TONASKET – Collin Aitcheson probably didn’t know what he was getting into when he and some of his Tonasket High School wrestling teammates started dabbling in Greco-Roman wrestling last spring.
For Aitcheson, it meant a summer filled with the kind of training in a new variety of the sport and a trip to Fargo, North Dakota, in July to compete in the USAW Junior Greco-Roman Nationals tournament.
Aitcheson lost both his 113-pound matches at the tournament – in his first match, he faced off against eventual national champion Jarred Oftedahl of Minnesota, who pinned five of his seven opponents — but gained a wealth of experience in the process.
“The competition was really tough, and a lot of stuff didn’t go my way,” Aitcheson said. “It’s not like regionals in Tonasket, where you’re comfortable with your weight class.
“I did it to have fun and to learn some new things. I knew I probably wasn’t going to come back with a national title or anything. I just wanted to have fun with it.”
Aitcheson, about to start his junior year at Tonasket, competed in the WIAA state finals as a sophomore. He said he knew immediately that Oftedahl was no rookie at the national level.
“He looked like he’d been there, just by the way he stood,” he said. “The second guy, not so much. But you could tell who obviously had been there before just by the way they walked, and everyone knew who had won national championships there before.”
Aitcheson qualified for the national tournament by taking third place in the Junior Division at the state Greco tournament on April 28 in Pasco. Teammate Dyllan Walton finished seventh (126 lbs.) to qualify for the western regional tourney in Idaho in June.
“That was some tough competition,” Aitcheson said. “It was a fun experience. It was a long day, but some real thrills when I finally placed.”
Aitcheson and Walton had only started wrestling Greco-Roman style in the previous couple of months.
“At first we just kind of played with it,” Aitcheson said. “But a couple of weeks before the state tournament (Tonasket High School and Junkyard Dogs wrestling club coach Dave) Mitchell said he thought we could compete there.
“We watched some video, Mitchell got us a Greco wrestling dummy and we finally committed to going about a week before.”
Thanks in part to his inexperience at wrestling that style, Aitcheson said it was hard to set a real goal entering the state meet.
“Any wrestler will tell you they want to win,” he said. “But I went in trying to do a good job and have fun.”
Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling are the two types of wrestling seen in the Olympics the past two weeks. In Greco, wrestlers cannot execute leg attacks.
“Greco doesn’t have a lot of ‘beautiful’ throws. It’s not considered very cool; it’s a pretty ugly style of wrestling, but that’s what I did.”
Prior to heading to nationals, Aitcheson had to decide whether or not the time and effort to train, as well as the expense involved, would be worth the effort.
“I did some fundraising, wrote letters to teachers and friends, and did a lot of not-so-fun jobs to earn money to pay for the tournament, food and equipment,” he said. “Also my grandparents donated a lot of money, and that really made me happy.”
He spent nearly a week with the rest of the state team in training camp at Eastern Washington University before heading to Fargo.
“We had about 34-40 kids there (between the different age groups and weight classes),” Aitcheson said. “I knew a couple of kids that I’d wrestled against before, and other guys whose names I knew. It was exciting to see them and fun to wrestle with guys I’d heard about.”
Aitcheson said he enjoyed the experience but wasn’t certain if he’d want to do it again.
“I’m glad I did it,” he said. “I’m pretty happy about it. It was a fun trip. I don’t know whether I would go back and do it again; it’s really hard, I really stressed out about my weight, and mentally it’s very tough.
“But I also learned a lot more things that are out there that I didn’t know before. Coach Mitchell teaches us all the good moves, but the (state team) coaches taught us a bunch of little things that make you better. So I learned a lot of those small things, and I’m definitely looking forward to next season.”