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Megan Card, Published June 27 2012

Heavyweight wrestling with tournament's cost

FARGO – Coaches say without a good stance, a wrestler doesn’t stand a chance.

Without $1,300, heavyweight wrestler Elliot Taylor, 18, of Costa Mesa, Calif., will not stand a chance to compete in the USA Wrestling Junior National Championships in Fargo next month.

After qualifying for nationals by placing second for Greco-Roman wrestling at a California state meet, the only obstacle left in the path of his 285-pound frame is the cost, not the skills.

But one thing is certain for Taylor. No matter what, he is going to find a way to compete.

In an effort to pay for the entry fees, traveling and hotel costs, he recently took on the role of fundraiser and wrestler. Taking more shifts at work, Taylor said it just was not enough doing it on his own.

“As a wrestler, I kind of have that independent urge to go out there and do it myself,” Taylor said. “But wrestling is also a team effort, and Coach Jake (Harman) finally said ‘Hey, you need to raise this money and you can’t be working all the time, you’ve got to practice.’”

Re-evaluating his plan, Taylor has been reaching out through social media sites like Facebook to get people to sponsor him as well as enlisting fellow church parishioners for help. Taylor’s Calvary Chapel High School coach, Harman, also helped him connect with possible sponsors to fund his trip.

Derek Taylor, Elliot’s father, said the cost of the tournament was put to the wayside with all of the obligations of other competitions and Elliot’s freshman college deposits. Derek said there were sacrifices made for his son to get into the tournament, including an opponent’s broken collarbone, and since Elliot had earned his way into the event, he needed to compete.

It is unusual for wrestlers to personally fundraise for nationals, according to USA Wrestling Director of Communications Craig Sesker. Usually, Sesker said, state associations help out with wrestler expenses, but the assistance differs from state to state.

Even though Elliot is not getting direct assistance from California USA Wrestling, he said he is more than half-way to his goal, and he thinks he will be in Fargo next month, wrestling for national recognition.

To see his son compete at this level, Derek, who wrestled for UC-Davis and participated in the 1988 Olympic wrestling qualifiers, said he likes to sit back and allow his son to play his sport, not his father’s.

“This year, he has taken over ownership of the sport. It’s his sport,” Derek said. “He determines his success.”

As Derek recounts one of “Elliot’s best matches of the year” at the CIF Northern Division Championships, he remembers every scramble, every reverse. The sport that Elliot only started four years earlier has paired father and son together through countless tournaments, and even now, Elliot spars with his dad to prepare for nationals.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Megan Card at (701) 241-5549