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From wrestling to basketball, in minutes

3/2/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

There was a lot of sweating going on in Gross Memorial Coliseum late Friday afternoon. And it wasn't just the wrestlers on the mats who were doing the perspiring.

The first day of the 2014 Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament was running longer than expected, and staff at Fort Hays State University was a little nervous.

The Tigers' regular-season basketball finale was scheduled to start at 6 p.m.

No problem.

Moments after the final wrestling semifinal match ended in overtime at 5:03 p.m., workers immediately began setting up bleachers and readying the coliseum for a different sport.

By 5:10 p.m., basketball goals were going up on both ends of the court, while Randy Dreiling, a member of the GMC custodial staff, started cleaning the floor on a motorized riding sweeper.

By 5:15, the women's team from visiting Northeastern State University in Oklahoma was starting its shooting warmups.

The women's game began at 6:07, just seven minutes later than its scheduled time.

"It was astonishing," Ken Windholz said of the quick transformation.

Windholz, the public address announcer for both the women's and games at FHSU, said he usually gets to the coliseum "about an hour and a half or two hours before the game."

He arrived at GMC at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

"When I got here, I went back to the janitor's room, and the last time I looked out, they were still wrestling," he said. "Next thing I know, the (women's) teams were on the court shooting."

FHSU Athletic Director Curtis Hammeke and his staff began planning multiple sports for a weekend almost from the moment the MIAA conference basketball came out early last year.

The league schedule had two Oklahoma schools that travel in the same rotation playing at Fort Hays and at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (FHSU's traveling partner in the MIAA) on Feb. 27 and March 1, which is the MIAA's normal Thursday-Saturday rotation.

Fort Hays checked with Kearney, as well as both Oklahoma schools, to see if a Wednesday-Friday was OK with everyone concerned, and they all said yes.

It's not like Fort Hays hasn't had to hustle to quickly rearrange the coliseum from one event to another before. In fact, this weekend's transformation is similar to one just two years ago.

The 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament in 2012 was \Thursday and Friday of championship weekend, because Fort Hays also hosted an NCAA Division II regional wrestling tourney that weekend.

Oh, and in between all the wrestling was another Tiger men's and women's basketball doubleheader that same weekend.

"This time of year is always very busy, a lot of events going on," Hammeke said. "So it's not uncommon to have to do things like this."

"We start with Plan A, Plan B and Plan C," said Tom Wasinger, supervisor of the custodial staff at GMC. "It makes a good challenge, but we've got fantastic people to work with."

This type of hurried transformation takes careful planning, Hammeke said, giving credit for the smooth transition to Brad Haynes, assistant athletic director in charge of events planning.

"Brad does such a good job of organizing all this," Hammeke said. "He does not leave a stone unturned. He works as long as it takes to get the job done."

The transformation went off without a hitch because, Hammeke said, everyone did their part and helped out wherever needed.

In addition to supervising the whole bunch, Haynes also was helping move and unfold bleacher seats, as well as picking up trash. Hammeke also got in on picking up trash and could be seen helping to clean the basketball court floor. Plus, no one person wanted to take credit themselves.

"Our coaches help us get their kids here," Haynes said of FHSU student-athletes who showed up to help. "All those extra hands really make a difference."

That also was evident at the conclusion of the men's basketball game, which ended at 9:57 p.m., and two minutes later, workers were folding the bleachers at the south end of the court.

Youngsters who normally take to the floor following basketball games to shoot hoops still were shooting at the south basket as it was lowered to the floor at 10:01 and was wheeled back to its storage spot two minutes later.

Meanwhile, out on the floor, Tiger wrestlers directed fellow college student athletes how to lay down wrestling mats.

"Having the (Tiger) wrestlers and football players here to help was huge," Hammeke said. "The wrestlers had the expertise, and the football players, the brawn. It all worked out."