Bobcats eye State berths
Basehor-Linwood High School is kind of getting used to this tournament thing.
After hosting two straight weeks of tournaments in January, BLHS will again be at it this weekend, when it hosts one of four 15-team, class-4A regional wrestling tournaments.
Although it won't be as large as the 21-team Bobcat Classic wrestling tournament, this weekend's extravaganza will have much more at stake specifically, state tournament berths.
"It's always an honor to host a state event," BLHS athletic director Joe Keeler said. "Kids competing for a chance to go to state always brings a lot of excitement."
In order to qualify for state as an individual, a wrestler must finish in the top four of his weight class at the regional tournament. Every school is allowed a shot at the team title at state.
Basehor-Linwood wrestling coach Scott Neil is optimistic about his team's chances.
Currently ranked eighth in class 4A, the Bobcats are one of the favorites at the regional meet, and individually they pose a threat in as many as 10 weight classes.
"I'm a realist," Neil said. "I think we have a legitimate shot to be the runner-up at regionals. Individually, I'd like to qualify eight guys for state and I think we have a shot to do that we should qualify no less than six."
Of those six, five qualified for state last season. Seniors Matt Dukes and Matt Gillett, along with juniors Tim Morgan, Brandon Buck and sophomore Cody Bell, all reached the state tournament as individuals a year ago.
"I'll be disappointed if those five guys aren't in the finals at regionals," Neil said.
So, too, would Keeler, who said having hometown kids do well at the regional tournament would make it an even better experience for the school and the community, which is hosting its first regional tournament in its new gym.
"It adds more spice to the event when local participants have a chance to compete and move on to state," Keeler said. "There'll be a lot of good wrestling at this event."
Clay Center and Concordia are the other teams ranked in the 4A top 10 along with BLHS. Clay Center is ranked first and Concordia fourth. According to Neil, that makes it the second toughest regional in its class.
Four Bobcats faired well at last weekend's Kaw Valley League meet. Seniors Matt Dukes and Matt Gillett, along with sophomore Cody Bell and freshman Craig Bower all finished first in their weight class at the meet.
Three other Bobcats reached the finals, but the team fell a few points shy of first place losing out to Santa Fe Trail 165-157.5.
Neil said a regional tournament, like the KVL meet, is usually pretty top heavy, meaning there are a few quality teams at the top and a bunch of average teams rounding out the field.
That being the case, Neil said he thought having the event at home would help his team and give them a great chance to do well.
"It'll be great for the kids because they'll be able to sleep in their own beds and they'll be wrestling at a place they're comfortable with."
The regional tournament will get under way at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, and will pick up again at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 16. The finals will begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.