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IKWF State Championships participants bond together in effort to Keep Olympic Wrestling



One of the most popular photos on the internet and in social media circles within wrestling this past week was a group picture of youth wrestlers at the IKWF State Championships in Rockford, Ill.

There were 825 athletes at the competition from all over Illinois, in the USA Wrestling Novice and Schoolboy age divisions, along with their coaches and families who came together to support the Keep Olympic Wrestling movement. This amazing photo was the result of their combined passion for the sport of wrestling.

How big a deal is the IKWF State Championships? Just ask anybody who ever competed in this spectacular event.

There were 19 regional and eight sectional tournaments, with more than 6,000 young athletes, who went through the qualifying process for the event. Just making it to this tournament is a major honor. At the tournament, almost 1,300 matches were held. The finals are wrestled on a raised platform to showcase the sport at its best. This is one prestigious and competitive tournament!

This year, the Novice Division Champions were the Harvey Twisters, with the Senior Division title going to the Martinez Fox Valley Elite.

Every year, there are special awards presented to those who distinguish themselves at the IKWF States. This year’s honorees include:
• Jim Didi Coach of the Year Award: Jeff Eckdhal, Downers Grove Cougars
• Marty Combes Award Winner (Outstanding Novice Division Wrestler): Rahveon Valentine of The LAW
• Ron Urwin Award Winner (Outstanding Senior Division Wrestler): George Bessette of Lakeland Predators

Also making big news was Austin O`Connor of the Tinley Park Bulldogs, who became only the fifth wrestler in history to win five IKWF State Championships.

“We feel the IKWF State Championships are the best run state championship tournament in the country. We are lucky to have so many volunteer coaches and supporters to help the IKWF be one of the best run kid’s organizations in the country. Our finals, where bouts are wrestled on a 4-foot platform, are a spectacle onto itself where all qualifiers dream they can compete on,” said Jim Considine, who is chairperson for USA Wrestling in Illinois.

The IKWF and Illinois schedule continues on, with many more big events available for wrestlers in the state. Up next are the Dream Team Classic on April 20th at Elmhurst College, the Freestyle State Championships, May 4-5at The Armory in Champaign and the Greco-Roman State Championships, May 18-19 at Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox.

This event is a perfect example of the popularity of wrestling in the United States, and the passion that wrestlers have for their sport. These are the young people who are the reason the world is coming together behind the unified quest to Keep Olympic Wrestling. All of the hard work to preserve Olympic wrestling is being done in order to Keep The Dream Alive for young wrestlers like those at the IKWF State Championships.
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