De La Salle wrestlers reflect on AAU Junior Olympic Games experience
WARREN — Warren De La Salle senior wrestler Brandon Mattinen didn’t leave the 2012 AAU Junior Olympic Games fully intact.
“I was wrestling with a guy, and we went in close at the same time and boom, I broke my nose,” the senior 170-pound grappler said. “I had to wear a mask, and it was really uncomfortable because it kept sliding off my face and it was so sweaty.”
Mattinen, along with Pilots senior 220-pounder Richie Roberts and junior 132-pound grappler Noah Brown, was selected to take part in the AAU Junior Olympics and were members of two different teams: Team Michigan White for Roberts, and Team Michigan Red for Mattinen and Brown.
Michigan Red took sixth place out of 19 teams, while Michigan White finished 14th. Roberts earned a copper medal after finishing 11-7 in his weight class.
The games took place July 30-Aug. 3 in Houston, Texas.
“I thought it was really cool and different to be there. It was structured a lot differently than other tournaments because you’re wrestling every day,” Roberts said.
“A lot of wrestlers don’t work out in the summer outside of a couple smaller tournaments. This was a big deal, and I think it’ll help us out a lot this season.”
The trek to Houston was an interesting one, according to Mattinen. The wrestlers were bused to the Lone Star State in a trip that took more than 24 hours each way.
Mattinen, a 2012 Michigan High School Athletic Association state qualifier for De La Salle, said the ride was tough because wrestlers were watching their diets in an attempt to make weight.
“And one guy got sick on the way back because he was eating too much,” Mattinen said.
“It was a long trip,” Brown said. “You didn’t really know a lot of people on the way down, so there wasn’t much talking going on, but on the way back, it was pretty cool because you knew everybody.”
Pilots wrestling coach Dennis Parks said he saw nothing positives in three of his grapplers taking part in the Junior Olympics. Parks also said he thinks the additional week of competition should help his wrestlers when the prep season kicks off Dec. 5.
“I think it taught us more about how to stay focused,” Roberts said. “It helped us stay ahead too, because we were able to learn a lot of things just by watching and competing with guys from different areas.”