State championships are won by those who work the hardest
September 5th, 2015| Written by: Editor | Cited sources are listed below and on the "Time Line and Sources" page



The CenturyLink Center in Bossier City, Louisiana, will be the site of the 2016 and 2017 LHSAA State Wrestling Championships.

2016 State Championship Dates:
February 19th-20th

Address 2000 Centurytel Center Drive
Bossier, Louisiana 71112
Phone Number (318) 747-2501
Email info@centurylinkcenter.com
Capacity 14,000
Opened November 2nd, 2000
Operator SMG

The Shreveport Bossier Sports Commission landed the 2016 and 2017 LHSAA State High School Wrestling Championships for one reason: they worked harder.

The Competition

The event outgrew Kenner's Pontchartrain Center years ago and proposals for a change of venue were to be presented to the LHSAA executive committee prior to a vote on March 18th, 2015.  There were really only two venues that were available for the event during February: the CenturyLink Center in Bossier City and the River Center in Baton Rouge.  The CenturyLink Center won by a vote of 13-5, with two abstentions.

To their credit Shreveport and Bossier City representatives made the trip to Baton Rouge to present their proposal.  They included Airline High School (the host school) principal Jason Rowland (who is also a member of the executive committee), Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission vice president Kelly Wells and CenturyLink Center manager Rebecca Bonnevier.  Apparently nobody from Baton Rouge made a similar trip to Baton Rouge to promote the River Center.  Rumor has it that the River Center, if it presented a proposal at all, did so after the proposal deadline.  When one considers that in the 13 articles perused by the editor regarding the decision, not one mention of an official River Center representative was available, that rumor gains credence.

Not Enough Participation

The decision, of course, did not sit well with New Orleans and Baton Rouge area coaches.  A large part of their argument is that the vast majority of high school wrestling in Louisiana is contained in those two areas (which is true) and that northwest Louisiana, with only 14 wrestling programs, does not have enough participation to host a state championship.  What exactly is meant by "participation", though?

North Louisiana wrestling programs cannot afford to travel every week, and they spend a lot of their time at local events and in neighboring Arkansas and north Texas.  Yet, during the 2014-15 wrestling season, 94 wrestlers representing 12 northwest Louisiana programs made trips to the Ken Cole, the Louisiana Classic, the Griffin, the Spartan, Brusly and John Curtis tournaments.  And while on that note, take a look at Ouachita Christian High School in Monroe.  Not only did they travel to the Warrior and Wildcat opens in Baton Rouge, but also the Trygg Memorial in Metairie, the Rayne Invitational and the Brusly Open.  Their closest competitor, Lakeside High School, is 84 miles away.  Doyline is 89 miles away and everyone other program "closer" to them is over 100 miles away.  Yet one never hears complaints from the Eagles.

The population of the area only allows for so many large schools, and all wrestling fans know that just because a school is large does not mean it will have a wrestling team.  One of the two Division I schools in the area is Airline in Bossier City.  The Vikings have been competing since 1975, and competing in Division I since 1978.  Thirteen Division I state champions have been crowned from Airline, including sophomore Christian Walden in 2015.  Having "on and off" years the Vikings have placed 4th through 8th in Division I nine times.  Bossier High School participated in Division I from 1980 to 1995 and can claim three Division I state champions.  C.E. Byrd had the state's only undefeated Division I state champion in 2014 in Quinn Gilliam, and they had another state champion in Ray Kightlinger, if one cares to go back to 1949.

Northwest Louisiana also has its share of Division II and Division III state champions with 54 from the following schools: Benton (7), Bossier (9), Calvary Baptist (1), Evangel (3), Haughton (3), Huntington (3), Lakeside (1), Parkway (26) and Shreve Catholic (1).  Parkway also claims two Division II team state championships, four Division II runner-up titles and one Division I runner-up finish.  Travel 100 miles east to the new nether-region of Louisiana wrestling in the Monroe area, and backward in time several years, and one can find six Division II and one Division I state champions from Wossman High School, as well as Division II state champions from Ouachita High School and Neville.

North Louisiana wrestling programs "participate" just fine.

Jim Ravannack's Participation

Bolstering many coaches' argument against the CenturyLink Center was the fact that Jim Ravannack, who has run the state championships for the last two decades and has turned it into a premier Louisiana high school event, was not given an opportunity to address the executive committee prior to the vote.  Ravannack's opinion on the subject, however, was made known to LHSAA officials in a meeting just prior to the 2015 state championships.  At that meeting Ravannack stated he might not run the event were it to be held in Bossier City.  On March 23rd Ravannack was reported to say he would not run the event in Bossier City, and on May 27th Ravannack made that decision official by stating he was stepping down as the tournament director.

(Actually, Ravannack was officially the assistant director of the event.  B.J. Guzzardo, the assistant executive director of the LHSAA for the sport of wrestling, is the tournament director.)

Ravannack's decision must have caught a few people by surprise, particularly new LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine and the Shreveport representatives.  They were not aware that Ravannack's participation also included the use of a lot of timing and scoring equipment owned by Ravannack, as well as a seasoned group of volunteers that he recruited to work the individual mat tables and perform various other duties.  Bonine called another meeting of the executive committee on June 1st to determine if, based on the new information about Ravannack's impact on the tournament, a new vote should be held.  However, the executive committee did not deem that enough to override their initial March 18th vote, and the deal was sealed for the CenturyLink Center.

Many people were upset that Ravannack was not consulted prior to the first vote, and they were more upset when they learned the decision not to have another vote occurred when Ravannack happened to be in a different hemisphere.  One must realize, however, that the LHSAA has its own protocols and, while Ravannack's input could have and probably should have been a factor available prior to the March 18th vote, the LHSAA was under no obligation to include Ravannack in the process of determining where the state championships should be held.

Ravannack has done all anyone can ask of him for the sport in Louisiana.  However, someone probably should have asked him what it takes to run such an event years ago and published it in book form.

Executive Committee and the LHSAA in General

Some fans were also irked that the executive committee, a group of 25 high school principals and various members of education associations, only includes five members who are principals of schools which have wrestling programs, while only three more represent parishes that include schools with wrestling programs.  They also cited (and the editor admits he may have aided in this aspect being misconstrued) that the majority of executive committee members represent schools well north of the Interstate 10 corridor on which the vast majority of wrestling programs are located (see Map Page.)  The LHSAA executive committee, however, was not formed to represent wrestling.  It has to make similar decisions for every LHSAA sanctioned sport and thus needs to be representative of the entire state, which it does fairly well when looking at the Map Page.  Determining state championship event sites is only one of its responsibilities.  A look at the LHSAA Handbook detailing their other responsibilities may be found by clicking here.  Additionally, these are people who agree to perform these services for no compensation aside from expenses.  Such individuals must be difficult to find in the first place.

One should also realize that the LHSAA has limits.  Mr. Guzzardo, for instance, who is in charge of wrestling, is also in charge of football and gymnastics, and is on the advisory committees for wrestling, football and baseball.  To expect the LHSAA to supervise the decisions of committees representing only one sport would be a logistical nightmare for the LHSAA to administer.  And one should not forget that the LHSAA performs a myriad of other duties to regulate sports at participating Louisiana Schools.

Additional Concerns

Some pundits have stated that holding the event in Bossier City might discourage some Baton Rouge and New Orleans area officials from participating.  The editor has very reliable information that this is not the case.  Just as the coaches will most certainly make the trip, so will the officials, and none will be needed from Texas or Arkansas (albeit that would also not be allowed in the first place).

Without a doubt the travel time required for the New Orleans and Baton Rouge teams will increase significantly from what it was when the event was held at the Pontchartrain Center.  The north Louisiana teams face the same thing almost every year.  Many of those schools are on shoestring budgets but they make the trip to the state championships as well as to events at Brusly and John Curtis each year without complaints.  It should be noted that several of the better teams in Louisiana gain valuable experience during the season by participating in events in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and other states.  As most of these teams are located in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas, why is a trip within the state such a hindrance?

There is no doubt that the number of "casual fans," the ones who go to see a neighbor's or relative's kids participate in the state championships, will affect the crowds and the receipts for the event.  But that is an issue that applies only to the hosting site and the LHSAA.  It is not as if individual school wrestling budgets (if they even exist at some schools) will be affected by the success or failure of the event in the Century Link Center.


The LHSAA State Wrestling Championships require a larger venue than the Pontchartrain Center.  The CenturyLink Center will provide a scenario in which not only friends and families of particular wrestlers can sit together, but areas where the fans of a particular school may cheer for their wrestlers together.  No longer should some matches be relegated to mats in smaller rooms with limited spectating.  The River Center in Baton Rouge could also provide those attributes, but they missed their chance to plead their case by not really pleading it at all.  The Shreveport-Bossier people put forth more effort and were appropriately rewarded for their efforts.

The season will start in a little less than two months.  The decision has been made so now it is time to support the kids and coaches.  And it would not hurt for some "casual fans" to make the trip as well.  The sport is about the kids, and they are the ones who need the support of everyone who cares about them and the sport in general.

As a bonus it would be nice to see Jim Ravannack at the tournament, but not in the area where people are compiling results or by the legitimate media representatives, though.  He should be in the stands, with some friends, just enjoying watching the kids compete in the sport to which he has dedicated so much of his life. 


SOURCES: Ken Trahan and Ron Brocato of SportsNOLA.com; Jerit Roser and Garrett Galuska of NOLA.com; Jimmy Watson and Matt Vines of the ShreveportTimes.com, Robin Farmbrough of TheAdvocate.com, staff reports from BossierPress.com, LHSAA Handbook.

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