By DAVID MCCOLLUM

LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER

What is believed to be the first joint tournament venture with high school and college wrestling in the state will take place this weekend at the Conway Expo Center.

Central Baptist College, one of three college teams to sponsor wrestling, will join forces with Greenbrier High School, which is fielding a team for the first time this year, in a dual tournament Friday and Saturday.

Sixteen high schools from across the state, several among the top teams in the state, will have their tournament beginning at 5 p.m. Friday. The final rounds of the tournament will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Also beginning Saturday morning will be CBC’s invitational tournament, which will have competitors from about 16 colleges.

"We’ve had the college tournament for the last two years, but I’ve always wanted to combine it with a high school tournament to make it bigger and attract more of a crowd. Greenbrier is starting up its program and was interested in joining forces," said Ken Prophete, CBC’s wrestling coach.

College teams from NCAA Divisions I, II and III as well as the NAIA will be represented. Among the top teams will be some members of the Oklahoma University team, Missouri Valley College and Baker University in Kansas. OBU and Arkansas Baptist, the other two colleges to offer wrestling in Arkansas, will also participate.

Wrestling is still a fledgling sport at Arkansas high schools. Prophete, in his third year as CBC wrestling coach, has seen improvement in quality of high school wrestling and in the depth and quality of the Mustangs.

"It gets better each year," he said. "We still have a young team ourselves, and the talent has gotten tremendously better. I think we have a chance to get one or two of our wrestlers, maybe some more, out of region and possibly a couple to make an impact at nationals."

CBC’s regional, which is the national qualifier, will be at Baker University. The NAIA national tournament will be at Des Moines, Iowa.

Admission to the tournament this weekend will be $5 for adults and $2 for youngsters 7 and up. Those with a valid college ID will be admitted free.

"We would like to get more and more people out and get the city and community involved in seeing what the sport is all about," said Prophete.

(David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net)