The 33rd annual Chadron High School Invitational Wrestling Tournament will be this weekend in the Nelson Physical Activity Center at Chadron State College.
The action will begin at 11 a.m. Friday. After going through three championship rounds and a spate of wrestle-backs on Friday, the competition will resume at 9 a.m. Saturday and continue until the 14 weight class champions are crowned that afternoon.
Twenty-two teams are entered this year. That’s down a few from a year ago. Some years schedules don’t jibe across state lines, and fewer out-of-state teams are competing this year, including perennial tournament champion Campbell County High of Gillette, Wyo.
Nebraska teams entered besides the Cardinals are Alliance, Bayard, Bridgeport, Chase County, Crawford, Gering, Gordon-Rushville, Hay Springs, Hemingford, Minatare, Mitchell, Morrill, Ogallala and Valentine.
The South Dakota entries are Bennett County at Martin, Harding County at Buffalo, Hot Springs, Little Wound, Newell and Pine Ridge.
The only Wyoming team entered is Casper Natrona.
Campbell County won its 10th championship in the 12 years at last year’s Chadron Tournament, but Gillette now has another high school, Thunder Basin, which recently defeated the Camels 71-9 in a dual.
The Camels scored 174 points at last year’s tournament while Valentine was the runner-up with 156 and Casper Natrona was third with 152.5.
Valentine might by slipped past Campbell County if all of the Badgers had been healthy a year ago. Valentine coach Shane Allison said he left six wrestlers, all of whom were ranked among the top six in Class C, because they had colds or flu symptoms.
The Badgers recovered in time to win the Nebraska Class C state championship a month later with 195 points, 87.5 more than the second place team. Through the end of December, Valentine was ranked No. 1 in Nebraska again and five Badgers were first in their weight classes.
Chadron had a highlight at last year’s tournament. Joe Ritzen, now a freshman on the Chadron State College wrestling team, won the 132-pound weight class and became the 13th Cardinal to win an individual title since the late Bill Kant, the Chadron coach, expanded the tournament to a two-day affair to help emulate the experience wrestlers have at the state tourney.
Tickets to attend the tournament each day are $7 for adults and $5 for students.