When the LHSAA’s executive committee accepted a two-year bid to send its state wrestling tournament to Bossier City’s CenturyLink Center in March, it was an unexpected move the high wrestling community didn’t embrace.
Once a bid is accepted, it’s typically a done deal. But for now at least, there is an exception.
LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine confirmed that he has not yet signed the contract to send the event to Shreveport/Bossier. Bonine has set aside time during the Monday morning portion of the LHSAA’s summer meeting for the executive committee to review the decision.
“I have not signed the contract,” Bonine said. “There is some information about the tournament, some developments I think the committee needs to be aware of. They may ultimately decide to stay with Bossier City. I just feel like a review and discussion needs to take place.”
Longtime tourney director James Ravannack’s decision to step away from volunteer duties for the LHSAA based on the move back to north Louisiana is a key development. The tourney had a one-year run at the CenturyLink Center in 2011.
Ravannack, the director of Louisiana Wrestling and the President of USA Wrestling, has provided much of the equipment for the tournament, including time clocks and mats for nearly 20 years. In addition to coordinating the tourney, he has handled the season-long weight management program for the sport.
Bossier City/CenturyLink won the bid over Baton Rouge’s River Center by a 13-5 committee vote in March, something Ravannack and others don’t understand.
“I just can’t do it … I’m not going back to work the tournament there,” Ravannack said. “There’s no doubt it needed to go somewhere else. The event has outgrown the Pontchartrain Center. Somebody has to stand up for the kids and for the sport. It’s not right to send this event away from where 75 to 80 percent of the wrestling schools are located.
“And it’s not right the way it (bid) was handled. You had people who lobbied to get the tournament for their area. The (executive) committee’s job is to do what’s in the best interest of kids, not lobby to get events placed in their home area.”
Bonine said Ravannack’s decision to step down will force the LHSAA to seek not only a new tourney director/weight-management coordinator, but also vendors to provide the mats, time clocks and other equipment needed to run the event, adding to the cost. Bonine said Monday’s review also will give Shreveport/Bossier the chance to confirm its plans and sponsorships for the LHSAA tourney.
A number of wrestling coaches, including Catholic High’s Tommy Prochaska, Hahnville’s Dan Erwin, Brusly’s Jimmy Bible, Teurlings Catholic’s Kent Masson, St. Paul’s Craig Ketelsen and Live Oak High’s Chris Collier, also are expected to address the LHSAA committee.
“We didn’t realize it (bid) was going be decided on (in March) or we would have gone to the committee then,” Prochaska said. “I understand that it’s tough for those schools (north Louisiana schools) to travel every year, but by sending the tournament there you’re taking it away from the majority of the schools and the casual fans you want to attract.
“You’re not going to have students or some family members who will make that trip. That’s a big part of how the tournament has grown. And now losing James will compound that. I’m not saying people in north Louisiana can’t run a tournament. … I know they can. There’s a lot that goes into running a state tournament that people don’t realize.”
Though he has Shreveport area ties, Collier also has concerns.
“The facility is beautiful and I know there are coaches in that area who are anxious to do a good job with the tournament,” Collier said. “I just think it’s better suited somewhere along the I-10 corridor. There’s so much involved with putting it on. Where will the equipment come from? Who will run it?
“I think some coaches from around the state have been asked about helping with it. That’s tough, especially when you’re trying to coach a team. Then there’s the cost involved. You’re talking about an extra night in a hotel, and that’s $1,000 for my team. That’s a huge chunk of the budget for most of us.”