Liberty Hawks wrestling coach Jay Pumarejo tauts this year’s BIG Championship Tournament as one of the best-ever.
The third annual tournament is a welcome landing spots for teams throughout the Central Valley because of dual-meet format of the tournament.
Ranchos Middle School will host 22 schools on Friday in the junior varsity tournament while the varsity tournament is maxed out at 16 teams.
“We have a mix throughout the Central Valley, including some Clovis schools and Central,” Pumarejo said. “We have the Madera schools joining us with El Diamante-Visalia, Mission Oak-Tulare, North-Bakersfield and Shafter. It’s a nice mix from Madera to Bakersfield.”
At the varsity tournament, teams will battle each other in a dual meet. Pumarejo said they will get in five dual meets throughout the day.
“We entered a new lane to make things attractive,” he said. “We’ve gone away from the old school, in a gym from 7 to midnight. That’s not fun for families, not fun for fans an wrestlers. We try to get five quality matches in and our goal is to get the teams out of the gym with daylight still left. That’s unique.”
Not only is the dual meet format easy for parents and fans, but it also makes it easy for the coaches.
“What’s really good for the coaches and another reason why it’s attractive for them to come is in an individual tournament, they have to chase their kids all day,” Pumarejo said. “They don’t know the schedule and don’t know when they wrestle and where. This dual meet format, they never have to chase their kids. Their team gets to stay together all day long. The team champion coach from last year, Sam Lopez, said that it was a great team-bonding moment for his team. It was perfect for December.”
For many teams in this early-season tournament, including Pumarejo’s, it’s an opportunity to get in a lot of matches while playing quality opponents.
“Our team is the reason why we started the tournament,” he said. “It’s what our kids needed at that point in the season. They get quality wrestling in, get each other’s back and build brotherhood.”
The only negative about running a high-quality tournament is the amount of teams that want in.
“We have a waiting list. I had to burn a bridge for a first time,” Pumarejo said. “We have Pioneer Valley from Santa Maria coming in.”
The original name of the tournament was the BIG VII, representing the 12 schools. Then, the name was changed because of the high-quality teams the tournament attracted.
Wrestling on both days begin a 10 a.m. in the Ranchos Middle School gymnasium.