Grappling with Maine: North Platte to host the 34th annual Nebraska-Maine Friendship Wrestling Exchange on Tuesday

North Platte head coach Dale Hall, front, and some of the best local wrestlers in the area welcome Team Maine for a friendly exchange on Tuesday at the Dawg House in North Platte High School. 

The country’s longest running wrestling exchange between two states returns to Nebraska this summer, and North Platte is on the itinerary.

The Dawg House will host an abundance of talent on the mat for this year’s 34th annual Nebraska-Maine Friendship Wrestling Exchange at North Platte High School on Tuesday.

After making their first stop at Cross County High School in Stromberg on Sunday, Team Maine traveled west to North Platte, where head coach Dale Hall and a star-studded roster of local wrestlers will get their turn on the mat.

“The wrestling is secondary to everything else that happens, but there will be some great matches tomorrow,” Hall said. “For the coaches it’s a great way of meeting other coaches and see what they’re doing. It’s about getting together, having fun and essentially building the wrestling world.”

Team Maine’s 19-man roster, which carries multiple state champions and medalists, will go head-to-head in a friendly exhibition against some of the top local wrestlers that include 2019 state champions in Darian Diaz of North Platte, Wyatt Hotz of Gothenburg, Seth Simants of Stapleton and Riley Kopf of Lexington.

But before the showdown at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Hall and the local wrestlers will spend most of their free time showing Team Maine some midwestern hospitality.

“This is about cultural exchange and just building friendships,” Hall said. “We’re having a picnic here today with games and food, and we will be doing a tanking race tomorrow

before the wrestling happens. We want to show them a good time and do different activities that maybe they don’t get to do in Maine.”

North Platte will serve as the second of four stops for Team Maine across Nebraska this summer, with other locations including Arlington, Omaha Bryan and Platteview.

The Nebraska-Maine Friendship Wrestling Exchange dates back to April 1984, when Wally LaFountain of Winslow, Maine, met Mick Pierce, who coached at Lincoln Southeast High School, at a National Federation of High School’s rules committee in Kansas City.

Both men then kicked-off the exchange in 1985, agreeing to alternate hosting each year at four different sites across their respective states.

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