnson is tasked with running the coaches’ room and helping out in the concessions. The coaches’ room, located over top of the stage area, is for team coaches and referees to relax, discuss wrestling and eat before or between matches.
On Friday, the room was loaded with cheese and crackers, soup, salad, sandwiches, water, soda, chips and cookies.
“I feel very proud that I can help (Chad), and I will probably always help with the wrestling tournament,” Gloria Johnson said.
The tournament has been in existence since 1975. It was started by then-Lyman head coach Cordie Schlomer, who thought it would be nice to have a home invitational and was in attendance Friday. Since its inception, the tournament has grown from 10 to 12 teams to a 23-team meet that brings wrestlers from all over.
“This is a really good tournament,” said Lyman wrestler Brady Jandreau, a junior. “It means a lot to have a tournament like this here at home because everybody watching you. I mean there are so many people here, and you are so stressed out about it, but at the same time you are so excited and ready to go.”
This year the tournament has South Dakota teams from both Class A and Class B, and a team from O’Neill, Neb.
“We have a lot of teams coming from different parts of the state and this is just a chance to get to see and wrestle against different athletes,” said Chad Johnson, who also wrestled for the school.
The teams that attend the tourney are housed in vacant hunting lodges, hotels in Presho, Kennebec and Chamberlain. Some teams even bring their pillows and blankets and stay on the mats in the Lyman gym. Johnson said in 2004, the Mid-Dakota Monster had 16 teams. Now it’s growing larger than ever.
“I never dreamt that we could host a 23-team tournament in this gym, but Chad figured out a way to make it work and has done a real good job at doing that,” said Schlomer, who took a break from announcing during the tournament for an interview for this story. “I come back every year because I get to see some of the best wrestling in the country. I mean, I live here … I would go a lot of places to see a tournament like this because there are some really good wrestlers here.”
Another tournament veteran also comes back for the fun, excitement and good wrestling. Wrestling referee Paul Schreiner, of Pierre, has been officiating at the tournament since Schlomer started it in the ’70s.
“I started way back when Cordie was coaching here,” Schreiner said. “I enjoy the people down here. They treat us really well and are very accommodating.”