MULVANE, Kan. (KSNW) – The largest wrestling tournament in Kansas began on Friday and is continuing Saturday at the Kansas Star Casino.

Battle of the Belt 2023 is hosted by Maize Wrestling Club in Wichita. More than 2,000 wrestlers from 11 different states are competing. Age divisions range from 5 years old to college level. Its goal is to help athletes gain exposure on a big stage.

“It kind of gets them out of a smaller tournament, out of a high school gym. It gets them in an arena. So by the time they hit high school, hopefully, college, they’re used to wrestling in the bigger venues, big event centers, lights, hearing the whistles. So it all contributes just to their performance,” said Maize Wrestling Club President Fred Rosas.

The tournament is in its 10th year at the venue. It started with four teams in its first year, to 16 now. After adding duals two years ago, a lot of wrestlers gained interest in competing.

“Those dual wrestlers enter the individuals, and everybody wants to see where they’re at. So, you bring in the competition, and people end up showing up,” says Rosas.

Another factor in the tournament’s growth has been an increase in girls competing. Rosas says there are 300 girls this year, which is 100 more than last year. Jamiyah Thompson from Team of Hard Knox says a tournament like this is important in laying out the rest of her season.

“All of this stuff that’s leading up to it can determine my bracket and what rank I am as a wrestler,” she said.

The various divisions create lots of opportunities for young athletes to grow.

Additionally, the tournament proceeds are used to support Maize Wrestling Club. It will be used to outfit the athletes, provide clinicians, and help with tournament fees for families who need help.

Rosas thanks his club members for their support in large events like this.

“Our club, they’re awesome,” said Rosas, “They get after it, they work tables, they run errands. So very appreciative for our club volunteers that help out with all of this.”

The tournament resumes Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kansas Star Casino, 777 Kansas Star Drive, in Mulvane.