Monday, March 5, 2012

At the State Wrestling Tournament

I've always admired high school wrestlers' dedication and determination. Once a wrestler is out there on the mat, success or failure rests only with him.
The pinnacle of a high school wrestler's success is to win a championship match at the Minnesota State High School Wrestling Tournament in St. Paul.
Anyone who has attended one as a spectator will agree that the whole event is pretty exciting, particularly in the opening rounds when eight matches are going on at the same time on the arena floor.
But as a photographer with a few miles on his odometer _ a conservative estimate is that I've shot more than 30 opening sessions of the Minnesota State High School State Wrestling Tournament_ the whole event is exhausting.
Since our readers come from a wide area, we are charged with photographing a representative sample of athletes from area schools.
During the quarterfinal rounds of the Class A and Class AA matches, I shot photographs of no less than two dozen matches that were selected by our sports editor to be highlighted in our tournament coverage.
Keeping an eye on the status of the various matches and getting photographs of them is a daunting task, particularly when two are happening at the same time.
It's always nice when the last match concludes...kind of like when the pain from hitting one's thumb with a hammer finally subsides.
The Minnesota State High School League rides herd on the whole affair, including the issuance of press credentials.
I never realized there were so many newspapers in Minnesota. I understand that state tournaments are a pretty big deal with weekly papers wanting to report on the tournament success of their local kids.
But each year, there seems to be more photographers sporting MSHSL-issued photographers' credentials hanging from belt loops and buttonholes, all competing for a little elbow room along the sidelines.
Where photographers can or cannot be to take photographs frequently becomes a moving target and rarely does a tournament go by where, despite my best efforts, I'm not scolded by a MSHSL official for being somewhere I shouldn't be.
But despite the congestion and confusion, I'm the eyes of for all of our readers who can't be at the event. I'm expected to come back with the goods.
That sometimes requires being a bit gruff, sometimes a bit rude, to elbow a little bit of shooting room out of the crowds of other shooters.
It's tough, challenging work and even after more than 30 tournaments, hasn't gotten any easier.
Having said that, evidently the job of shooting the state wrestling tournament has become child's play judging by the youthful appearance of some shooters who were sporting official MSHSL media credentials at this year's event.

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