PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) — North Bay Haven 8th grader Bear Siegal has the chance this week to compete in a prestigious national wrestling tournament known as the BonoBilt Big 8 Invitational. It’s taking place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he’s inviting what he considers to be the college’s top 8 wrestlers, in every weight class, from across the country. Bear Siegal, 14, 150 pounds, among those guests. And we’re told he’s the only wrestler in the entire state of Florida to have one. So that gives you an idea of how exclusive it is. Here’s a video of one of Thursday’s Bear shows in Wisconsin. Bear and his family traveled north a few days ago. Here is dad telling how it all happened.
“Well, he wrestled in high school this year, he didn’t wrestle in college.” Andy Siegal told me. “But it’s just based on what he did in tournaments and off season. And I guess what he did in the high school season, I’m not really a hundred percent sure. They have kind of quit Track Wrestling and sent out invites and I got back to him and I didn’t think I’d hear anything else and then we did.
And so the family woke up early in the week, and that gave Coach Siegal time to put some important preparations in place for Bear.
“Because I knew he was going to have to speed things up, I came to Illinois before going there, I used some of my contacts. So he trained with Austin Gomez, the NCAA champion. Hector Gomez, who is his father, is a world class coach. Haley Arroyo who is part of the Olympic women’s wrestling team. He just finished a practice session with Illinois head coach Mike Poeta. And Zach Brunson who is a two-time All-American at Illinois. I think he just wrestled a Russian kid a few minutes ago.
No matter what happens this weekend, coach Siegal knows his son will be better for this experience.
“He’s going to see the best competition in the country. And he also works with some of the best coaches in the country. So it’s great to expose him to that. Getting a little insight into what college wrestling is all about, so if that’s the path he wants to go, he can do it. If not, at least he was able to experience it.
Bear begins competition at 10 a.m. Saturday morning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Copyright 2022 WJHG. All rights reserved.