Expect plenty of teams and plenty of competition.
These eight words help sum up what coaches and competitors expect from the the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Wrestling Tournament that begins Friday at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center.
The two-day event starts at 9 a.m. Friday with early rounds. Teams will wrestle through the quarterfinals Friday. Saturday’s finals are set for 6 p.m.
Brother Martin-New Orleans in Division I, Lafayette’s Teurlings Catholic in Division II and Brusly High in Division III are the defending state champions.
All three teams are expected to contend again with each division developing its own story line.
Brother Martin has six top-seeded competitors and is the heavy favorite to repeat in Division I. Baton Rouge’s Catholic High and Jesuit-New Orleans, are expected to be top challengers. Another New Orleans team, Holy Cross, has emerged as the favorite in Division II, with Livingston Parish-based Live Oak High and Teurlings among the challengers. Football power John Curtis, the Division III runner-up a year ago, is among the challengers for Brusly, along with North Vermilion.
“It looks like we’re in good position,” Brother Martin coach Robbie Dauterive said. “Based on the seedings, if we take care of business, we should be where we need to be to win.
“But we’ll also have some tough semifinals and even quarterfinals in several weight classes, provided we get that far. Two of them that come to mind are 106 and 113. Some of our guys who are seeded No. 1 will have some tough matches. In this division, you can’t take anybody for granted.”
Two Division I competitors, St. Paul’s 132-pounder Connor Campo (41-0) and Comeaux’s 152-pound competitor Tyrek Malveaux (37-0), enter the tournament with perfect records.
Catholic has three top seeds and has other competitors who will be looking to move their way up through the ranks.
“Brother Martin is without a doubt the favorite, and I also think Jesuit has wrestled extremely well late in the year,” Catholic coach Tommy Prochaska said. “We’re going to focus on things we can control, like what each individual does in each round. We’ve had a good week of practice and are as ready as we can be.”
One special competition is the 120-pound class where Brother Martin’s Paul Klein (38-8) and and Comeaux’s Jacob Dale (36-3) are the top two seeds. They won separate weight classes a year ago.
Holy Cross has navigated its way through the New Orleans competition all season, something that coach Eric DesOrmeaux sees as an advantage going into the Division II competition.
“Our guys have been very focused and worked extremely hard,” DesOrmeaux said. “This is where that work pays off. We’ve got eight guys who wrestle at state for the first time. They’ve waited their turn to represent Holy Cross.
“There’s no doubt that Teurlings will be looking to defend. When you look at the schools that have full 14 (member) teams, Teurlings and Live Oak are there with us.”
No Division II competitor is unbeaten. St. Louis Catholic’s Louis Stutes (37-2) at 160, Northside’s Orlando Calhoun Jr. (15-1) at 195 and Live Oak’s Cody Hill (54-5) at 126 have recorded some of the more impressive records.
“This is what we work for as teams and individuals all year,” Live Oak coach Chris Collier said. “We had a lot of guys who wrestled for us last year at state as sophomores, and now that we have everyone back healthy they have a lot of confidence.
“You have to look at Teurlings and Holy Cross first. Can this be the year that we break through and get on the award stand? We believe that’s possible.”
Brusly has won state titles eight of the past nine years and has 11 state titles total. And while the Panthers are the defending champions, coach Jimmy Bible said his team can leave nothing to chance as the Division III competition unfolds.
“I think you’re going to have John Curtis, us and North Vermilion in there,” Bible said. “Curtis has a lot of high seeds and can score very well.
“For us, tradition certainly does play a role. There are expectations. Nobody wants to be the team that doesn’t win one. We’ve got a lot of younger guys who’ll be competing at state for the first time and they’re anxious to make their mark.”
Curtis’ Spencer Lemoine has a 32-0 record at 285 to top all Division III competitors. Others to watch include Brusly’s Trevor Schermer (36-4) at 132, Curtis’ Baron Clofer (19-2) at 170, Bossier’s Jalen Oliver (16-1) at 182 and Rayne’s Billy Marcantel (34-2) at 195.
Curtis coach John Kendrick said his full team will compete for the first time this week. The Patriots got a late start because all but one wrestler played football. The River Ridge school has also had its share of injuries.
“We’re finally healthy and rested,” Kendrick said. “I think it’s going to be very interesting. We’ve got some guys who are seeded high, and some other we believe can move up and score well for us.”