You don’t have to win anything to be in Rock Bridge’s Tournament of Champions.
“Tournament of Champions” is what Rock Bridge’s annual before-Christmas wrestling tournament was called until three years ago, when the school decided to change the format from an individual tournament to a dual tournament. This year it is going back to an individual tournament, and the name is returning with it.
When it was an individual tournament, the Tournament of Champions was one of the premier tournaments in the state.
“We would have guys that wouldn’t even get first here that would win state later on because you had such stacked brackets,” Rock Bridge coach Brook Harlan said.
Harlan said Andy McVey, who won three state championships at Rock Bridge from 1995-97, was never able to take first place at the Tournament of Champions.
Harlan is hoping to build the tournament back to what it was at that time.
“We’re trying to get this back up to a larger tournament,” he said. “The thing is seeing tough competition and matching these guys (Rock Bridge’s wrestlers) up well.”
Harlan’s wrestlers are excited to be able to perform in front of a home crowd, as this will be the Bruins’ first competition on the home mat.
“You’re wrestling at home, and you hope that maybe some of the student body will come down and watch you,” 140-pound junior Kyle Lewis said. “It’s always nice to get some student support, and you always want to look good that way, maybe they will start to come out and watch us. Get some appreciation.”
103-pound freshman Will Evans said he is hoping the team can put on a good showing after struggling in a loss at Hickman on Tuesday.
“We didn’t represent ourselves as good as we could have,” he said. “Friday and Saturday, I think we have a good chance to show how good our varsity is.”
While the Bruins will be trying to put on a good show for the home fans, Lewis said that doesn’t put any extra pressure on him.
“There is not very much pressure,” he said. “There is always pressure to do well and to win it or place. It is just like a home dual where the only person out there is your opponent, and you just go out there and try to win and go on.”
Evans agrees there is no added pressure from hosting the tournament and actually feels that it might help the Bruins relax.
“I want to prove myself no matter where it is,” he said. “I think it doesn’t put any pressure, it actually puts a little bit of pressure off because I can go to my home and sleep. And it’s a close drive and everything.”
The tournament gets underway at 5 p.m. this evening and continues at 9 a.m. Saturday. There will be a total of ten teams, including Rock Bridge. The other nine teams that will be attending are: Collierville (Tenn.),DeSmet, Hannibal, Hickman, Mills, Mexico, Park View, Richmond, Rolla and St. Joe Central.