With 17 teams, six mats, two gyms, dozens of wrestlers, hundreds of fans and a pretty good monetary haul for the West Jefferson High School athletic department, the latest version of the West Jefferson Invitational Tournament (WJIT) would be deemed a success even after just one day.
The Roughriders once again are playing host in what is easily the school’s biggest home athletic event of the school year. The event started Friday, Dec. 27 and will continue through the day on Saturday, Dec. 28.
Director of athletics Shawn Buescher said there are a number of positives that come from hosting such an event on a yearly basis, including an opportunity to show off the school’s wrestling program to those both in and those outside of the area.
“I think it’s great for our wrestling program, one thing it does is showcase our kids and our great coaching staff we have here,” Buescher said. “But it also allows people to come out and see our facility in a different light, with the wrestling mats and such.
“It also allows us to get a lot of volunteers. Youngsters, men and women to come out and help and run the concession stand and such, it’s great to pull a lot of people together for a common goal, to promote a program.”
West Jefferson already has a statewide reputation for having a top notch wrestling program and getting teams and fans in for a two-day event that let’s them see what the program has to offer up close. The demand to be a part of the WJIT is so strong that if the school wanted to it could easily expand the field, but at its current size the Roughriders have things going pretty well.
“In terms of number of schools it is the biggest event we have,” Buescher said. “There are 17 teams including ourselves. The tournament brings a lot of people in from across the state of Ohio and again it’s a great opportunity for us to put on a two-day event for a lot of people and more importantly for our own kids. I know they enjoy the opportunity to wrestle in such an event at home, so it’s just as good for them.
“We can kind of gear it to how big or small we want it, a lot of people are interested in coming to this event. Coach Christopher and his staff do a great job of running this event, and a lot of teams want to partake in this week. We’ve been able to tweak the tournament over the years in terms of size and we also use the middle school gym which helps us expedite the process, which makes for a natural flow of things. It’s something we tweak with and work on every year.”
With the stands in both gyms packed for most of the day Friday and just as big of a crowd expected for day two the West Jefferson athletic office is expected to turn a profit, which will help pay for other things down the road.
“The money does go back to the athletic department,” Buescher said. “A lot of our boosters volunteer a lot of their time running the concession stand and they give that money back to the athletic department. We obviously are able to garner all of the money from the gates and such, but there is also a lot of money that goes out in an event like this.
“We’re paying for security and officials, but in the end it’s a good fundraiser for our wrestling program.”