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Covering a state wrestling tournament

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JexFraequin, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. JexFraequin

    JexFraequin New Member

    I've been the "prep wrestling guy" for our sports section this winter, and I'm heading to the state tournament in a couple weeks. It will be my first state tournament, and I've never covered a tournament this large before. We have 19 schools in our coverage area and most, if not all, of them will be represented by at least a couple kids.

    The tournament is two days long, and I'm struggling to figure out how I'm going to cover it. I'll be the only one from our newspaper there. I have some ideas for features and things like that, but I'm just not sure how to tackle something this big. Any seasoned veterans have any advice for a rookie? I appreciate it.
  2. JamesCimburek

    JamesCimburek New Member

    Typically what I do is focus on the top team(s) in the area, especially if they are contending for a title, then try to mention the other area kids that are doing well. Mention everyone in the preview, but don't feel obligated to mention all the kids that go 2-out once the event starts.
  3. The last thing James said is the absolute truth. Three weeks from now will be my 13th Pennsylvania state tournament. Fans here are kind of rabid about their wrestling.

    The tournament here is three days, and I'll typically do three stories a day. I try to look ahead to kids who might have a defending state champ or high place finisher to wrestle the next day and maybe preview that as much as talk about how they did on the first day, especially if there's a couple kids from my area in that predicament. I always do kind of a wrap on the best kids from our area, but their real stories are coming on the second and third days with the semifinals and finals when they'll see likely their best competition of the year. Stories on first-time state qualifiers usually work out here because if you haven't wrestled in the Giant Center in Hershey before it can be a bit overwhelming and some kids really rise to the occasion and some just shit their pants. So going over how each one handles it can make for a good story.

    I always look for featurey kind of stories on the first day off the tournament, that's the time to tell those stories if I haven't gotten the chance to during the regular season or the 4-week postseason run. But the last two days are always about what happens on the mat in the tournament.

    Try to familiarize yourself with the kids who are going and the big guns they've already wrestled this year in case they might see them again in the state tournament. Kids never forget a match and if they beat someone they lost to earlier in the year, they'll be able to tell you exactly why they won or lost and what they did differently. Wrestlers are different like that, they can recall almost any match they've ever wrestled in their life. I don't know if your state requires teams to fill in results on the NWCA site like Pennsylvania does, but it's a great source for checking in on every kid's opponent throughout the year.

    Make sure you enjoy it, too, especially if you enjoy watching the wrestling. Big tournaments can be really hectic but a lot of fun.
  4. Shoeless Joe

    Shoeless Joe Active Member

    I covered a bunch of 'em in my day. I more or less agree with the others, but disagree in part, too. Focus on your wrestlers who are going deep in the tournament. Everyone's results are worthy of a mention, but most of them can be done in one sentence: "Johny A, Johnny B, Johnny C, Johnny D, E and F were eliminated in the first round." (or whatever)
  5. Dog8Cats

    Dog8Cats Member

    What's the publication cycle relative to the tournament? Are you working for a daily? Will you be up against deadline on either of the days of the tournament? Will you be responsible for an overall account of the tournament (state championship team and any milestones of widespread interest), or just a "locals only" roundup paragraph?

    All of these questions need to factor into your plan of attack.
  6. JexFraequin

    JexFraequin New Member

    We are a daily and my deadline is around 11 p.m. (pages are sent no later than 11:45). So I'll have about 2-2.5 hours between the last match and when I need to stop writing. I'm really only responsible for our coverage area. I don't care about any other schools unless they wrestle kids from our schools.
  7. Dog8Cats

    Dog8Cats Member

    If the tournament format is such that the state championship matches in each weight class are held one at a time, at the end of the final day, you can get most of your writing done well before the end of the tournament, well before the start of that two-hour window you refer to.

    Once you know how "your" guys did, start hammering away at your laptop. Don't wait for the entire circus to end before writing -- or filing. If you can put a bow on what you write about "your" guys -- even before the last match is complete -- file your story and note to the production side that you will file a paragraph with final team points/who won the state title in the weight class your paper's darling suffered a semifinal upset/final attendance, etc. Don't let a one- or two-paragraph piece of missing information stand in the way of filing the other 95 percent of your copy. The copy editors will appreciate that (at least, they should).

    P.S. Even though your readers care about their stars, you will probably want to mention the team champion (if not the top three in team points).
  8. boxingnut4324

    boxingnut4324 Member

    Agree with a lot of what's been said here. I'm covering a state tournament next week in a small wrestling state, roughly 35 schools, and I only have to follow six or seven. I'll get my brackets in the morning, circle the guys from my schools, and watch them throughout the day. I gauge it like this:

    2-and-out guys: No mention at all unless it was a big shock they lost.
    Guys who win 1-2 matches: If they're nobodies then it's a sentence or two. If it's contenders who failed then it's a graph.
    Guys who make semis or who finish top-six: Talk to one or two. Usually one of them is a young kid so I frame it as "this kid's got next."
    Finalists: Usually I'll talk to the coach. Talking to a wrestler who just lost the biggest match of his life and died inside is absolute hell for both him and I.
    Champions: ALL THE PRESS!
  9. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Lots of good advice here. Shows the value of knowing what the story will be going into the event the first day. As for a lot of the 2-and-BBQ wrestlers, your desk can really help you with a breakout box listing local athletes, such as: "105 - Homer Simpson (Springfield) l. tf. Dudley DoRight (Podunk West); p. 3:32 by Spongebob Squarepants (Bikini Bottom Tech). At least do this in agate (if someone back in the office isn't picking it up from AP, the state site or somewhere like trackwrestling.com).
  10. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    General advice for being at the tourney: Two days is a very long time to be at one location for wrestling. Make sure to pack snacks, drinks, and cash for concessions because you won't want to drink from the water fountains. Pack extras of all your gear, like pens, paper, batteries. Pack hand sanitizer gel and use it if you're shaking hands with kids just coming off the mat. Dress in layers, as venue temps can fluctuate depending on how many people are in action at one time.

    If you're traveling out of town, make sure to ask organizers in advance if the venue will be open late enough for you to file from there. If not, make a plan and a backup plan for wifi access. Will your paper cover hotel wifi fees? Check now.

    And have fun! Wrestling tournaments can be awesome, feed off some of that energy from the kids.
  11. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    If the kid in your coverage area loses and you don't talk to him because it might make it hell for you, you're not doing your job.
    And I know I taught you better.
  12. silvercharm

    silvercharm Member

    I've covered about 20 state wrestling tournaments, with anywhere between 18-24 mats going at once. It's hell if you don't plan. I always start the day with a list of every kid in your area, with time and mat next to their name. You can't hit them all, but it gives you an idea of who/what you can cover. Like Dog8Cats said, you can/should have virtually everything written by the time the refs' hand hits the mat for the last time.

    If you haven't covered a state wrestling tournament before, prepare for a little gore. There's gonna be blood. And you're going to get a red ass or two ... there's always a guy who is extremely focused and doesn't want much to do about talking until its over. Talking to the loser in a state final can be tough, too, but sometimes you can get great stuff.
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