FREMONT — Each day, wrestler-turned-UFC-fighter Matt Hamill receives nearly 300 e-mails from fans all over the world.

He is widely considered one of the most successful deaf athletes of his time and for good reason.

Hamill's a three-time Division III wrestling champion and recently trained under Tito Ortiz on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show.

To deaf wrestlers across the country he is an icon, a reason to believe, and that is something he understands.

So when Hamill was invited to this weekend's National Deaf Prep Wrestling Tournament at California School for the Deaf, he jumped at the chance to give back to the community which supports him so much.

"This type of event is really important," Hamill said. "It's a great opportunity for everyone involved, and I hope it continues to grow in the future."

Seven schools participated in the third annual tournament, which is quickly becoming each school's headline event for the season.

"It's an excellent event, run by a great group of deaf people and with hearing people who are involved with the deaf community," said Indiana School for the Deaf coach Michael Paulone. "We want to especially thank CSD Athletic Director Lenny Gonzales and his crew for a great job."

The teams flew in from all over the country on Thursday, settled in at the Fremont campus and prepared for the weekend's events. An opening ceremony was put on followed by weigh-ins before the students went to bed.


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Friday marked the beginning to the wrestling tournament — which will likely be the only time all season the kids will compete in an all-deaf atmosphere. By Saturday, competition was in full force and Indiana separated itself from the pack, finishing a perfect 5-0 to take the title.

"The tournament is a good way to meet old and new people in one place," Paulone said. "We do want to win though, and we want to teach our kids that competition is important and makes us better."

Each school competed against each other in a round-robin dual format, with the feature match on Saturday being Fremont against Riverside. It's a rivalry that may not be well-known to people outside the deaf community, but the people who are familiar with it know how serious each school takes it.

Riverside was leading 36-31 with two matches to go, but Andrew Hursin pinned his opponent at 152-pounds to give the Eagles a one-point lead, and Eric Taylor followed that up with another pin at 145-pounds to give Fremont a 43-36 win, ensuring a second-place finish.

Many of the wrestlers who participated in the tournament will be back in Fremont in July when Hamill puts on his own wrestling camp for the deaf. In the mean time, he will focus on his upcoming UFC match with Rex Holman on March 3, in UFC 68 to be held in Columbus, Ohio. The match can be seen on pay-per-view.