Oak Park leads strong tournament field
Take away the top team from the Baldwin Invitational Tournament and you have a tough area wrestling competition.
Add the No. 1 ranked team in Missouri Class 4A and nationally ranked Oak Park (Mo.) to the mix and you've got a loaded 12-team tournament.
"It's going to be a good one," BHS senior Kevin Callahan said. "There are a lot of good teams there with some tough competition. Hopefully, we will get a good turnout for the crowd."
The highly-anticipated wrestling begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Baldwin Junior High School gym. It is expected to end around 6 p.m.
BHS coach Kit Harris is excited to host Baldwin's annual tournament because of the level of competition.
"It's fun and it's great wrestling," Harris said. "You put your kids in an environment where there is great wrestling going on every round. You can't help but just soak that up and get better from it."
BHS junior Alan Callahan is also ready for the competition Saturday. He will have two All-Americans in his 112-pound bracket. They are Oak Park's Cody Tyler and Paola's Sharky Slyter.
A. Callahan and Tyler competed against each other two years ago in the 103 final. A. Callahan won the match in overtime to win the tournament title.
"I'm ready for it, but it's going to be a pretty tough tournament for me," Callahan said. "I've got a lot of tough guys, like the guy from Oak Park and Sharky Slyter. It will be a really tough tournament."
The teams competing will be Abilene (ranked 13th in Kansas Class 4A), Andover Central (15th in 4A), Baldwin (5th in 4A), Labette County (7th in 4A), Lansing, Mill Valley, Oak Park, Paola (8th in 4A), Prairie View (9th in 4A), Rossville, Santa Fe Trail (6th in 4A) and Tonganoxie.
After the mats are cleared, Harris said the tournament's second place team could be anyone.
"Oak Park is as strong as ever," Harris said. "They have about seven or eight all-Americans and half of their line up are Division I recruits. After that there are a bunch of 4A teams that are really evenly matched. Lansing is ranked in 5A and they are a great team. After Oak Park, it could be really close."
K. Callahan enjoys the tougher tournaments, because it gives him a chance to evaluate his skills.
"If you go to a tournament that isn't tough all around, you might win it, but you don't feel good about your wrestling," Callahan said. "When you have tougher competition, it makes you step up and wrestle a lot harder. You have to wrestle good or you won't win it."
Oak Park is the three-time defending champion of the tournament.
Jay Harris, BHS graduate of 1987, will be inducted into the Baldwin Wrestling Hall of Fame. Harris is Baldwin's first-ever state champion. He went undefeated to win the title in 1987 at 34-0 at 132 lbs. He is the older brother of K. Harris.