From Class 1A to 6A, 143 schools will send wrestlers to the first KSHSAA Girls Wrestling Regional spread out between two locations: McPherson and Paola. Regionals will be from Feb. 14-15, with state taking place Feb. 27 at Tony’s Pizza Event Center in Salina.
Regionals was originally scheduled to be a one-day event, but due to the amount of interest and support it has garnered from schools across the state, the tournaments will now consist of two days.
In McPherson, day one will take place at McPherson College with day two at the high school. McPherson High School basketball hosts Winfield on Friday, which played a large role in having day one at McPherson College.
"We will be moving four wrestling mats and all the equipment over to McPherson College Thursday afternoon, but will not be able to set up for the tournament until 10 p.m. Thursday evening once their gyms are open," McPherson athletic director Shane Backhus said. "In addition, we will be borrowing a wrestling mat from Smoky Valley High School and their wrestling club, one from McPherson Middle School, an extra score clock from Central Christian College, and have had to secure extra workers/volunteers for Friday's rounds. Following Friday's rounds we must break it all down, and move equipment back to MHS so we can be ready for Saturday morning."
"It is quite an undertaking that requires a lot of manpower from our wrestling team, maintenance staff and volunteers," Backhus added.
Led by wrestling coach Doug Kretzer, McPherson High School was a major factor in the sanctioning of girls wrestling at the high school level in Kansas. McPherson hosted an unofficial state championship three years in a row - all won by the Bullpups.
It is only fitting that McPherson was selected as one of the two sites to host a regional.
"There has been a lot of work put in over many years, by many people across the state, especially Doug Kretzer, and it will be great to see it all come to fruition," Backhus said. "It will be even more exciting to watch the 12 girls from each weight class get the opportunity to win a KSHSAA state championship on February 27th. McPherson High will be assisting at the state tournament by providing staff for one of the four mats at state."
Paola High School athletic director Darin Gagnebin says there are many responsibilities that come with hosting any type of event, but especially the first-ever girls wrestling regional.
"I am blessed to have some of the best people to work with here at Paola that will ensure this historic event in girls athletics in the state of Kansas will run smoothly," Gagnebin said. "In my opinion, hosting any type of KSHSAA post-season event is a huge responsibility. Hosting the ‘first ever’ of anything is even bigger and one that we here at Paola High School have not taken lightly."
Gagnebin knows how this regional is run will set a precedent for future regionals.
"An event of this type is a learning experience, not only for us, but for those watching who will be hosting in the future. What works, what doesn't work, and what can be improved in the future will all be up for discussion following this Saturday," Gagnebin said. "Schools should and will offer feedback to Mr. [Mark] Lentz at KSHSAA following Saturday, so this event can continue to be improved and evolve so our Kansas wrestling females may have the best postseason experience as possible."
Each regional will qualify the top six wrestlers from the 11 weight classes. Below is the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association’s final rankings heading into regionals, sorted by where each top-10 team will be.
No. 1 Nickerson
No. 3 Great Bend
No. 4 McPherson
No. 6 Lakin
No. 8 Junction City
No. 9 Larned
No. 10 Onaga
No. 2 Fort Scott
No. 5 Washburn Rural
No. 7 Osawatomie