On Saturday, Jan. 12, the main gym of Mercer Island High School will be abuzz with mats, wrestlers and fans. All the trademarks of what will be the fifth annual Jack Reynolds Tournament of Excellence. The tournament features 16 teams this year, including four state champions, four state finalists and 56 state participants from the 2012 season.
The tournament is a main piece of the Jack Reynolds Scholarship Fund, which raises money to help student athletes with their post-secondary education. Reynolds was a longtime teacher in the Issaquah School District, where he coached both wrestling and softball at the state and national levels. Each year scholarships are awarded to student athletes who exemplify qualities that Reynolds taught and looked for in his own athletes: dedication, integrity, mentorship, academic achievement and fair play. In the last five years, over $50,000 has been raised and 15 scholarships have been given with another three to five planned to be handed out this spring.
Since its first year, the tournament has continued to grow from eight teams to the 16 entered this year. Mercer Island, the host of the event, will compete alongside Yelm, Eastside Catholic, Granger, Federal Way, Peninsula, Liberty, Oak Harbor, Issaquah, Bellevue, Eastmont, Timberline, Kingston, Monroe, Lynnwood and Edmonds-Woodway.
Though the tournament is in its biggest year, Marc Kaye, who organizes the event, said a huge part of the growth is because of the Mercer Island squad.
“Honestly, we can see all the hard work from the first few years now,” said Kaye. “Mercer Island has an amazing group that staffs this event, which makes the organization so much easier. Also, each year the tournament gets more competitive and brings in more fans. It’s exciting to fill the gym and just watch the crowd react.”
The tournament and idea behind the fund has grown so much in its first years that the concept is catching on as far away as the East Coast.
Kaye said earlier in 2012, he was approached by Referee Magazine to write about Reynolds and the tournament.
“Sometime in May, I received a call from the editor asking me if it were OK to give my info out to a group in Connecticut that wanted to know more about Jack’s Fund,” explained Kaye. “I obliged and had numerous long conversations with them in wanting to do something similar for a special person that emulated Jack Reynolds. This past weekend, I received a call letting me know that through community support and a half year’s worth of work, they are expecting an up-and-running 501c3 raising funds for their student athletes soon. Their work is based on Jack Reynolds. Simply amazing.”
The tournament, which takes place all day on Saturday, provides not only great competition for many high school wrestlers coming off the winter break, but gives local residents a chance to see some of the top athletes in the state.
“It’s about the tournament, but more so the entire Fund,” said Kaye. “One hundred percent of the door fee and concessions goes to The Fund which in turn will give scholarships to Washington state student athletes. Plus, watching a wrestling match is exhilarating especially with the level of our competition.”
The tournament begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the high school. Adults can attend for $7, as can students without a valid ASB card. Visiting school students with an ASB card and students in kindergarten through middle school are $5.
To learn more about Reynolds, visit the Fund's website.