KENNER — Brother Martin fans showed off their signs often on Saturday night, while others donned T-shirts, all marked with the same motto: 14J.
It was a tribute to the school’s domination of high school wrestling in the state, as well as a dedication to the step-father of heavyweight Ross Brister, whom the Crusaders dedicated their latest Division I state championship season to. So it was fitting that Jay Rink, a former Crusaders heavyweight state champion, diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2010, watched nearby from his wheelchair at the Pontchartrain Center.
In front of 3,596 fans, Brother Martin distanced itself from Catholic and Jesuit. It started with Mason Mauro at 103 pounds and continued with two-time champion Paul Klein (120).
The Crusaders finished with 339 points to easily outdistance runner-up Jesuit (275). Catholic High was third with 2631/2 points, followed by St. Paul’s (229) and Rummel (198).
“When you recognize a guy like Jay, fighting for his life,” Brother Martin Coach Robbie Dauterive said, “it makes sports really insignificant, but it’s great to do it for him. Our kids, they carried him with us all season.”
Catholic entered Saturday’s finals with five wrestlers, but just one head-to-head matchup against Brother Martin. At 126 pounds, Brennan Taylor beat Austin Meyn, 9-3.
One year earlier, Taylor tore the meniscus in his right knee, an injury which required surgery and ended his junior campaign.
“The only reason I made it through the season is because I have people on my back,” said Taylor, crediting his teammates for helping him cut weight and stay focused.
Later, at 160 pounds., teammate Brandon Luckett, who won a state title last season at 152 pounds., earned his second piece of gold in as many years. This time, he reached his goal with the added pressure of being a top seed.
Watching from the stands was older brother J.T, a 189-lb. champion on Catholic’s 2010 state championship team.
“I worked really hard the last two years to get here,” Brandon Luckett said. “A lot of hard work.”
Also winning titles for Catholic were James Claitor (138) and Sidney Rodriguez (145).
Comeaux’s Tyrek Malveaux also stayed undefeated (45-0) at 152. pounds. with a 6-2 decision over Brother Martin’s Devin LeBlanc.
For Jesuit, Mitch Capella (113) won a state title, as did Manny Armour of Jesuit at 195.
Meanwhile, St. Paul’s Connor Campo completed a second season of undefeated wrestling (44-0) against in-state competition at 132 pounds.
He ended his career with a pin of Archbishop Rummel’s Rick LaCava (1:39).
His last loss was Jan. 20 against a Maryland three-time state champion, according to coach Craig Ketelsen.
Looking back, Campo was happy his mother, Shellie, forced him to wrestle after he quit football in the eighth grade. He was a 119-pound offensive lineman.
“She said, ‘if you don’t wrestle, you’re grounded,’ “ Campo said, smiling.
The three-day session ended with a record 12,869 fans. The previous record of 12,837 fans was set last season.