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Aberdeen ready to host State AAU Wrestling Tournament

Northern State University wrestling coach Rocky Burkett is the tournament director of the State AAU Wrestling Tournament happening this weekend at the Barnett Center. Photo by John Davis taken 3/23/2023

Wrestlers will descend upon the Barnett Center from all corners of the state this weekend as the facility hosts the State AAU Wrestling Tournament.

Nearly 1,600 wrestlers ranging from age 5 through high school will be competing for state championships in boys’ and girls’ divisions.

“We’re doing 16 stations,” said Northern State wrestling coach Rocky Burkett who will serve as the tournament director. “They used to be 22, but we’re just going to do 16. That’s what they’ve done the last couple of years.”

Aberdeen has hosted the tournament in the past. It is set up on a rotation basis. Sioux Falls hosted last year’s event.

Action gets started at 4 this afternoon with high school wrestlers competing in a Freestyle category. Saturday’s first sessions starts at 8 a.m. with competition in the Tots, Bantam and Midgets division. A second session will begin about 1 p.m. with Novice, Schoolboy, and all girls’ divisions taking place.

Sunday’s final round will begin with a parade of wrestlers at 8 a.m. followed by wrestling around 9. All divisions will have their place rounds on Sunday with the exception of draws that have five or fewer wrestlers.

Naturally, a tournament of this magnitude does not come together overnight.

“We’ve been meeting for the last 5-6 months,” Burkett said, “just kind of putting stuff together.”

The Barnett Center in Aberdeen will play host to the 2023 State AAU Wrestling Tournament this weekend. Photo by John Davis taken 3/23/2023

Burkett said that there will be seating for spectators on each side of the Barnett Center.

“The full balcony will be pulled out. The north and south (bleachers) will be pulled out to pretty much to the edge of the court,” Burkett said, “and there will probably be about eight rows on the ends that will be pulled out.”

Aberdeen will also be hosting the annual Midwest Championships wrestling tournament in mid April.

For now, Burkett and the rest of the staff are focusing on this weekend’s action, which traditionally showcases the top wrestlers from across the state, some who eventually go on to become state champions at the high school level.

“All of those kids have gone through this tournament,” Burkett said. “There will be a lot of good kids. It’s always fun.”

Lodging has been at a high demand for this weekend with reports of people staying up to 50 to 100 miles away.

“The hotel situation is always tough,” Burkett said, “but once they get here I think they enjoy it.”

Burkett is looking forward to the weekend of wrestling action.

“We’re excited for it,” Burkett said. “I think it will be fun for the kids.”

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