Charity wrestling tournament in Clay County honors life of teen who died by suicide

‘You never know what someone is going through,’ says coach who hopes to raise $5K for youth mental health & suicide prevention

Hundreds of wrestlers in Clay County are signing up to compete in a charity tournament this weekend that honors the life of a 15-year-old who died by suicide in 2021.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Hundreds of wrestlers are signing up to compete in a charity tournament this weekend in Clay County -- but winning is not the top priority.

The wrestlers and organizers are highlighting suicide prevention and mental health resources to honor the life of 15-year-old Ryder Pimienta, who died by suicide in 2021.

At just 15 years old, Pimienta’s wrestling resume was impressive. He clinched a North Florida championship as an eighth grader and followed that up with district and region runner-up spots as a freshman in high school.

A charity wrestling tournament in Clay County is honoring the life of Ryder Pimienta, who died by suicide in 2021. (Photos provided)

Pimienta also qualified for the state’s wrestling championship tournament for Orange Park High School as a freshman.

His run impressed coaches like Brandon Crawford.

“Ryder was always kind of like the energetic guy,” said Crawford, who became familiar with Pimienta during off-season club tournaments. “No matter what kind of mood you were in, he was always willing to goof off and try to lift everybody’s spirits.”

On July 10, 2021, the summer after his freshman year, Pimienta died by suicide.

“You never know what someone is going through,” Crawford said. “On the outside, they can be bubbly, happy and jumping around like Ryder always was with his teammates and wrestling around. Even when they weren’t wrestling at the tournaments, they were always roughhousing and having a good time. He was always that kid that just brought the energy.”

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To pay tribute to Pimienta, up to 225 wrestlers as young as kindergartners up to high school seniors are competing in a memorial wrestling tournament at the Clay County Fairgrounds this weekend.

Ryder Pimienta (Photo provided)

Crawford is currently an assistant wrestling coach at Clay High School. He hopes to raise at least $5,000 through this tournament to donate to organizations focused on youth mental health and suicide prevention.

“[We want people] to remember that there are always people who care,” Crawford said. “There are people who want to talk or are willing to talk no matter what time of the day it is.”

There are resources available for those who need help, and it is always OK to get that help.

“There is a stigma attached to getting help for mental health,” Crawford said. “The stigma is you’re weak if you seek those services. We want to make sure that people know that they are not weak for seeking those services. That actually makes them stronger because they are trying to better themselves and be the best versions of themselves for their family and friends.”

The memorial wrestling tournament begins Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

K-8th grade students start wrestling first, then 9th-12th grade wrestlers hit the mats at 11 a.m.

Weigh-ins for all competitors open from 6 p.m. Friday until 8 p.m. and resume Saturday morning at 8 a.m.

The cost for a wrestler to compete is $25 each. It is $5 for spectators.

To register, click here.

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