Elite field assembles for the 37th Tiger Classic

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jackson is expected to contend for the title when action begins today

The area's premier high school wrestling tournament, and one of the best in the state, will make its annual run in Cape Girardeau this weekend.

Central will host the 37th Tiger Classic at the junior high school. Action begins at 5 p.m. today and resumes at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The finals are expected to start around 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

While the field is down to 14 teams -- 17 competed last season -- Central coach James Brake anticipates the usual top-flight competition.

"With the economy, a lot of teams aren't able to travel as much, so we lost some teams," Brake said. "But there's still going to be a lot of great wrestling, a lot of [returning] state qualifiers."

Ozark, from southwest Missouri, won the title as a first-year participant in 2009. The Tigers aren't back to defend their crown, but the squads that finished right behind Ozark will return.

Jackson, second a year ago, and third-place House Springs-Northwest rate among the tournament favorites, according to Brake.

Also in that mix, said Brake, is perennial Tiger Classic power Christian Brothers from Memphis, Tenn., which did not participate last season.

Jackson was sixth in the most recent Class 4 state rankings by MissouriWrestling.com, with Northwest ninth.

"Jackson, CBC and Northwest are all really tough. I'm thinking those will be the top three," Brake said. "But they still have to go out there and wrestle."

Jackson, the 2008 champion, has finished in the top four all but one year since 1990.

The Indians return defending 145-pound champion Levi Hobeck, a senior.

Two other Jackson wrestlers were second a year ago, senior Levi Rayburn at 119 and senior Ryan Marble at 171. Rayburn captured the 103 title in 2008.

Jackson had eight more athletes place in the top five last season and several of those return.

"Jackson is definitely loaded," Brake said.

Another ranked entry is Ste. Genevieve, No. 5 in Class 2. The Dragons finished sixth in last year's tournament.

Also participating from the region will be Dexter, De Soto and Sikeston.

Central placed ninth in 2009. Brake said the Tigers are rebuilding, although he expects some individuals to fare well this weekend.

"We're really young and inexperienced," Brake said.

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