With or without calendars in front of them, Bob Krizancic and Babe Kwasniak could tell you its time for the madness to ensue as February gives way to March.
Krizancic and Kwasniak are head coaches of the defending boys basketball state championship teams at Mentor and Villa Angela-St. Joseph high schools, respectively.
Both teams embark on defenses of those titles this week as a unique brand of madness is generated by area high school and college teams vying for championships in basketball, wrestling and hockey tournaments.
I can tell what time of the year it is just from the atmosphere in the locker room and the coaches room, Krizancic said.
From the big crowds in the gyms to the charged atmosphere and all the media attention, you cant beat this, Krizancic added. Every game could be your last. The tournament is everything. Its monumental. Our kids know that.
The emotions are much the same for Kwasniak, who played for his father, Ted Kwasniak, on two state title-winning VASJ teams in the early 1990s.
Its the best time of the year in sports, Kwasniak said. So many things have been dulled by time, but March Madness has been enhanced. This is one-and-done. It changes everything. Were talking drama, pure drama.
In the Division III district opener Feb. 25, the Vikings are hosting Oberlin.
Everything is geared to late February and March, Kwasniak said.
Mentor is at home Feb. 26 to face Warren Howland in its Division I district opener.
We spend four months of practice and the regular season getting ready for this time, Krizancic said.
Talent alone doesnt get it done in the tournament. Its how intense and poised you play. Its how prepared you are. We take nothing for granted, nothing.
Mentors tournament game versus Howland tips off the postseason broadcast schedule for WELW-AM 1330.
You know how much these games mean to the kids, the schools, teachers, coaches, alumni and parents, WELW owner Ray Somich said. You can feel the excitement and the passion. Weve been part of this for going on 40 years and look forward to being part of it again for many years to come.
Already well underway on the high school level are the girls basketball, wrestling and hockey tournaments. So are the gymnastics and bowling tournaments.
The Mentor girls basketball team advanced to the Division I district finals for the 12th straight season with a victory over Shaw on Feb. 24.
Tournament time is our favorite time of the year, Mentor girls coach Steve Thompson said. You wipe the slate clean and thats what makes it exciting. Its the second opportunity for everyone and it also shows what youve worked hard on for the entire course of the year.
Thompson said he and his players are at peace with all of the attention being paid to the Mentor boys team during this tournament season.
I mean, they won the state championship, Thompson said. But when you are talking about the importance of the second season, the tournament, thats where I think we excel.
Its because we stress the fun, the excitement, the strategy, Thompson added. Everyone is good when you get to districts. Its about execution and sometimes just the will to hang on and win.
When the state wrestling finals begin this weekend in Columbus, this area will be represented by 32 wrestlers in three divisions who qualified on Feb. 22 at three district sites.
Underway on the college level are the Ohio Athletic Conference mens and womens basketball tournaments. The John Carroll University men posted a 95-74 home victory over Otterbein Feb. 24 in the OAC Tournament quarterfinals.
The top two seeds in the OAC womens tournament, Baldwin Wallace and JCU, will host semifinal home games on Feb. 27. If the Yellow Jackets and Blue Streaks prevail in those games, they meet in championship at BW on March 1.
Also on the docket are the Mid-American Conference mens and womens tournaments at Quicken Loans Arena, March 12-15.
The NCAA Division II National Wrestling Championship is scheduled for March 14-15 at Public Hall in Cleveland.