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17 Tips for Running a Tournament

Posted by Jeffrey Pape on

If you are running an upcoming wrestling event you should find these tips helpful. Here at we do more than sell the top brands in wrestling shoes and gear. We have been involved in wrestling for over 30 years and have been to quite a few tournaments. If you keep your eyes open and stay positive you can learn something from every wrestling tournament you attend.

Here are 17 of our tips. If you have any other tips, post a comment and share them with us.

  1. First and foremost you need to secure your facility. It is important that you understand the politics of getting your facility and confirm that you definitely have it the day(s) that it is needed. Get everything in writing as soon as possible especially if it is your first year. Most high schools say there is no charge to use the gym, but charges for the custodians or school employees required to be there tend to pop up, adding up to $600 to $800 a day.
  2. Ask your local high school team for some help. We would pay the high school team to run the scoring tables. They have the expertise to keep score accurately and we had fewer complaints about scoring when the high school wrestlers ran the tables.
  3. Spread the word. For Illinois, that is getting the tournament on the state web site. State sites are often visited to find out about local events and other information. If affiliated with USA Wrestling, you can get on their schedule simply by sanctioning it early. We would typically get several wrestlers from out of state at our tournament. You might find this to be the case with wrestlers in town for the weekend to visit family or friends.
  4. In Illinois, the state organization makes its list of teams available. We would also send flyers to the entire state and found several teams that traveled a long distance to our tournament. By sending flyers to the entire state we would even have teams that we would never have expected to be in our tournament show up.
  5. Offer an incentive to pre-register. Most teams will not take advantage of the pre-registration. Offer discounted pricing if they pre-register versus paying at the tournament. Don’t get competitive based on price and aim to be in the middle of tournament prices. Avoid setting prices too low or too high.
  6. Saying “no” your first year is critical. If you overbook the first year you run a tournament, and the parents and coaches get out of their late, they will tell their friends the tournament was poorly run. However, if you run a good tournament they will tell everybody about it.
  7. As a general guideline, plan to have 30 to 40 kids per mat. When you get to the 50 to 60 kids per mat, you will end up with a much longer tournament. Particularly your first year, try to stay around 30 to 35 kids a mat.
  8. Use square mats to save space and not waste it by making circles. Some coaches hate square mats, but they won’t be complaining when you get them out a little quicker because you were able to squeeze another mat or two out of your available mat space.
  9. If you have different size mats, don’t just cut all the mats in half. Use some of the space on your larger mats to make your smaller mats bigger in size. Also, use marking tape and make sure it is a color that is not on your mats.
  10. We do not recommend running a round robin tournament. They take longer since every bracket will have all wrestlers wrestling. Using an 8-man bracket will reduce the number of matches your final round. Also, for the eight year olds and under, use a 4-man bracket. They will get two matches and should be out early in the afternoon. The kids and parents will appreciate getting out of your tournament early.
  11. If possible, split the 5 and 6 year olds into a separate division.
  12. Spend as much as you can on awards. A shirt to the first place winner really does not cost that much and it doubles as a walking advertisement for your tournament. I always saw our tournament t-shirts during the season. If possible, award 1st-6th place with a medal.
  13. Another key to running a good tournament is to make sure you do not have too many or too few kids. Try to get accurate numbers from your coaches. Ask them how many kids are on their roster and figure they typically won’t have more than 50-60% participation. Some teams will have 80-90%. If a coach has 40 kids on his roster, chances are they will not bring 35 kids like he would like. A good tip is to find out what the teams were brining at other tournaments throughout the year. At a typical tournament, we would have 15 to 20 teams. If each team’s count is off 5 kids that is 75 to 100 kids. At $12 an entry fee, gate fee, and concession stand revenues, each missing wrestler is close to $15 to $20 in profit. Much of your profit is in the last 100 wrestlers.
  14. In my last couple tournaments, I asked the coach: “If I asked you to guarantee a number how many kids would you have?” That number was always significantly less than the number they had given originally.
  15. Take good care of your referees. They will talk about your tournament to other ref’s. Pay them well, but don’t pay them too well. If you run 10 mats (400 kids), get 12 refs for your tournament. An extra $10 or $20 a ref times 12 refs’ is $120 or $240 of profit. That extra money can be used to pay for uniforms.
  16. Finally, it’s the day of the tournament. Make sure you have enough scales at your tournament. In Illinois, the 8 & Unders are the largest group. We bought two scales from Walmart. These are fine for the little guys and will allow you to have 2 scales for that age range, and then one scale for each of the other divisions.
  17. We always asked the coaches into the bracketing room. This helps your tournament start on time. The coaches have a vested interest in getting the tournament started. Plus, if they have a complaint about the bracketing, you can remind the coach you invited him or her to the bracketing room.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you set out to run a wrestling tournament. And always keep your eyes open during tournaments you are attending to learn what to do and what not to do.