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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Youth wrestling tournament draws hundreds of young grapplers

UPDATED: Sat., April 7, 2018

Wayne Terry remembers the lean years of the Jason Crawford Memorial Wrestling Tournament.

Before burgeoning into the region’s foremost gathering of young grapplers, it attracted just a few dozen participants in 1987, easily accommodated by Medical Lake High School’s gymnasium.

“Then it grew, and it was moved to EWU for 22 years,” said Terry, tournament coordinator and founder. “Then we moved it to Gonzaga. It’s been part of a grassroots program that’s affordable, so more and more people have been getting on board.”

Three decades after its inception, the tournament appears on the cusp of outgrowing even the Spokane Convention Center.

The 31st edition of the one-day Jason Crawford Memorial Tournament on Saturday featured 1,601 wrestlers, ages 5-14 and saw an estimated 10,000 people pass through the convention center throughout the day.

Jason Crawford, the tournament’s namesake, was a 12-year-old Airway Heights boy and wrestler who was fatally struck by a car while crossing the street on a family vacation in the 1980s.

Ninety-three teams from Western Washington to central Idaho were in the field, each program donning their respective club’s colors, most matching the colors of their local high school.

Tournament officials said this year’s turnout was the biggest yet, aiming to set a Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest wrestling tournament.

No such record currently exists, but the distinction of the world’s largest Mongolian wrestling tournament, however, belongs to the Mongolian National Wrestling Federation’s festival of takedowns, which attracted 6,000 wrestlers in a nine-day tournament in 2016, according to Guinness World Records News.

Guinness gave tournament officials a laundry list of requirements, they said, before its record could be considered, including: Having at least 1,000 wrestlers; 24 hours of tournament video; a turnstile counter to count the wrestlers; a group of Guinness-assigned witnesses; and a heap of paperwork.

Tournament officials announced that they had set the record, but said they will have to wait months before Guinness can review and approve it.

Crawford’s father, Dennis Crawford, makes the cross-country trip from Georgia each year to see the tournament named after his son. Dennis Crawford and Terry, former Medical Lake grapplers, both coached Jason Crawford’s Mat Maulers team.

“To see it grow like this and to maybe get a world record is just special,” Dennis Crawford said. “They say something good comes from everything bad, and that was certainly the case here.”

Throughout the years, the tournament has helped produce hundreds of future high school state champions and NCAA Division I prospects, including the Oklahoma State’s Chandler Rogers (Mead High) and former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestler Josh Edmondson (Medical Lake).

Selkirk coach J.L. Chantry brought a group of his wrestlers from Ione, a logging town of 450 residents 85 miles north of Spokane.

“The kids consider this their version of the state tournament,” Chantry said. “This is what they work for all season long. This is where they want to come and this is where they want to win.”

For Terry, the tournament, which officials said brings around a half-million dollars to the Spokane economy, is about fun and perspective.

“The wins and losses here aren’t important,” Terry said. “The idea is to grow and love your kids or parents and enjoy the time you have together.”

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