BLHS eager to host tournament
Basehor-Linwood High School's goal is to make the Bobcat Classic, its annual wrestling tournament, one of the top tournaments in the state of Kansas.
Every year, BLHS seems to get a step closer to reaching its goal.
After last year's tournament, BLHS athletic director Joe Keeler received several phone calls and e-mails from coaches, athletic directors or fans of the event. The tremendous success that last season's Bobcat Classic enjoyed, spilled over into this year's tournament as all 20 of the teams that wrestled last year will return for this year's tournament, which will take place, Jan. 11 and 12.
"Everyone that attended last year seemed very pleased and excited about the tournament and they're definitely looking forward to this year's event," Keeler said. "The entire field from last year returns and we also have an outstanding new program as the Goodland Cowboys make their first trip to the Bobcat Classic."
Goodland has been a perennial state wrestling power in Kansas for more than 40 years and last year the Cowboys won the 4A state title.
While Goodland will be making its first trip to the Classic, the teams that did the best last year will be looking to take the title again this year.
Atchison County Community High School, Effingham, won the event last year and later in the season ACCHS went on to win state at the 3A level.
Paola, which finished second at last year's Bobcat Classic, will also be back. Paola the state title at the 5A level last year.
The third place team, a school from Glenwood, Iowa, also finished third in Iowa's class 3A.
In all, the 2002 Bobcat Classic will feature five returning state champions, nine returning state runners-up, 23 wrestlers who placed third through sixth at state and more than 80 returning state qualifiers.
Even if it's not one of the best tournaments in Kansas yet, Keeler said that criteria certainly makes it one of the toughest.
"The Classic is definitely one of the toughest tournaments that we will have," BLHS coach Scott Neil said. "Joe Keeler started putting the Classic together about four years ago and his intention was to make it the premier tournament in this part of the state. I think he has surpassed that. I know a lot of people feel that it is probably the toughest tournament in the state, even tougher than the state tournament itself."
Keeler said he was very excited about what the Bobcat Classic has become in just its second year, and he added that giving BLHS's wrestling team this kind of exposure was exactly what he had in mind when he began developing the tournament.
"It's great for our school and for our community and it gives our wrestlers a chance to compete with the best," Keeler said. "You're only as good as your level of competition and wrestling again this kind of talent gives our team a chance to be very good."
The wrestling will begin at 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 11, with the first and second rounds being completed by the end of the day. On Saturday, the action will pick back up at 9 a.m. and end with the championship round, scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
"All four corners of the state are covered at the Classic and we even have a top Iowa team coming in," Neil said. "It is probably the closest thing we have to a 'grand state.' We have teams from all classifications and it is a good tournament to win some bragging rights at. If your team finishes in the top 5 (out of 22 teams) I think that you should feel pretty good about your chances at the state tournament in February."