BLHS prepped for crazy week
If you see Basehor-Linwood High School Athletic Director Joe Keeler around this week, chances are he'll be hurrying to get somewhere.
Keeler is in the middle of his busiest week of the year, as his school is preparing to host more than 40 teams in one week in wrestling and boys and girls basketball tournaments. Pulling off these tournaments takes massive amounts of time not only from Keeler, but from the entire school and community at large.
"It's a tremendous volunteer effort," Keeler said. "Boosters run concessions and there's always numerous people ready to help. Everyone's fantastic about helping, whether keeping score or just pitching in wherever they can."
Tournament action starts this Friday, with the monumental Bobcat Classic, the wrestling tournament that many call tougher than state. This year's Classic will bring in the same 25 teams as last year, a killer field that includes powerhouses like Paola, Goodland, and Glenwood, Iowa.
"There's 25 teams and about half you can usually expect to be very tough," BLHS wrestling coach Scott Neil said.
That should hold true this year, as well. Thirteen of the teams are ranked in the top 10 in their respective divisions, with nine of those in the top five. Glenwood is currently ranked No. 2 in the entire wrestling-mad mecca that is Iowa.
With so many great wrestlers gathering in one place, the Bobcat Classic often sets up dream match-ups that wrestling fans won't see anywhere else.
Some weight divisions might include two, three, or even four different state champions. The championship bouts often are between two undefeated wrestlers.
Neil said one such super-division this year would likely be the 125-pound weight class. That might make it a tough day for BLHS sophomore Stephen Millison, who wrestles at 125. Millison, who's 3-3 on the year, is no pushover, but he'll be dealing with a pretty stacked field.
The Bobcat Classic will take place on Friday and Saturday, with the cost of admission $5 for adults and $4 for students per day. The tournament finals will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
As the last bits of trash are being swept up after the Classic, Keeler and his group of volunteers will be hard at work on the Bobcat Invitational. The school's hoops tournament brings in eight teams from each gender to compete in a three-game format from Jan. 16-21.
According to Keeler, tournament seeding was determined mainly by winning percentage, but strength of schedule was also considered. The strength of schedule in the tournament itself should be high for all the teams. The boys' side includes local power Bonner Springs, a defending league champion, as well as Missouri's St. Joseph Central,a squad with an 11-2 record that includes a number of quality wins.
The girls' side will feature St. Joseph Benton, one of Missouri's top teams at 11-1, and Holton, one of the better teams on the Kansas side at 8-0.
The fields will be tough, definitely not the kind of tournament set up to pad the records of the home teams. But Keeler said that's exactly how he wants it, noting that the best way to keep up a good tournament year after year is to provide great hospitality and great competition.
"Any time athletes can go up against the top competition in their sport it strengthens them in the long run," Keeler said. "It gives them a great gauge of where they're at from an athletic standpoint and a competitive standpoint."
And Keeler added that encouraging growth has happened in the past when the BLHS kids have gotten a chance to take on the best competition in front of their home crowd in all three tournaments.
"I've seen some kids who've had a great tournament here and it's really propelled them for the rest of the season," Keeler said.
The concession stand at BLHS will be open throughout all of tournament play, with various daily specials. Funds raised by concessions sales will go to the booster club, which then filters it back to the school's athletic and academic programs.