CADILLAC — For two years, it's been about weekend tournaments on the road.

Now, they'll get a chance to sleep in their own beds and make a short trip for competition.

The Cadillac Wrestling Club will host its first NEMWA (Northeast Michigan Wrestling Association) tournament on Saturday at Cadillac High School.

Ages 7-10 begin at 9 a.m. and ages 11-14 begin at noon.

Around 400 youth wrestlers from 17 teams will be in attendance making it something to see, Cadillac president Chad Phillips said.

"The cool thing for the community is that we will be bringing in that many families," he said. "We hope people will come out on Saturday or to one of our junior high club meets and see what we're about."

The Cadillac Wrestling Club is in its third year of existence and now has two groups of boys and girls competing.

The main group of kids is still part of the youth wrestling scene and compete in weekend tournaments.

The second group is a junior high club team with Mark Cronkhite as its head coach.

Some of those kids can still compete on weekends but they also get dual matches and tris along the way, too. Cadillac's first meet is Feb. 5 with their first home match coming Feb. 19.

The Cadillac team has around 40 kids overall and continues to build from the ground on up.

"We have a lot of kids that are falling in love with the sport," Phillips said. "They're having fun, they're learning a lot and they're making great friendships.

"It's been really good so far. We're hoping the junior high program takes off, too. They're going to be pretty green but I think they'll be successful because they've got a good background."

That background is what wrestling is all about. While all sports require some work at the youth level to be successful, wrestling seems to really rely on it.

The sport is more about technique and skill than just strength, meaning the earlier you pick it up, the better.

Cadillac High School is currently without a program after cutting it in the early 2000s when the first wave of budget issues hit the state.

The Vikings, who are the only ones in the Big North Conference without high school wrestling, struggled to be competitive and struggled to bring in coaches.

Phillips is hoping this endeavor helps bring the sport back to Cadillac.

"One of the reasons the high school program struggled is there was no youth program under it," he said. "They had a junior program but that was it at the time.

"We hope in the next few years, the school will consider bringing (wrestling) back. There will be a demand for it and we can show the benefits of having a wrestling program. Wrestling is a sport that tests you mentally and physically. We're excited about what the benefits are."

Cadillac News