The Saratoga Sun -

By Liz Wood 

Saratoga youth gives back to USA Wrestling

 

Liz Wood

Thomas Ingraham referees a match at the Rawlins USA Wrestling tournament last month.

A familiar face was on the mats during the USA Wrestling Tournament in Rawlins March 14.

Thomas Ingraham has been wrestling since he was in the third grade and finished fifth at state for his high school wrestling team. But that Saturday, Thomas wasn't wrestling; he was refereeing.

His youthfulness was obvious on the mats, since most of the referees that day were in their 30s or 40s. At 16 years old, Thomas is the only youth referee from Saratoga.

It's his way of giving back to the sport.

"I told Thomas that I would drive him anywhere to compete in wrestling, but he had to give back to the sport," said Trevor Ingraham, Thomas' father.

Thomas chose to be a referee. "When I would go to tournaments, I would see there wouldn't be enough refs," Thomas said. "Also being a ref gave me a better understanding of how the sport worked."

In order for the Saratoga USA Wrestling Team to score more points, they needed a mat official, so Thomas volunteered for the job.

Thomas is in his third year as a referee. There is one referee in the state of Wyoming who is younger than him, but Thomas is the youngest referee who goes to national meets.

Refereeing has given Thomas something back, though. Thomas said he is a better wrestler because of his refereeing.

"I have much more respect and understanding for officials, because I understand how it is to be out there," Thomas said.

He also understands the rules and how to approach a referee when a wrong call has been made.

Thomas said he is a much better wrestler too, because he sees "tons of different styles". "You are the closest person to those kids and you get to see how they are doing their moves and what moves seems to work."

To become a referee, Thomas had to study the USA Wrestling Rule book and take an online test and pass it to become the lowest ranking officials. In order to increase his ranking, Thomas had to referee a certain amount of meets and referee a national meet.

At the national meet, the referee has to be recommended to the state director to be promoted.

Thomas is an M3, but was recommended to be promoted by several referees last year who worked with Thomas at the regional meet in Pocatello, Idaho.

"Even though I was too young to be promoted, several referees sent letters of recommendation," Thomas said, He was put into the group that was to be promoted, but has to wait until he is 17 years old, which is April 8.

Trevor said it was really interesting to watch his son at the regional meet because the 16-year-old referee would be the lead referee on the mat with other referees who were nearly twice his age.

"It was a pretty good compliment," Trevor said.

Thomas said he really likes being a referee. "I think it is pretty cool to be out there and be reffing."

What he doesn't like about being a referee is getting yelled at by the coaches.

Thomas said the program needs more coaches, youth coaches and those between 18 and 30, because there is a huge gap between the younger referees and the older referees.

Thomas' goal as a referee – to one day referee at the Olympics, as USA Wrestling is the governing body that referees at the Olympics.

 

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