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NAIA women’s wrestling tourney changed to single day due to storm

The mats are set at the Harold Newman Arena for the upcoming NAIA Women's Wrestling Invitational. Action was set to start Friday, March 14, but the forecasted storm postponed the tournament to a one-day Saturday event. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Weather has forced the University of Jamestown to shift its two-day national women’s college wrestling tournament to a single-day event Saturday, March 16, at Harold Newman Arena.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics on Wednesday, March 13, approved UJ’s plan to move Friday matches to Saturday for the NAIA Women’s Wrestling Invitational, said Sean Johnson, UJ athletic director. This will allow teams to drive or fly into Jamestown on Friday, after the blizzard expected Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

“Everybody’s coming,” Johnson said. “That is good news for everyone.”

Around 70 percent of the 24 participating teams from 14 states were coming in Wednesday, he said. Those are mostly from neighboring states and the Midwest, while the teams flying in Friday are from the farthest states, such as California, Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia, he said.

“We’ve got 180 wrestlers and probably 250 total when you count the coaches, athletic trainers and other people associated with the teams,” Johnson said. “That’s around 100 hotels rooms not counting the fans.”

A one-day collegiate wrestling tournament is not out of the norm, and no rounds or competitions are being canceled, he said. Women’s collegiate wrestling is a freestyle event with shorter matches, which makes a one-day tournament even of this size possible and without being rushed, he said.

“We would rather do a two-day event, but a championship tournament can be done in one day,” Johnson said.

The extreme cold and snowy winter is affecting the entire country and not just Jamestown, he said. The University of Jamestown isn’t concerned that this storm event could impact future attempts to host national tournaments, he said.

“Everybody is having bad weather this winter; it’s not just us,” Johnson said. “What it really comes down to is do we run a good event, with great people and great hospitality, and we’ve got all those things.”

Shauna Kemp, head coach of the UJ women’s wrestling program, said it isn’t possible to control the weather and universities are accustomed to shifting schedules where it accommodates teams. The NAIA tournament this weekend has responded well to find safe solutions that keep everyone committed, she said.

“Things worked out well,” Kemp said. “It’s been hectic for us getting it all figured out, but it was for everyone’s safety.”

The social events and banquet were also moved to Saturday to allow the teams to attend, she said. This will help ensure the athletes have the championship tournament experience the tournament was planning to provide, she said.

Until now national tournaments were organized by the Women's College Wrestling Association, Kemp said. The NAIA represents a collegiate athletic association that by adding women’s wrestling will only help to grow and improve the sport, she said.

“We would prefer the two-day event to give the wrestlers less matches per day,” she said. “But it will take only four matches to make the championship and that is a reasonable amount for one day.”

The matches will start at 8 a.m. Saturday, with championship matches starting at 7 p.m. All-day tickets for the event are $15 for adults and $10 for students.

Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich said the tournament still showcases UJ and the city. The weather is unfortunate but resilient athletes will work through adversity to have a great event, he said.

“They (UJ) have done the only reasonable and rational thing they could do to move to a one-day tournament,” Heinrich said. “When it's over it's going to be a great experience for the student athletes, coaches and families and hopefully for the university as well.”

Katie Hemmer, director of Jamestown Regional Airport, said all Wednesdays flights were canceled because weather closed the airport in Denver. The Thursday morning flight is canceled but the afternoon flight remains scheduled contingent on weather here and in Denver, she said.

The issue is snow, strong winds and possible freezing rain and mist that may require deicing the runway, Hemmer said. The plows will be out the moment the snow stops and if the wind allows, she said.

“We will have extra manpower,” Hemmer said. “We hope that everybody has safe travel with this being a big weekend for us with the national wrestling tournament here.”