North Vermilion wrestling coach Michael Stelly charted a specific course for his team with an eye toward the Division III state tournament.
Stelly sought the toughest competition, often placing his wrestlers outside their comfort zones, participating at different weights and against contrasting styles.
While other teams may have garnered more glittering regular-season accomplishments and gaudy individual records, Stelly said his team is prepared for the Division III event which gets underway at 9 a.m. Friday at CenturyLink Center in Bossier City.
“My goal this year, more so than in the past, was to get elevated competition,” Stelly said. “We wanted to survive and get better. We knew going in this would be a hard season. There weren’t going to be a lot of guys with great records.”
North Vermilion, which finished third to Brusly and De La Salle a year ago, will send 10 seeded wrestlers into action with Gavin Becker (113) and Brennen Landry (145) locking down top seeds and Alex Beraud (126) a second seed.
Landry is a defending state champion, having won the 138-pound crown and is 31-9 this year, while Becker has enjoyed a sterling 35-3 season and Beraud 29-9.
“A lot of Division III schools bring really good records into the state tournament, but they don’t wrestle in a lot of the same tournaments as other teams,” Stelly said. “I’m going to take these kids from a 3A school and wrestle the toughest competition they can.”
Because of its overall depth De La Salle is considered a strong favorite in Division III with North Vermilion, South Plaquemines and Brusly all expected to contend.
De La Salle has the most seeded wrestlers with 12 followed by North Vermilion and South Plaquemines with 10 each. Brusly, which has won 11 of the past 12 state titles, has seven.
“I haven’t preached at all about team scores,” Stelly said. “We know where we fit. We’re probably not the best team going in. We don’t have the best seeds going in. We’re just going to wrestle as individuals and try and beat our goal.”
North Vermilion also has a pair of fourth-seeded competitors in Jourdan Theall (106) and Rhett Maturin (132) with Hogan Melebeck (120) seeded fifth.
“We just have to go and perform,” Stelly said. “As a team everybody wants to do well. I’m more focused on our individual wrestlers achieving their goals. If they do their job individually and wrestle hard, we’re going to be alright.”
Kaplan has four seeded wrestlers with Adam Gaspard (126) and Trae Case (160) both seeded second. Julius Johnson (182) is seeded third, while Haven Dominguez (220) of Church Point in fourth.