Tourney has become marquee event AD envisioned
Basehor-Linwood Athletic Director Joe Keeler had an idea roughly eight years ago to stage annually one of the state's elite wrestling tournaments on his newly built campus. Seven years into The Bobcat Wrestling Classic, the fruition of his brainchild has been startling.
27 of the best wrestling teams from around the state congregated last weekend to take part in the seventh annual tournament. It is considered to be as close a simulation to the state tournament as there is.
"When we had the venue here, because of our facility, to put on a first class wrestling tournament, we wanted to do that for the school, community, and all of the wrestlers in the state. We wanted to put on a marquee event," Keeler said.
Needless to say, Keeler no longer has problems convincing other schools to attend.
"In the beginning (it was difficult)," Keeler said. "When you first start the tournament, the first year, there is a lot of recruiting. You have to sell the tournament, the facility, and the competition. Once you get the tournaments going, our goal is getting teams that want to come here. There is now a waiting list for the tournament. I don't have any trouble now."
St. Thomas Aquinas finished first, scoring a combined 234 points. The Saints had two wrestlers that won their weight classes; Mike Hammer at 215 and Jed Mamie at 189.
Silver Lake finished second, with 139 points. Collin Hase led the Eagles, capturing first in the 112-pound weight class.
Garden City was the third place finisher, notching 124 points. The Buffaloes were paced by Kyle Blackburn, who won the 125-pound weight class.
Rounding out the top five were Andale and Baldwin, who finished with 120 and 105 points, respectively.
Other weight class winners were: Sharky Slyter of Paola (103), Paulie Hansen of Turner (119), Kevin Callahan of Baldwin (130), Adam Almaguer of Olathe North (135), Marc Somers of Lawrence Free State (140), Nick Flynn of Lansing (145), Tyler Koehn of Pittsburgh (152), Judd Schroeder of Andale (160), Will Irvine of Chapman (171), and Duane Zlatnik of Rossville (285).
"There was more parity this year," Basehor-Linwood coach Scott Neil said. "Maybe it was the weather."
Neil noted that the tournament was still very top-heavy.
"There was a lot of good wrestlers, especially in the top-10 of each weight class," Neil said.
The weather was a concern. Rain fell at freezing temperatures throughout Friday and Saturday. Despite the inclement conditions, the tournament was never in jeopardy.
"We adjusted (the schedule) from last night, to get people out of here," Keeler said on Saturday evening.
The finals were moved up an hour to allow teams an opportunity of earlier departure.
"Teams were on the way yesterday that were here before the bad weather hit. A large number of the teams stay overnight anyway; they are already here. If they lose this tournament, they never get it back, because there are tournaments every weekend, week in and week out."
Once the tournament got under way, it went on without a hitch. Neil did note, however, that the crowd was unusually low, undoubtedly because of the sloppy roads.
Keeler set The Bobcat Wrestling Classic up to mirror the state competition. It features a double-elimination bracket that placed the top six wrestlers in each.
The Athletic Director was especially appreciative of the help he had putting the tournament on.
"There is a lot that goes into this," Keeler said. "We are very fortunate here to have great help. We have people here that are very proud of putting on this event. I can't thank them enough. This is a community wide effort to put this on."
The long-term health of the tournament is not in question.
"The future looks great," Keeler said. "We want to try and improve it every year, and have it as one of the marquee athletic events in the state of Kansas."