LHSAA opts to stick with Bossier City for wrestling _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Teurlings Catholic's Kynan Sonnier wrestles Live Oak's Harrison Bond in the 170 weight class at the LHSAA State Wrestling Tournament quarterfinals at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, La. Friday, Feb. 20, 2015.

Those seeking two-year bids to host a variety of championship events, including basketball and baseball, made their pitches to the executive committee on the first day of the LHSAA’s summer meeting on Monday.

The announcement about who will win those bids won’t be made until the annual meeting resumes at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the LHSAA office.

Until then, people will ponder the group’s decision to sign the contract to send its state wrestling tournament to Bossier City’s CenturyLink Center in the face of criticism from the wrestling community.

“If not looking at what’s best for athletes means travel then they (wrestling coaches) may be right,” LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic said. “We have to provide the best that we can based on the information we have. They can have their opinion.

“We’ve been told for the last three years that the tournament had outgrown the Pontchartrain Center. And then we had bids for the Pontchartrain Center and two other sites. We heard this won’t work and it would be better with someone else. Each time, we also heard Shreveport could handle it. I think that’s what the committee heard.”

Most of the morning was spent on new Executive Director Eddie Bonine’s 22 talking points, highlighted by the wrestling discussion. The committee originally awarded the bid to Bossier in March, and Bonine asked the group to study the proposal again, noting an addition cost of between $40,000 and $50,000 based on not have the equipment and resources long time meet director James Ravannack has provided. Ravannack, the Director of Louisiana Wrestling and President of USA Wrestling, was unable to attend because he is working a wrestling event outside the United States.

The committee opted to stick with Bossier’s CenturyLink Center as the host site when asked to make a decision after returning from lunch, saying someone would reach out to long time tourney director Ravannack, who has said he won’t work the event in north Louisiana.

That decision followed a morning discussion that involved Shreveport-Bossier City Sports Authority’s Kelly Wells and wrestling coaches Tommy Prochaska of Catholic High and St. Paul’s Craig Ketelsen.

The coaches detailed their reasons for wanting the tourney to stay in south Louisiana, where the majority of high school wrestling teams are located. The coaches also spoke on behalf of Ravannack, who has said moving the tourney north is not in the best interest of the sport.

Several members of the executive committee bristled at the attempt to force a venue change, including Airline High Principal Jason Rowland.

Bonine said steps would be taken in the future to avoid situations where a site/tourney director has control of the event. However, he also noted that the LHSAA has a similar situation with baseball-softball in Sulphur and track at LSU.

“I am really disappointed that the executive committee was more concerned with honoring a non-signed contract than what is best for the sport,” Prochaska said. “We always say it’s about what is best for the kids and sport, and that didn’t happen with the decision today.

“It’s not about Jim Ravannack, it’s about not having a plan in place to make sure the sport is run correctly.”

Other bids

When Shreveport opted to withdraw its bids to host boys and girls basketball at Hirsch Coliseum, Tuesday’s bid process got a little easier.

Sulphur’s McMurry Park has the only bid for baseball and Lake Charles’ Burton Coliseum is the lone bidder for boys basketball.

Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond and Burton Coliseum submitted competitive bids for girls basketball. The Lake Charles group asked for a three-year bid on both and offered a $30,000 guarantee for both tourneys and $10,000 for each if picked individually. By contrast, Hammond offered a $25,000 guarantee each year.

The only bidder not on site was the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for soccer because of an event conflict. Louisiana-Lafayette and Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans are the two proposed soccer sites.