The state’s best prep wrestlers and teams, along with some outstanding regional talent, will descend upon Utah Valley’s UCCU Events Center Friday and Saturday for the Rockwell Rumble.
Cole Kelley has been the tournament director of “The Rumble” as it is more commonly called for nearly 15 years and has seen the tournament grow from just over 20 teams to 82 that will take part this weekend. The tournament will have over 900 wrestlers from Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and host Utah. There will also be two grapplers participating from Canada. In conjunction with the varsity event, Mountain View High School will host the JV Rumble, which should draw over 40 teams and perhaps up to 500 additional competitors.
Kelley believes there are many unique aspects to The Rumble that make it a truly special athletic event for the Beehive State. But first and foremost, it is the facility.
“I have traveled all over the country running events and coaching kids competing in wrestling events. The two things that separate this event from the rest of the country is that we took a risk on running the event in a first-class venue,” Kelley said. “Mark Hilldebrandt at the UCCU Events Center has been a key in the success of this event. A venue like the UCCU Events Center has significant demands with college sports teams' schedules. Mark has been an advocate for our event with the school athletic administration and the local governments. There is no wrestling venue like the UCCU Events Center.”
A second aspect are the awards sponsored by Rockwell Watches.
“I also consider our partnership with Rockwell Watches to be a unique element to our event,” Kelley said. “Kids that place at the Rumble have medals and trophies that adorn their bedrooms. The top eight wrestlers get a Rockwell Rumble medal, but the top three finishers at the Rockwell Rumble take home a Rockwell Watch with the tournament logo engraved on the watch.”
Kelley even related how many tournament workers, coaches and officials ask to buy the Rockwell Rumble tournament watches, but he has declined to do so as he wants to keep them special to those who place in the top three at the tourney.
This year’s tournament will also be a special to Kelley because his son Zeke will compete as 106-pound freshman wrestler for Pleasant Grove. Cole Kelley has been a youth coach in the valley for over two decades, and many of his wrestlers who used to work as “runners” bringing new bout sheets to the individual tables (or the results of matches back to the head table) are now competing in the tournament like Zeke. The older Kelley related how his youth wrestlers would battle to get the mat tables farthest away to see who could bring the bout sheets back the fastest.
Though the Rumble is arguably one of the top wrestling events in the Western United States for both quality and quantity of teams and wrestlers along with a top-notch venue, Kelley wants the event to get bigger and better. He sees involving the Utah County business community as key to this.
"In the Western United States, I consider the Rockwell Rumble to be one of the five best high school tournaments,” Kelley said. “We have been effective in attracting teams from states around Utah, but our next step is to attract teams from all over the U.S. We have commitments from California teams, Washington teams, and we hope to bring some teams in from the East as well. The Utah Valley Visitors Bureau and I have a plan to attract more teams from out of state to this great event.”
Brian Preece is a freelance sportswriter. He was also the head wrestling coach at Provo High School from 1994-2006. In 2006, Preece was named the Utah Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.