With six mats running during a Blackheart Wrestling Club open tournament last week, youths from across the state got a chance to show off their burgeoning skills.

“It gives them a measuring stick that shows how far they’ve progressed,” organizer and former high school wrestling coach Johnny Piva said.

About 100 kids between the ages of 4 and 18 came to the Challis High School gym for the tournament, part of the Idaho Amateur Wrestling Association for Youth.

In spite of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, tournament organizers decided not to require face coverings or physical distancing practices. People were told if they feel uncomfortable participating in the tournament, then they shouldn’t come.

By all accounts, the competitors had a good time. Challis wrestler Sabina Bennetts said despite losing both her matches, she walked away better for the experience. Not only was the tournament a chance for her to push her physical skills, but also her mental toughness.

“98 percent of all of this is mental,” Bennetts said. “Anyone can start wrestling, but you have to believe you can do it. You have to believe you can win.”

Lukas Arneson of Challis must have channeled that belief when he wrestled his teammate Wyatt Edwards for the third time. The boys had three matches together, with Arneson winning the first and losing by points in the second. Although he was visibly upset by the loss, Arneson rallied and was able to get his second win against Edwards by points.

Before his second win, mother Keasha Arneson said wrestling is in her son’s blood. With four children participating in the sport, Keasha said they’ve spent most recent weekends traveling to tournaments.

The one who seems to enjoy it the most is her youngest, Emmalynn, according to Keasha. Although she’s just started, Keasha said her daughter’s already taken a liking to the sport.

“She’s not into girly stuff,” the mother said. “She likes kicking butt.”

Piva said he looks forward to holding a bigger, more advertised tournament next year. The Blackheart club held an annual tournament until about eight years ago, Piva said. They wanted to resurrect it in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that a year ago.