During its three-year streak of Division III wrestling state championships, Brusly High School’s made a habit of putting the team race out of reach after the first day of the two-day AllState/LHSAA State Wrestling tournament.
Nothing would please Panthers coach Jimmy Bible more than to do it again.
“I’m a big dude and I’m getting kind of old now and heart attacks are kind of prevalent,” Bible joked. “I like to be stress-free going into that second day.”
Bible’s Panthers are the favorite to extend their streak to four in a row, boasting five No. 1 seeds, including defending champions Kendon Lee at 126 pounds and Koby Mancuso at 160.
The meet, which begins at 9 a.m. Friday at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center, is the first all year where Brusly will bring a full allotment of 14 wrestlers, 11 of which are seeded. Joining Lee and Mancuso as top seeds are Richard Hunter (152), Blayze Olano (170) and Donald Johnson (220).
Stopped only by a Holy Cross title in 2011, the Panthers have taken 10 of the past 11 Division III titles since 2004 — a feat often spoken about in the wrestling room.
“The seniors every year don’t want to be the ones to end it,” Bible said. “They want to make sure they do what they’re supposed to do every year to keep the streak alive. It’s on everyone’s mind.”
Bible said it’s imperative on the seniors and Lee, an experienced sophomore, to impart wisdom to seven state-tourney newcomers. Bible lists Basile as the top challenger. The Bearcats were 30 points behind BHS at the Brusly Invitational. The Panthers were missing three weight classes at that tourney.
Seeds are spread throughout the Division II brackets, with defending champion Teurlings Catholic leading the way with 10 seeded wrestlers. Live Oak and Shaw boast nine apiece.
Leading LOHS are defending state champion and 113 top seed Colt Olinde, defending state runner-up and top seed Brody Bonura at 195 and Louisiana Classic champion Nick Simeneaux at 220.
Many around the sport speculate the Division I title may also be out of reach after the first day. Brother Martin has dominated competition this season. Catholic coach Tommy Prochaska said Holy Cross has shuffled its lineup, though he termed the three-time defending champion BMHS as the heavy favorite.
Prochaska’s Bears enter the tournament with nine seeded wrestlers, most falling within the 5-6-7 range except for senior 152-pounder Matthew Mire, the No. 2 seed behind Holy Cross’ George Benoit. Mire and Benoit met in the Louisiana Classic finals where Benoit squeaked out a 10-8 victory.
“I told the guys that’s a good spot for us,” Prochaska said. “Nobody’s expecting anything and you can go out and wrestle carefree. It’s where you’re supposed to start, not where you’re supposed to finish.”