Bacon Academy High School will again host the Matt Bishel Bobcat Classic, a multi-school wrestling tournament, this Saturday, Feb. 4.
The annual tournament, which starts at 9:00 a.m., will have continuous matches throughout the day and include 16-person (double elimination) brackets in each weight class.
Bacon Academy’s wrestling head coach Drew DeBowsky organized the event, which is now in its 14th year.
“If anybody wants to come out and watch that day or even learn more about the sport it is a great opportunity to see a lot of good quality wrestling,” DeBowsky said of the upcoming tourney, which will feature 14 teams.
When the wrestling tournament started it was originally named the Bobcat Classic before it was renamed the Matt Bishel Bobcat Classic a dozen years ago.
Bishel, a 2007 graduate of Bacon Academy High School, was a four-year wrestler at the school and soccer player at the school. At the time of his passing in 2011, he was just three months away from graduating from Eastern Connecticut State University with a degree in biology.
All admission and any other monetary donations collected will benefit the Matt Bishel Memorial Scholarship Fund, established in 2011, which helps send student athletes to wrestling camps and seminars along with continued education in the sport of wrestling.
DeBowksy, who also owns The Jewelry Connection in Colchester, said the local community has chipped in to support the cause with donations. Restaurants and other businesses have provided gift cards and other monetary donations.
Food items have also been donated that will be sold at the tournament. Proceeds from concession stand items sold will help support the wrestling team with equipment costs and other essentials.
DeBowsky, a 1983 graduate of Bacon Academy, has been heavily involved with coaching wrestling locally and is in his second year leading the Bobcats.
He inherited the program the season after the COVID cancellation in 2021 and had only two wrestlers signed up. He was forced to rebuild the program on the fly, quickly increasing the number of wrestlers to nearly 20.
“The guys that have come on have learned quickly and been competitive. It’s been really good,” DeBowksy said. “There have been a few kids that had done youth when they were much younger and I have been able to spark that interest to get them back at the high school level.”
Captaining the Bobcats on the mat this winter are senior Connor Tuttle and junior Carson Brown.
Brown finished as the runner-up in the 152-pound division at the state championships a year ago, helping the team placed ninth overall at the Class S state finals.
DeBowsky said that both of his captains have been great leaders and are fully committed to the program.
“They go to camps and offseason clubs and they have been able to come in and help with getting guys up to speed,” added DeBowsky.
One of DeBowsky’s goals since taking over the program is to rejuvenate the relationship between the high school team and town’s youth wrestling by connecting more with Colchester Youth Wrestling (CYW), non-profit organization that formed in 2000 that aims to introduce the youth in Colchester and surrounding towns to the sport of wrestling by providing a disciplined and competitive program for kids to learn and develop wrestling skills, self-confidence and the ideals of good sportsmanship.
Bishel started his wrestling career in the CYW before and DeBowsky said the two programs are once again working together in an effort to increase the interest in wrestling locally.
DeBowksy and his Bobcats will be one of a dozen teams from Connecticut that will be competing in the local tournament. Portland High School and Newtown High School (a top-ten team in the state) will also be competing, along with a team from Massachusetts and another from Rhode Island.
Awards will be given to the top-three finishers in each weight class and top-three teams, along with a Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tourney.
The cost to attend the daylong tournament is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin