When selecting a new site for its wrestling tournament, the LHSAA executive committee made two significant changes — opting to move away from Bossier City and to Baton Rouge.
Confirmation that the 2021 Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA wrestling tournament will be held at the Raising Cane’s River Center was announced Thursday. It will be the first time the tournament has been held in Baton Rouge in 28 years. Lee High was the last local host in 1993.
“This is huge for Baton Rouge for several reasons,” SportsBR president/CEO Patrick Coogan said. “It gives us the chance to showcase what Baton Rouge has to offer, which is significant now more than ever because of the economic downturn with the coronavirus.
“This was a team effort between SportsBR, VisitBR and the River Center. And without the support of the very close-knit community of wrestling coaches we have here locally, none of this would have been possible. We look forward to hosting a first-class event for the LHSAA and its schools.”
The LHSAA tourney news for Hammond came on two fronts. Southeastern Louisiana University was selected to host the girls basketball tournament for first time since 2017. SLU also retains the LHSAA soccer tournament it hosted for the first time in February.
Guy Recotta, who has helped organize past LHSAA girls tourneys in Hammond, said his first call was to local government after learning the girls basketball tournament was returning.
“When I called our mayor and parish president I told them, ‘It’s back,’” Recotta said. “It’s no secret that the girls tournament has always been special to us.
“We’re already starting to make plans because we know it will take about 500 volunteers to put the tournament on. We plan to go above anything we’ve done in past in order to make this the best experience we can for the players.”
The girls basketball tourney was held in Lake Charles this spring and in Alexandria in 2018-19. Lake Charles/Burton Coliseum retained the LHSAA’s boys basketball tourney it has hosted since 2014. Both basketball tourneys will feature nonselect schools because of the split in those sports. Select teams will play their championships at school sites.
SLU athletic director Jay Artigues said, “We’re ecstatic to have both these events. Since the last time the girls tournament was here we have made $700,000 in improvements to the University Center with a new scoreboard, a new floor and new lighting.
“We’re preparing to do more upgrades in the months ahead. And we want to build on the success we had with soccer last year.”
The move to bring wrestling back to Baton Rouge also brings the event back to its roots. The first state wrestling tournament was held at the Huey P. Long Armory in 1968. It was held at the armory or LSU’s Maravich Assembly Center through 1974.
Baker High was the site of the tournament from 1977-87. Jesuit High, Lafayette High and the University of New Orleans were among the other early sites for tourney. The tourney was held at the Ponchartrain Center for many years and was most recently at the Century-Link Center in Bossier.
“This is very exciting thing for wrestling, not just here, but in south Louisiana,” Catholic High coach Tommy Prochaska said. “I’ve talked with several coaches from the New Orleans area who also are excited about this.
“The folks in Bossier and Airline did a great job, but getting fan support was tough. We believe fans will come and there will be a great atmosphere.”
Sulphur’s Frasch (softball) and McMurry (baseball) parks were awarded nonselect tourneys for those sports. Select tourneys also will be played at school sites. Monroe/UL-Monroe was awarded tennis and powerlifting.