Wrestling program giving back
Rugby’s SWAT wrestling program wasn’t content to just train youth wrestlers and allow them an opportunity to compete in the offseason.
SWAT, which stands for Strength, Wrestling and Athletic Training, was formed in May, 2012, with a broader goal in mind.
The program, which includes around 50 wrestlers from Harvey, Velva and Rugby, has taken a donation from the Eagles and re-invested it, both in their program and in the community.
“Our mission is to benefit all kids,” said SWAT organizer Craig Zachmeier. “We use wrestling to raise funds and disseminate them.”
The organization’s first fundraiser was a camp in May, 2012, which brought in almost 120 wrestlers from across the state to Rugby.
“We had some state champions,” Zachmeier said. “We brought in some national champions from Minnesota. We allowed 17 kids in for free from across the state that wanted to participate but didn’t have the funds.”
The program got off the ground with a sizable donation from the Eagles Club. But instead of spending the funds, SWAT reinvested the money with the idea of raising more money.
“They’ve donated about $7,000,” Zachmeier said. “We were able to take that and have a raffle with it, put it toward our tournaments and turn that into a relatively large profit by reinvesting it.”
With the money they’ve raised from reinvestment, SWAT has been able to donate $2,200 to the Child Advocacy Center in Minot to help abused children in the area.
The club also purchased a neck-strengthening machine for the weight room at Rugby High School.
“We ordered that in November,” Zachmeier said. “We saw the school didn’t have one. We got the top-of-the-line neck machine for rehabilitation and strength. The theory behind that was, it’s a 20-year life span on the machine, and 200 kids a year are going to step on and use it. That number times 20 years, that’s 4,000 kids we affected with that machine. If that prevents one neck injury, that’s a $100,000 bill that we’ve saved that family.”
Zachmeier said SWAT has also partnered with groups like the local FFA chapter to help them raise funds to travel to their leadership conference.
“It’s not just wrestling, it’s to all kids,” he said.
Zachmeier said the group has given out about $25,000 in less than a year, working off the initial donation from the Eagles.
While they are trying to benefit a number of groups, their focus is still on the mat.
The team brought 35 wrestlers to the State Folkstyle Tournament in Bismarck last weekend, and came away with 5 state championships and 12 placers.
“Some of the brackets were 62-man brackets, which is three times bigger than the state tournament,” Zachmeier said. “Some of our kids wrestled seven matches just to make the placing round.”
With Folkstyle season over, the group turns its focus to Greco-Roman and Freestyle.
The team will host a tournament on April 13 complete with an old-timers division and is expecting 100-150 wrestlers over the two styles.
Zachmeier said University of Minnesota wrestler Tony Nelson will be in attendance to conduct clinics, sign autographs, coach and even do some officiating.
Later in the month, the team will head to Jamestown for the state tournament for Greco-Roman and Freestyle.
“It’s growing,” Zachmeier said. “The whole concept is spreading. Who knows what the future brings.”