The Columbia High School wrestling team's raffle Saturday raised some eyebrows in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, but it also brought in thousands of dollars that will allow the team to travel to matches in northern Idaho, California and Nevada, a team coach said Sunday.
The team started selling tickets for the first-ever "52 Guns in 52 Minutes" raffle during the summer. Each of the 1,000 tickets cost $52.
"There's no way we could predict this would happen," Coach Tyrel Harris said of the school shooting in Connecticut. "Obviously, our hearts go out to them. That's a terrible tragedy, and it breaks our hearts to see something like that."
The winners of the gun raffle were announced Saturday at the Rollie Lane Invitation held at the Idaho Center. The tournament one of the biggest in the West featured 48 teams from Idaho, Washington, California, Oregon, Nevada and Wyoming. Before the medals round in the afternoon, raffle winners were named one each minute for 52 minutes.
Read the Statesman's coverage of the tournament: No longer second best: Five local wrestlers win titles at Rollie Lane Invitational and a tournament photo gallery.
Columbia High School's wrestling team, which has about 50 kids in grades 9 to 12, is largely self-supporting.
"We want our program to keep getting better and better, so we're going to keep coming up with new ways to help our kids travel," Harris said.
The 30-year-old coach, who is originally from Pocatello, said he'd seen similar fundraisers done in other places, including Montana State-Northern in Havre, Mont. He thought since hunting and fishing is so big in Southwest Idaho, the gun raffle would be popular.
Columbia High's raffle was actually for gift cards for 52 different guns at Sportsman's Warehouse in Nampa. The guns ranged in price from about $120 to $2,300. Those who won a prize in the gun raffle could use the value of the gift card to buy something other than a gun.
Harris said school district officials signed off on the fundraiser after he assured them that the guns promoted in the raffle are used primarily for hunting.
"We figured with having it tied to the school district, we didn't want to have a bunch of handguns. Generally, they're all shot guns or hunting rifles," he said.
Some at the tournament weren't happy about the gun-themed fundraiser, but Harris said organizers just tried to stay positive. They sold about 875 raffle tickets, falling a little short of their goal.
"It's something we're going to do every year if we can," Harris said. "It's all about the kids. We want to give them every opportunity we can to get scholarships and go on in life."
Katy Moeller: 377-6413