Wrestling Is Growing In Popularity in East Tennessee

Although not as popular as football, many young athletes see the benefits of interlinking the sports

When you think of school athletics the first thing most people think of is football. However, many people in East Tennessee also think of wrestling and for four local boys who won AAU Spring Youth Nationals in Kingsport last March that is all they think about. Hunter Fortner, one of the four youths, thinks the sports have a lot in common.

He remembers when he first discovered wrestling as a second grader. “I got a flyer for it at school,” Fortner said. “I thought it was WWE stuff at first. It was really weird. I didn’t really get it.” Since then he has become a two-time AAU All-American and an eighth grader at Holston Middle School. “It’s like football,” he said. “It’s a contact sport that keeps me in shape during the winter. A takedown is kind of just like tackling, but there’s more technique.”

More than a dozen states took part in the competition. Also winning nationals in their respective classifications were six-year-old Mason Shields (35-pound tot division), Tyler Jay Holmes (112-pound junior division) and Colby Dalon (75-pound midget division).

Bert Dalon, Colby’s father, is also a youth football coach that echoed Fortner’s connection between wrestling and football; even though he “never even heard of” wrestling before his sons got involved in the sport. “If I had a high school football team, every player on my team would do wrestling. I think it’s phenomenal for football,” Dalon said.

Dalon, who had a perfect 37-0 record two years ago finished first at state and nationals in addition to placing second at this year’s state tournament. The boys all come from the Corryton, Gibbs and Halls area of East Tennessee, although they wrestle for three different clubs.

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