By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
When the idea was presented to Wayne Bennett to rename the Park Invitational in his honor, he expressed his appreciation in a comical way.
“When Chuck Cooper was the coach at Park, he called me and asked if I cared if they changed the name to the Wayne Bennett Invitational,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Well, I would be honored — as long as it’s not the Wayne Bennett Memorial.’”
The fifth annual Wayne Bennett Invitational will be Saturday at Park Middle School. Wrestling will begin at 9:30 a.m.
Six schools will be competing — Park, Collins, Summersville, Eastern Greenbrier, Western Greenbrier and Christiansburg (Va.). Western Greenbrier is in the tournament for the first time.
Christiansburg has dominated the tournament in the past, winning all but one time it has entered. The school feeds into state power Christiansburg High, which has sent a lot of wrestlers to the Virginia Tech program.
Last year, Shady Spring and Park finished in a three-way tie with Christiansburg, which won on a tiebreaker.
“You never know what they are going to bring,” Bennett said. “One year we had Milton, which was one of the better teams in West Virginia, and that particular year Park had a good team, and Christiansburg came in here and just went through everybody. It was a piece of cake. I was surprised.
“If they don’t have the best team, then they usually have four or five of the best kids. ... One advantage they have is they start earlier than we do in West Virginia. They usually have a few tournaments under their belt.”
Bennett is a retired Raleigh County educator and has long been an advocate of local wrestling. He is an inductee of the West Virginia chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“It’s been a really good warm-up tournament ... and gives everybody an early-season idea of what will happen,” Bennett said. “It is an honor anytime something is named after you.”
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