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Top wrestlers to converge on Skyline High

By Brian Eller - beller@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Earlier this summer, Skyline wrestling coach Matt Keel sat down at his computer, looking to do some research on The Super 32 Challenge, an upcoming annual tournament showcasing the top wrestlers in the nation.

To those outside the sport, the Super 32 Challenge may not ring any bells, but for wrestlers and wrestling enthusiasts around the country, the yearly tournament is one of the premier events wrestling has to offer.

Keel had heard of it before, first attending a match several years ago while coaching at Fauquier High School. So when he sat down at his desk, his plan was to simply find out more information for this year's Challenge.

While on the web site, however, Keel noticed an advertisement asking for different high schools to serve as hosts for the tournament's qualifying matches. On a whim, Keel dropped Skyline's name, along with the school's impressive history of hosting tournaments. Sure enough, after a handful of phone calls and e-mails, Skyline High School was selected to host one of six qualifying tournaments for this year's Super 32 Challenge, bringing top talent from along the East Coast to Front Royal.

"This is the premier preseason tournament in the nation," Keel said. "There are usually in the range of 40-50 colleges in attendance who send scouts, and what it is [is] 25 mats in a building. It's just crazy."

The actual Challenge is held annually in Greensboro, N.C., where the Super 32 champions are crowned. To get there, however, wrestlers must take part in a series of qualifying matches at different locations, this year including Skyline High School. That qualifying match will take place Sept. 12 at 9 a.m., and will feature several wrestlers from around the Shenandoah Valley, including competitors from Millbrook, Fauquier and Brentsville high schools. The top four wrestlers in each weight class from the qualifier will obtain a berth to the Super 32 Challenge.

"It's a pretty big deal," Keel said. "It's a great opportunity to show off the facilities here at the high school, and gives us some recognition for our hard work. We've been hosting a few tournaments in the past and we've done a good job, so we're honored to have the chance to host something this prestigious."

And along with giving local residents the opportunity to see some of the top wrestling in the country, the qualifying match also gives the sport some more exposure in an area where -- although those involved are extremely passionate about the sport -- wrestling can sometimes play second fiddle to other winter sports such as basketball.

And for the local wrestlers involved, the chance to face off against some new competition was an opportunity too good to pass up, Keel said.

"In the community, there's a lot of kids who are really involved with wrestling and it gives them the ability to wrestle state champs from New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and all over Virginia. So it's really good for kids to be able to go up against the best of the best. This area is not bad for wrestling, and hopefully fans and athletes will come out and compete and watch some of the best this sport has to offer."


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