John Lynn has the perfect slogan for the annual Doctors of Physical Therapy Holiday Classic, as it relates to high school basketball in Wisconsin.
“I feel that we have created the best holiday classic in the state of Wisconsin,” says Lynn, the co-director of the classic along with Jon Palmen.
That is hard to argue.
Now in its 10th year, the Doctors of PT Holiday Classic — which is driven by Go Sports America — kicks off Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 27) and runs four straight days through Friday night (Dec. 30). The classic has grown from a small local high school basketball event into a huge extravaganza that this week totals 31 games and includes 34 boys and girls teams from throughout southeastern Wisconsin and one from Illinois.
“I never thought it would be what it is,” said Lynn, who recalled that the first Doctors of PT Holiday Classic had just five teams. “I guess you create something, you don’t expect it to be a monster, but you kind of just adapt.”
And that adaptation has included the addition of a second location.
Previously held only at Carthage College’s Tarble Arena, the classic has now expanded to Kenosha’s other college basketball venue, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s DeSimone Arena.
According to Lynn, the move allows the girls teams in the classic to play more games later each day, which are generally more well-attended. Cramming every game into Tarble Arena caused the girls games to be held earlier and earlier, so now they’ll get some more “primetime” action.
All 16 games at Tarble Arena this week are boys games. Of the 15 games at the DeSimone Arena, 11 are girls games and four are boys games.
“I think it creates something special for the girls, and I think they deserve it,” Lynn said.
Holding games at the DeSimone Arena is also beneficial from the perspective of Parkside and Athletic Director Andrew Gavin. The venue recently underwent a big facelift, so high school hoops fans attending the classic this week can go check it out if they haven’t already.
“Andrew Gavin over there has been really cool to work with, as far as getting this over there,” Lynn said.
Tickets for the classic are $8 for the general public and $5 for students. For more information on the classic, visit gosportsamerica.org.
Plenty of help
When crediting those who help him and Palmen put together the classic, the first person Lynn mentioned is Dr. Aaron Kraai, a St. Joseph Catholic Academy graduate who’s the founder of Doctors of Physical Therapy and has supported the holiday basketball classic from the get-go.
“He’s the one who is able to do that to have this happen,” Lynn said. “Without him, it wouldn’t happen. His generosity — he doesn’t even live in Kenosha, and his generosity to this has been top-notch. He’s been supportive from day one.”
Additionally, Lynn cited the work of Kenosha’s Christian Venegas, business and development manager with Doctors of Physical Therapy, for helping to promote the classic.
As for other business sponsors, Lynn said the classic picked up Kenosha-based Jockey International as a “major sponsor” and also credited Honda of Kenosha Sales Director Cory Wilson for his help with sponsorship.
In terms of the action on the court, this year’s classic has plenty of great matchups, featuring seven boys and seven girls teams from Kenosha County, eight boys and six girls teams from Racine County and seven more boys teams from other locations.
Per tradition, St. Joseph and Tremper will square off in a girls-boys doubleheader on Wednesday night at the DeSimone Arena, with the girls game scheduled for 6 p.m. and the boys game to follow at 7:45.
Other cross-county matchups include a Westosha Central vs. Indian Trail boys game at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Tarble Arena, a Reuther vs. Shoreland Lutheran boys game at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Tarble Arena, a Wilmot vs. Tremper boys game at 6 p.m. Friday at Tarble Arena, a Westosha Central vs. St. Joseph girls game at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the DeSimone Arena, a Tremper vs. Wilmot girls game at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the DeSimone Arena and an Indian Trail vs. Westosha Central girls game at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the DeSimone Arena.
Aside from the matchups, the classic features so many talented players from the area.
For example, Lynn singled out participating girls teams like Bradford, which features NCAA Division I University of Evansville (Ind.) commit Nevaeh Thomas; Union Grove, which features Division I UW-Milwaukee commit Sophia Rampulla and Division II Walsh (Ohio) commit Sydney Ludvigsen; and The Prairie School, which features a sophomore in Jasonya “JJ” Barnes who already has offers from a variety of major Division I programs.
The Bradford girls, in fact, play both Union Grove (6 p.m. Thursday at the DeSimone Arena) and The Prairie School (6 p.m. Friday at the DeSimone Arena) this week in matchups that will contain some of the top girls players in the state.
On the boys side, meanwhile, Milwaukee Hamilton — ranked No. 8 in Division 1 in the latest WisSports.net state coaches poll — takes on Racine Case at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Tarble Arena. Hamilton features two seniors ranked in the top 10 in the state going into the season by WisSports.net in wing Demarion Burch (No. 4) and forward Simeon Murchison (No. 9). Both have received offers from mid-major Division I programs.
The classic also hands out its Go Sports America Lifetime Achievement Awards each year, recognizing individuals for their contributions to athletics and the community.
Mark Olsen and Tom Reigel, two longtime coaching icons in Kenosha County and southeastern Wisconsin, will be honored at Tarble Arena this year. Olsen will receive his honor at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, while Reigel will be honored at 6 p.m. Friday.
“I can think of a few words for them, and one would be educators,” Lynn said of Olsen and Reigel. “Coaches, legacies, and they just are community people that just want you to succeed. That’s those guys.”
After graduating from Westosha Central and UW-Milwaukee, Olsen accepted a job teaching history at Central at age 21. In the fall of 1968, he began coaching boys basketball as an assistant in the winter and leading the boys golf team as head coach in the spring.
Thus began a more than five-decade tenure for Olsen, who’s still the head boys golf coach at Central and will be starting his 55th year this spring. His career with the Falcons has spanned seven decades and two centuries and has included 10 conference championships and five team appearances in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division I State Tournament.
Olsen has also been instrumental in helping to organize countless golf tournaments over the years in Kenosha County — including the Men’s County Open and the Senior Men’s County Open — and also continued to coach basketball, serving as an assistant on the men’s team at UW-Parkside under Rees Johnson, Marty Gillespie, Jeff Rutter and Luke Reigel, while also working as the Rangers’ head men’s golf coach for 17 seasons.
Olsen is still a volunteer assistant coach for the Parkside men’s golf team, and the school’s recently-added indoor golf facility inside the Sports and Activity Center is named the Mark Olsen Indoor Golf Center. For that honor, Olsen was named the Kenosha.com Kenoshan of the Week on Feb. 14, 2022.
“It’s pretty special,” Olsen said when asked about the Go Sports America Lifetime Achievement Award in a phone interview last week. “A friend of mine said that maybe they’re starting to run out of people (Olsen laughs), so they’re starting to move down the list.
“Sometimes you wonder, because my accomplishments aren’t the same as Tom Reigels, basically his championships and everything. Sometimes that gets noticed a little bit more than somebody just working in the background and willing to help out, whether it be with golf or basketball, or whatever. It’s nice to know that people notice that, that you’re around all the time and try to do your part to make the community better in whatever regard that I have the skills to do.”
As Olsen alluded to, Reigel had a long and successful basketball coaching career that rightfully earned him the title of one of Wisconsin’s best-ever high school coaches.
Reigel coached for 30 years at the prep level, winning six conference titles and two WIAA state championships — in 1984 and 1991 — as the head coach of the Wilmot boys team. Reigel’s Panthers went 25-0 in claiming the WIAA Class B state title in 1984 and then went 27-0 in winning the WIAA Division 2 state title in 1991.
At one point, Reigel’s Wilmot team won 50 consecutive games over a two-season span, and the court in the Wilmot gym is now named Reigel Court.
After his time with the Panthers, Reigel was the head coach of the Waukesha South boys team for 10 years and led the Blackshirts to a WIAA Division I State Tournament semifinal appearance in 1999. Reigel accumulated over 400 wins during his high school coaching tenure and in 2006 was inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Following his high school coaching career, Reigel worked as an assistant for the Parkside men’s team under his son and the Rangers’ head coach, Luke, serving in that role for 19 seasons through the 2021-22 campaign before officially retiring from his coaching duties.
“It’s really nice,” Reigel said of the Lifetime Achievement Award. “Both Mark and I have been kind of out of it for a while, so it’s nice to know that people remember you.”
DOCTORS OF PHYSICAL THERAPY HOLIDAY CLASSIC SCHEDULE
GAMES AT CARTHAGE COLLEGE
TUESDAY, DEC. 27
Brown Deer vs. Racine Horlick (boys), 3 p.m.
The Prairie School vs. Reuther (boys), 4:30 p.m.
Bradford vs. Lake Geneva Badger (boys), 6 p.m.
Westosha Central vs. Indian Trail (boys), 7:45 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 28
Racine Lutheran vs. Racine Park (boys), 3 p.m.
Reuther vs. Shoreland Lutheran (boys), 4:30 p.m.
Milwaukee Hamilton vs. Racine Case (boys), 6 p.m.
Racine St. Catherine’s vs. Brown Deer (boys), 7:45 p.m.
THURSDAY, DEC. 29
Racine Horlick vs. Milwaukee Destiny (boys), 3 p.m.
Indian Trail vs. Waterford (boys), 4:30 p.m.
St. Joseph vs. Burlington (boys), 6 p.m.
Reuther vs. Racine St. Catherine’s (boys), 7:45 p.m.
FRIDAY, DEC. 30
Union Grove vs. Racine Park (boys), 3 p.m.
Milwaukee Academy of Science vs. Zion-Benton (Ill.) (boys), 4:30 p.m.
Wilmot vs. Tremper (boys), 6 p.m.
Racine Case vs. Westosha Central (boys), 7:45 p.m.
GAMES AT UW-PARKSIDE
TUESDAY, DEC. 27
Westosha Central vs. St. Joseph (girls), 3 p.m.
Tremper vs. Wilmot (girls), 4:30 p.m.
Racine Case vs. Burlington (girls), 6 p.m.
Burlington vs. Racine Lutheran (boys), 7:45 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 28
Racine Horlick vs. Racine Lutheran (girls), 3 p.m.
Indian Trail vs. Westosha Central (girls), 4:30 p.m.
Tremper vs. St. Joseph (girls), 6 p.m.
Tremper vs. St. Joseph (boys), 7:45 p.m.
THURSDAY, DEC. 29
Burlington vs. Racine Horlick (girls), 4 p.m.
Union Grove vs. Bradford (girls), 6 p.m.
Bradford vs. Union Grove (boys), 7:45 p.m.
FRIDAY, DEC. 30
Wilmot vs. Racine Case (girls), 3 p.m.
Indian Trail vs. Racine Lutheran (girls), 4:30 p.m.
The Prairie School vs. Bradford (girls), 6 p.m.
Greenfield vs. Milwaukee Destiny (boys), 7:45 p.m.