Piestewa wrestling tourney sees increase in entries
By Larissa L. Jimmy
CHINLE, July 18, 2013
P a Humma sees the wrestling tournament that he co-founded growing to be one of the best Native American wrestling tournaments in the country featuring the elite of Indian Country.
Na Humma founded the tournament in 2010 with his father and attracted only 20 wrestlers during the inaugural event. At this year's 2013 Lori Piestewa National Native American Games wrestling tournament, however, it has grown to about 150 competitors.
"We want to build this as a national event for Native American wrestling as spectacle of what Native people can do and try and get them into the Olympic styles of wrestling," said Na Humma, (whose name is Salt River Pima-Maricopa, a tribe that does not use last names).
Taking place at the Fort McDowell Casino, the crowd of about 100 added to the intensity of the tournament by generating a lot of cheers for their favorite wrestlers.
"This venue has just been amazing, we love it," said Na Humma. "It really helps level up the intensity of the tournament. We're able to get as much people as we can up close to see all the action. There was no such thing as a bad seat in this place.
"The turnout has been amazing," added Na Humma. "We had so many fans this year. I think the central location helped that and the noise was incredible during those heated matches. That's a great thing, us as wrestlers are only used to a couple of people in the stands."
One goal that Na Humma had when co-founding tournament was to give Native wrestlers exposure to college coaches.
"There is a huge drop off in Native American wrestlers in college," said Na Humma, who is current varsity wrestling coach at Salt River High and always looking to send some of his wrestlers to compete collegiately. "… We want to have these high school wrestlers come here to compete and hopefully get looked at."
For Na Humma, the wrestling tournament will continue as long as he can maintain the tournaments uniqueness – keeping it strictly Native American and preparing for a chance to compete at the Olympic level.
Ramsey Davidson Jr. is one example of why Na Humma continues to do what he does.
Davidson, from Window Rock, was the oldest wrestler at age 41 to compete in the tournament and medaled in all three events despite having a sprained ankle. He earned first place in Greco style and second place in both the free-style and folk-style events in the 146-pound weight class.
"A couple of my supporters wanted me to call the match," he said of his injury. "I said, 'No. This is wrestling - it's tough.'
"I wanted to be a good inspiration to them," said Davidson, who is the assistant wrestling coach for Tse Ho Tso Middle School, in referring to his wrestlers. "So I hung in there and fought through it. My opponent knew I was hurt and I told him to keep going because I wasn't going to quit. He was really impressed."
Added Davidson, "It was an outstanding tournament. All tribes from all over the reservation, whether they were from the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and even one from Arkansas, they were here to compete."
"We try and expose people to compete and to be inspired to continue wrestling beyond college and high school," Na Humma said.
For Chinle High School wrestler Zackary Ute, "It was great, felt good, tough competition, but I over came it."
Ute, who wrestled in the 125-pound weight division, added that he "definitely learned more technique. I had a great time here and I'm so glad I competed here.
"It was great because every time I wrestled I picked up on new stuff," said the Canyon de Chelly wrestling club member. "If you wrestle good people you get more experience. That's why I join wrestling tournaments like this one – it makes me want to train more."
Former Window Rock High wrestler Jeremy Jesus, who is a member of the Native Scouts Wrestling Club, dominated the 211-pound and above weight division, taking home more than metals.
"Determination and hard work is what I gained," said Jesus, 18. "It was a good experience to wrestle tribes I've never heard of.
"I'm definitely going to come back next year," he added. "It's a really good experience to see different tribes and see what they can do, and for us to show them what we can do on the mat."