Familiar names were peppered through the brackets, but the matches took on an unusual twist this year when Louisiana’s largest all-class high school tournament, the 44th Louisiana Classic, brought the state’s top wrestlers to the Bonne Sante gym at Baton Rouge Community College on Friday.
A new practice in scheduling saw several top teams wrestle in more out-of-state tournaments and some of the top seeds had not faced each other this season.
Tournament director Tommy Prochaska of Catholic High said that made seeding the tournament difficult, and he predicted some surprises along the way.
One of those surprises came in the 197-pound weight class when Mason Rabel of The Dunham School ousted third-seeded Matt Salinas of Airline 8-2. Rabel now faces Tyler Carriere of Rayne in the semifinals.
“I was really pumped up,” said Rabel, who fell behind 2-0 in the early going before forging a 2-2 tie going into the final round. “I was kind of freaked out, but my coach just told me to breathe and keep wrestling.
“It would really mean a lot to win a big tournament like this with all the classes here.”
There were two upsets at 128: Brier Babin of St. Amant defeated fourth seed Mason Middleton of Live Oak 11-9 (OT), and Gavin Christ of Basile pinned No. 3 seed Lane Boudreaux of Brother Martin.
Jesuit holds a narrow 135½–133 lead over Brother Martin after the first three rounds even though two Brother Martin wrestlers upset two No. 3 seeds from Jesuit. Paul Elner beat William Rosevally at 162 and Nathanie Perdue defeated Brandon Greer at 184.
Catholic High is in sixth place and East Ascension in eighth to lead the local team scoring.
Six defending Classic champions fought their way into the semifinals: Blake Mateu of Rummel (122), Cole Houser of St. Paul’s (128), Steven Shields of Brother Martin (134), Jake Rando of Holy Cross (154), Sage Nugent of St. Amant (172) and Josh Ramirez of Rummel (184).
Shields’ opponent in the semifinals is No. 4 seed Trent Mahoney of East Ascension whose coach is his father, EA coach Pat Mahoney.
Other Baton Rouge area semifinalists are Austin Gouedy of Central at 108, Jeremiah Johnson of McKinley, who knocked out third-seeded Peyton Bass of Airline at 115, freshman Camdyn Ingram of Live Oak at 122, No. 2 seed Richard Hunter of Brusly at 184 and Anthony Ingram of Live Oak at 222.
The marquee division of this year’s classic is at 172 where Nugent, the defending champion, is only the No. 2 seed. Nugent will meet Jacob Fereday of Catholic High in one semifinal, while top seed Joseph Foret of Holy Cross faces Brusly’s Owen Mabile in the other.
“I wrestled (Nugent) in the Bayou Duels,” Fereday said. “I did OK, but I hope to do better this time. I usually start out slow in tournaments, but wrestle better as I go along.
“Winning at Louisiana Classic before I graduate is something I’ve always dreamed of doing.”
Two undefeated wrestlers, Christian Walden of Airline (34-0) and DeLaSalle’s Raekwon Thomas (26-0) are semifinalists at 162.
Austin Franklin of Brusly (28-0 at 147) will take on Grant Hughes of St. Paul’s in the semis.
Franklin, who missed part of the season with an injury, returned to action last week in the Brusly tournament.
“I’m probably about 80 percent now,” Franklin said, “and I’m not energized like I should be, but this was a pretty good match, and I’ll come back tomorrow and see how I do.”
Semifinals begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday sandwiched between four consolation rounds. Finals are at 4 p.m. with awards to follow.