The AAU state wrestling tournament starts at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the Rushmore Ice Arena in Rapid City and will run through Sunday. (Photo Kevin Cox/IDS)

Editor’s Note: IDS will be the exclusive event photographer of the AAU state wrestling tournament. All photos from the event can be found at ids.smugmug.com as well as on site at the Civic Center Ice Arena on Saturday and Sunday.

The next Kris Klapprodt or Morgan Engbrecht might be on display this weekend.

If there is a future star, he will be in attendance this weekend at the AAU state wrestling tournament at the Rushmore Plaza Ice Center on Saturday and Sunday.

It may not be a high school state tournament, but the competition could be even stiffer, as every city or town in South Dakota will be represented. To qualify in meets that began in December, competitors had to finish in the top eight at the district meets, and then in the top three at regions in order to earn their spot in Rapid City this weekend.

There will be seven age or group classifications with different weight classes, beginning with an under-six group, an age 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, and a girls group.

Over 1,300 wrestlers will be in Rapid City this weekend and they will compete in seven different weight classes. (Photo Kevin Cox/IDS)

With over 1300 kids participating and every West River school having 100 kids or more in its AAU program, the goal is to use the new competition to improve.

“Wrestling is a very different sport, because it’s an individual sport,” one of the tournament directors Brian Chleborad said. “The better competition you face, the better you get. Because they have the same coaches at the high school and varsity as they do at the AAU level, you know when they get up to high school, (the coaches) know what they can and can’t do. From a competition standpoint that’s very advantageous.”

One of those coaches, Stevens’ Brian Moser, said this weekend is always a big one for his youth kids.

“It’s huge. This is probably a little more competitive (than the state tournament) because you have both A and B classes mixed together,” he said.

With most of the age groups, the weekend won’t be spent entirely on learning technique. Of course there will plenty of teaching going on, but at this point of their careers, the value in this weekend won’t be anything physical, but a boost between the ears.

“At this point you’re not going to build as much technique as you are confidence,” Moser said. “Then once they get on a big platform like at state, they’ve wrestled in these youth tournaments and can perform.”

The goal, as any tournament, is to be the best. But this tournament isn’t so much about whether or not a kid wins a medal. The high school coaches want the fans to remember that this is about getting them ready for the high school wrestling season, and just let these kids get out there and do what they love to do.

“My number one goal is for them to get out and just compete and have fun,” Moser said. “Although I want this to be important, the real important thing is to get them ready to wrestle on the high school level. I hope the parents and fans remember that we want them to have fun and compete, but we want you to be ready when you are a senior (in high school).”

There will be a who’s who of high school coaches, with just about every coach involved in their school’s wrestling program in Rapid City.

And that’s where beauty of this weekend is – these coaches can see a state championship caliber team in its early stages.

Moser still remembers seeing Jarrett Jensen, Klapprodt, Drew Iddings and other wrestlers off this year’s state championship team as youngsters.

“To be able to see those kids develop and watch them come through is great,” Moser said. “I’ll tell you what, I was licking my chops when they were in fifth grade,” he said of this year’s senior class.