For the second consecutive year, Billings is home to one of the oldest wrestling tournaments in the United States.
The AAU Western Grand Nationals Wrestling Championships returns to the Magic City and Alterowitz Gymnasium Thursday through Saturday. Last year, the tourney was also housed by the gym on the campus of Montana State Billings and MSUB later earned the state AAU’s Outstanding Service award for its job as an outstanding host.
Tournament co-director Dan Elser, named by the Montana state AAU as its outstanding contributor in May, said registrations for the tourney were still steadily rolling in Tuesday and generally pick up near the pre-registration deadline, which was Wednesday afternoon. On-site registration is available.
“We have kids coming from all over the western part of the country,” Elser said. “I did get a phone call from a guy from Florida Monday. He is flying out.”
The parade of athletes and opening ceremonies is scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday and doors will open at 7:15 a.m. Freestyle wrestling begins at 9 a.m. and continues throughout the afternoon.
On Friday, doors open at 7:30 a.m. at Alterowitz and folkstyle action starts at 9 a.m. and will run until its conclusion. On Saturday, Greco-Roman competition begins at noon with the doors to the gym swinging open at 10:30 a.m.
“We are looking forward to it and are excited,” Elser said. “The only thing we need right now is wrestlers.”
Admission for ages 13-plus, is $15 a day or $35 for a three-day pass. Prices for those ages 6-12 is $10 a day and $25 for all three days.
Elser said the wrestlers and their families he’s talked to who are returning from last year enjoyed their time visiting the state’s largest city.
“Whenever I’ve been on the phone, people said it was a fantastic time,” he said. “They liked the people and culture and environment. They enjoyed the camping and fishing opportunities around Billings and Yellowstone National Park.”
Besides wrestlers from all over the country, AAU Wrestling national chairman Bob Johnson of Brookings, S.D., and National AAU pairings director Karen Wilson of Michigan will be in attendance. Missoula’s Blake Love has assembled a crew of national referees to work the tourney.
Live scoring will be on www.trackwrestling.com.