The Tryon International Equestrian Center doesn’t exactly seem the ideal venue for a holiday wrestling tournament.
But Hendersonville resident Darrin May – with some prodding from Columbus restaurateur Shane Blackwell – looked at TIEC and saw on-site restaurants, on-site lodging, shopping, parking, plenty of indoor space with seating and thought, what could be a better fit?
Thus the birth of the Carolina Winter Nationals, three days of wrestling competition set for Dec. 30-Jan. 1 at TIEC.
The event opens Dec. 30 with a 16-team dual match high school tournament that will include Polk County among teams from three states. A high school girls individual tournament and junior varsity individual tournament will also run that day.
The tourney’s second day on Dec. 31 will feature a youth individual tournament, open to wrestlers in grades K-8. The competition then concludes on Jan. 1 with a K-8 dual team tourney and an individual tourney open to youth rookie wrestlers.
“We think this is going to be a good event that is going to bring a lot of people to Polk County,” May said.
May and his business partner ran the YONA Youth Wrestling Championships earlier this year in Cherokee, and the success of that event helped spur Blackwell to suggest to May that he consider a tourney in Polk County. The duo approached TIEC officials, worked out the details and the Winter Nationals was a go.
“The location is awesome,” May said. “You’ve got everything there. There are restaurants, you’ve got shopping, you’ve got lodging. You could come in for all three days and never leave.
“There’s something for Mom and something for Dad to enjoy. We think it’s going to be a great venue for this event.”
The high school dual tourney will begin Dec. 30 at 9 a.m., and May said he expects to use eight mats for the opening rounds of that competition. Among the area teams scheduled to be in the field at present with Polk County are Asheville, Brevard, Chase and Hendersonville. Each team is guaranteed to wrestle at least five matches.
Polk County High School is co-hosting the high school competition, with local businesses Ashworth Financial and Columbus Service Center serving as event sponsors.
The youth tourney includes divisions for 6U, 8U, 10U, 12U and middle school. Competition for the lower three age groups will begin at 9 a.m. on Dec. 31, with the older divisions beginning action at 1 p.m.
New Year’s Day action begins at 9 a.m.
Athletes from Wolverine Wrestling Club are expected to compete in the K-8 dual tourney as well as the youth individual event.
May is working to also bring in a number of wrestling vendors to be on-site, offer dinner each night to all competitors, coaches and officials and provide services such as massages for all athletes. He and Blackwell are working to secure volunteers to help with meals and event services. Anyone interested in helping can sign up online.