Volunteers critical to tourney's success
By RACHAEL GRAY
Parents, students, teachers and wrestling fans turned out in big numbers Friday afternoon for the first day of the annual Rocky Welton Invitational wrestling tournament, a two-day, 55-year-old tournament that brings teams from all over Kansas and surrounding states to Garden City.
A good portion of the people who filled the main gym at Garden City High School Friday were volunteering at the event.
According to Martin Segovia, GCHS athletic director, volunteers for the event number 50 to 60. They include ticket takers, concession workers, hospitality room volunteers, scorekeepers, timers and other support.
"We can't thank them enough for helping to put this together annually. The wrestlers wouldn't be as successful on or off the mat without their support," Segovia said.
Among those volunteers is Kendall Adler, president of the Takedown Club, the parent support organization for the GCHS wrestling team. He has been helping with the tournament for 15 years. Friday afternoon he helped in concessions, where a group of Takedown Club members and family members tended to a steady line of customers.
"A lot of people in this room have been volunteering for 15 years," he said.
Adler said it all started with their children participating in youth wrestling. As the wrestlers got older, the parents held different fundraisers for different tournaments. Adler's son, Chris, wrestles for the Buffaloes.
"From the table workers to the people doing the scoring, we're all connected to wrestling somehow," he said.
Adler said the motive is the same for most volunteers, too.
"It's the same thing — we do what it takes for the kids," he said.
Tracy Kennedy has been helping with the tournament for two years. Friday she helped in concessions.
Her son, Trevor, a senior on the GCHS wrestling team.
"It all goes back to the kids," she said.
Melanie Anderson is in her first year helping with the tournament. Friday she had gotten to the school at 10 a.m. and probably was going to be there until 10 Friday night.
"My nephew, Trevor, is a wrestler. And it's the same. We do whatever it takes to keep these kids going," she said.
Brianna Mader helped Friday in the concession stand and the hospitality room. She had been at the school since 10 a.m. and would be there until about 10 p.m. Today, Mader will be at the tournament from 9 a.m. until it's over. Her little brother is a wrestler.
Mader has been helping for two years.
"The best part is getting out and about and conversing with everyone," she said.
Down on the floor, junior varsity wrestlers were "towel tappers." The towel tappers make sure the referee knows how much time is left.
If time runs out, the volunteers tap the ref on the shoulder with the towel.
Junior varsity wrestlers Noe Lugo, 14, and Antonio Perez, 16, handled one of the mats.
"We just make sure the ref doesn't go over the time," Lugo said.
Lugo has been wrestling since seventh grade.
"I didn't wrestle today because I'm on JV. But yesterday, I won," he said.
Like Lugo, many of the volunteers at the tournament started out as wrestlers, Segovia said.
"There's a number of people here who are former athletes — state qualifiers and placers. Many of them are former athletes themselves. It's tradition," Segovia said.
The Rocky Welton Invitational continues today at GCHS. The tournament is named for former GCHS wrestling coach Rocky Welton, who coached the Buffaloes for 15 years. During that time, his team won six state titles.
His program produced 30 state champions, and his lifetime dual record is 200-50-4, according to the Garden City USD 457 website.
Saturday's medal round matches will begin at about 2 p.m., with championship matches on a single center-floor mat set to begin at about 4:30 p.m.