When the Kansas State High School Activities Association decided to move the Class 6A and 5A wrestling tournaments to Intrust Bank Arena, it seemed like a coup for the sport. After all, wrestling will be showcased in a brand-new arena.
But with the move comes new rules, new issues.
One concern was taken care of Thursday when SMG, which operates the arena, lifted its re-entry policy. General manager Chris Presson said a handful of wrestling fans voiced concerns about being able to leave the arena when their wrestlers were idle and having to pay again to re-enter.
"We listened to our customers and we were able to alter the policy for this event," Presson said.
Another concern has been the wrestlers' food. They are allowed to bring in sandwiches, bottled water and fruit.
The rule is much more stringent than it was at the Kansas Coliseum, where the 6A and 5A tournaments have been held every year but one since 1985.
"I know we got spoiled at the Coliseum, where we could bring whatever they wanted in," Derby coach Bill Ross said. "They have more important things to worry about. If they worry about the food, they need to do something different."
Goddard coach Brett Means called the rule restrictive, but wasn't too concerned.
"I don't really want them eating a whole lot," he said.
There are athletes, though, who want to eat cereal or yogurt or cereal bars during the day, and they can't bring it into the arena.
Many will have to do without their customary sports drinks, too.
But Means was glad to see they're not allowed.
"I don't think it's good for the kids. All those energy drinks have a lot of sugar," he said.
Salina's Bicentennial Center, which is where Class 4A is held, has similar food restrictions, but allows athletes to bring in sports drinks.
One of the biggest changes for the 6A and 5A wrestlers is that the food will be kept in coolers on the arena's loading dock. At the Coliseum, teams kept their coolers near the area where they set up their sleeping bags.
The KSHSAA is paying for security to watch the coolers to ensure no one can contaminate the contents.
"On one hand, I fully understand the position of the management," KSHSAA assistant executive director Rick Bowden said. "They have to take the position that they are in. But I understand the dilemma of the coaches, who have had free rein to bring in anything and put it in the bleachers. That won't happen at any site anymore."
Making a comeback, just in time — Although Derby junior Travis Anderson broke a leg during the football playoffs and had surgery shortly after the season, he didn't abandon his plan to wrestle.
"He's been in the (wrestling) room for the majority of the year, riding the bike, waiting to get his cast off and for it to heal," Ross said.
Anderson, who is 4-1 at 285 pounds, wrestled the last dual of the season and then wrestled in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail's junior varsity meet, where he picked up four matches. He finished third at varsity regionals.
"He's been dedicated to get back," Ross said.
Looking for an undefeated season — Of the nearly 900 wrestlers competing in the four classes this weekend, 20 are undefeated.
Five of those wrestlers have won state titles before. Smith Center's Colt Rogers and Valley Center's Cade Blair have both won two titles.
Central-Burden sophomore Tyler McMichael (30-0) wants to end his season with an unblemished record.
"I feel confident. I know there's always someone that can beat you, but I'm hoping I can go all the way through," said McMichael, who wrestles at 140 pounds.
McMichael has improved from last season, when he finished sixth and was 35-8.
"I have gotten better," he said. "My practice room has really helped me out. I feel that I've gotten stronger in offense and defense."