Top high school wrestlers from around the state and nation will compete starting tomorrow in the 10th Annual Knockout Christmas Classic scheduled for Silver Spurs Arena, Dec. 21-22.
Hosted by Osceola High School, the Knockout Christmas Classic is rapidly becoming one of the premiere holiday tournaments in the nation. One national wrestling site rates it as the sixth best in-season tournament in the country.
How good is the competition?
Consider the 160-pound weight class where Flowery Branch’s (Ga.) Seth Larson is just one of eight defending state champions competing in that weight class.
In all, 50 individual state champions – including Osceola’s three 3A state champions in Anderson Heap (145), Cooper Haase (152) and Gunner Holland (170) — are slated to wrestle in the 64-man individual bracket tournament that features wrestlers from 10 different states. Of the nearly 500 wrestlers scheduled to compete, more than 200 earned all-state honors last year by placing in the top eight of their respective state tournament.
In addition to Haase, ranked number six by Matscouts, many nationally ranked grapplers including Antonio Mills (#11, 113, Mill Creek, Ga.), Jake Crapps (#5, 126, Capps, Ga.), Drew Gorman (#15, 132, Buford, Ga.), Dominic Bambinelli (#10, 160, Mill Creek, Ga.), and Sawyer Bartelt (#6, 220, South Dade) will be seeking Knockout titles.
“Without question, this tournament continues to grow not only in size but prestige,” Classic Director and Osceola Head Coach/Athletic Director Richard Tribit said. “We have multiple state champions in almost every weight class this year. Winning a state title may be the ultimate goal for every high school wrestler but winning a Knockout Christmas Classic championship is most likely a bigger achievement, given the talent you have to get through to win.”
The tournament not only features great individuals but outstanding teams. All three Florida State championship teams (South Dade 3A, Jesuit 2A, Jensen Beach 1A) are competing as well as traditional Florida powers Osceola, Lake Gibson, Palmetto Ridge and Miami Southwest. Five state champion teams from Georgia including 7A (Thompson), 6A (Buford), 5A (Cass), 4A (West Laurens), and 2A (Lovett) are competing.
In all, 42 of the 63 teams competing finished in the top 10 in their state’s respective team championship tournaments last year.
But the boys’ high school competition is just a part of the great action at Silver Spurs. A girls’ and middle school tournaments are also scheduled and will be held on the floor where 11 mats will be in action simultaneously.
The boys’ championship tournament finals are scheduled to begin at around 4 p.m. on Thursday. Tickets to the Knockout Christmas Classic are $20 for a single day pass and $30 for an all-tournament pass. They are available at the gate.