Beach wrestling has arrived in Iowa. Will it soon be at the Olympic Games?

MYSTIC, Ia. – DeMichael Franklin, a former Iowa State wrestler, used a two-on-one to score a takedown on Saturday, like he has done so many times before – except this time he got up and wiped the sand off his shorts. It was different.

A few minutes later Kyven Gadson, another former Cyclone, used a hook to grab his opponent in the back. The crowd collectively oooh‘d at Gadson’s withdrawal… then laughed when his opponent, Archie Williams, got up with sand all over his face.

“It felt good” Gadson said afterwards. “It’s just different. It’s totally different.

It’s beach wrestling. It was Saturday at Rathbun Lake.

USA Wrestling’s Beach Wrestling Tour of America arrived in Iowa last weekend, the fifth of 11 stops across the country to promote beach wrestling, a new style of wrestling that is gaining popularity.

Beach wrestling is a simpler form of wrestling. Matches are played on sand in a ring seven meters (about 23 feet) in diameter. Matches last three minutes and the first wrestler to score three points wins. If the game is tied after three minutes, whoever scored the last point wins. If the match ends 0-0, the lightest wrestler wins. Seriously.

Points are scored via takeouts, takeouts, or by forcing your opponent to touch a fulcrum (knee, elbow, head; hands can touch) on the sand. If you take your opponent feet to back, it is worth three points and can end the match.

United World Wrestling, the sport’s international governing body, officially introduced the sport in 2018, with the Beach Wrestling World Series. Four senior level weights are available for men and women – 70, 80, 90 and 90+ kilograms for men; 50, 60, 70 and 70+ kilos for women.

The UWW has scheduled five competitions between May and September for the Beach Wrestling World Series 2022, in Turkey, Spain, France, Greece and Romania. Wrestlers earn points with their individual finishes in each competition, and whoever has the most points at the end wins the world title for their respective weight class.

Few American wrestlers are currently on the UWW Beach Wrestling World Series rankings – Anthony Raupp is ranked No. 6 at 80 kilos for men; Tiaira Scott is 9th at over 70 kilos for women – but UWW and USA Wrestling say there is a legitimate push to bring women’s wrestling into the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

UWW and USA Wrestling made women’s beach wrestling an Olympic sport, in part because of gender equity. Men currently have twice as many Olympic wrestling opportunities as women (12 weights combined in men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling versus just six weights in women’s freestyle wrestling).

Women’s beach wrestling, according to UWW and USA Wrestling, would not only give women another Olympic wrestling opportunity, but also provide another opportunity for the sport to capitalize on the rapid growth of women’s wrestling in the United States and around the world. world.

The highest levels of beach wrestling matches are part freestyle, part greco, and part judo. Two high school wrestlers from Iowa recently tried their hand at beach wrestling with success.

Last year Lily Luft of Charles City took fourth place at the World Cadet Beach Wrestling Championships in Romania. In May, Martensdale-St. Marys’ Josephine Wearmouth took second place at the USA Wrestling Beach Wrestling Nationals in North Carolina.

“It’s a lot of greco, a lot of upper body, throwing and positioning,” Luft, a two-time state champion and women’s freestyle All-American, told The Register last fall. She added that she focused on her “foot positioning and throws” when preparing for the competition.

► MORE: Hear Charles City’s Lily Luft talk more about beach wrestling

With the formation of the Beach Wrestling Tour of America, USA Wrestling is attempting to expand the sport to a national level. This led to Saturday’s event at Rathbun Lake, where 85 wrestlers of all ages and sizes competed at Island View Beach.

“Raise your hand if you’re new to beach wrestling?” the announcer said over a loudspeaker – to which almost everyone responded by raising their hands.

The event, dubbed the Kraken Beach Wrestling Championships, was organized by Jamie Cochran, the manager of the Chariton Wrestling Club. It used a modified ruleset for younger wrestlers, but senior-level wrestlers competed using UWW rules.

The 85 participating wrestlers made the Kraken Beach Wrestling Championships the third largest beach wrestling event of the fifth nights so far on USA Wrestling’s Beach Wrestling Tour of America schedule. Only Beach Nationals (201) and the Fargo Summer Showcase (105) had more.

The overriding thought of those who participated on Saturday: wrestling on the beach is pretty fun.

DeMichael Franklin scored a 3-point strikeout at the Kraken Beach Wrestling Championships in Rathbun Lake on Saturday.  Beach wrestling is growing in popularity in the United States and around the world.

Franklin won both of its games on Saturday. He competed at 90 kilos (198 pounds) at the senior level and scored 3-point strikeouts in his two games.

“I think it’s a good way to get more fans into the sport,” Franklin said. said. “I like it. We should cultivate it.

He added: “I’m a little out of shape these days, but it was fun.”

Cody Swim, the Interstate 35 head coach, also won two games. Two of his athletes, the Steinlage twins, Nick and Ryan, also competed. Nick has beaten Ryan twice – on a three-pointer in Game 1 and then in a 3-2 back-and-forth in Game 2.

“It was fun”, swimming said. “It’s more relaxed.”

Would you do it again?

“Absolutely.”

Gadson went 2-0 in the Senior 90+ kilo competition, winning his first match with three one-point scores, then winning his second using that hook and taking Williams behind his back. He enjoyed the simplicity of wrestling on the beach.

“There are a lot of positives about it,” Gadson said. “It’s simple for the fans, and it’s simple for the wrestlers.”

Gadson, the 2015 NCAA champion for Iowa State and a regular on USA Wrestling’s senior men’s freestyle ladder ever since, also pointed out that he beat the top-ranked wrestler in the UWW rankings of the Beach Wrestling World Series at over 90 kilos, Georgia’s Mamuka, at the 2019 World Cup in Russia.

Maybe the 30-year-old has a future in beach wrestling?

“That would be amazing,” he said.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

Robert J. King