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Competition for a cause: Silver Hawk wrestling team helps veterans with Takedown for Troops dual

The Lincoln Journal Star - 1/21/2020

Jan. 21--*

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A takedown in wrestling is worth two points -- for Lincoln Southwest's team, it has always meant a little more at least one day over each of the past seven years.

The Silver Hawks will host their annual Takedown for Troops dual, which helps raise money for active service members and veterans, against Lincoln Southeast on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Aaron Finley is in his 17th season as the Silver Hawks head coach and said Southwest has hosted the annual event since 2013.

"We had just been doing our thing for several years," Finley said. "We thought maybe it was time to put on an event -- more of a community outreach kind of thing. A lot of other sports and activities have something like that, so we just wanted to think of something we wanted to do, as well.

"I just came up with the idea of we could something for our veterans and our active military."

It started as a small idea seven years ago that has blossomed over time. In 2019, the event raised nearly $4,500, given to the Disabled American Veterans organization, a nonprofit that helps support veterans and their families.

"We started off where we had the idea of people would pledge a certain number of dollars per takedown in the event, which is where it kind of got its name," Finley said. "But then it kind of got a little bit difficult to manage. After that, different organizations and companies decided they would just sponsor towards a lump sum."

Takedown for Troops includes a silent auction held for Southwest faculty and staff. Money raised from the auction, plus sales from T-shirts and admissions go toward the fund.

"Usually we end up raising around $4,500 dollars every time we do this," Finley said. "It's a pretty good deal, and the money we raise goes directly to the DVA. ... When you donate money to something, you want to know exactly where it is going to."

A family friend of Finley's manages the DVA, and so it became an easy choice of where the money raised would go.

"Every penny we make goes straight to the DVA," Finley added.

There is always ideas of how the event can become even bigger, Finley said.

Usually the planning process starts on the first day of school, and for the last seven years, Southwest has either hosted Southeast in January or Lincoln Northeast in December.

"The theme being and honoring the veterans beforehand makes it really cool and it brings in a lot more people," said Dave Mlnarik, executive director of the Nebraska Sports Council. "You have two teams, and it was just a great atmosphere and everyone is cheering for one match going on.

"You have parents and relatives from both sides there. It really is an electric atmosphere."

Mlnarik is in his second year helping Southwest raise donations. His son, Tristan, is on the Silver Hawk wrestling team.

Wednesday is also Senior Night for the Silver Hawks.

"They take it pretty serious," Finley said. "They understand the whole point of what the event is and they try and communicate that with their teammates. To tell them that this is a big deal and this isn't just another dual. It's not just another dual. ... They take ownership of it and make sure others do as well."

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