KENNER — Brusly sophomore Richard Hunter swears the first match is his scariest.
No matter if it’s a seasoned veteran or a true freshman stepping on the mat for the first time, the 152-pounder can’t seem to get his nerves under control for his first match of a tournament.
Couple that with the bright lights and massive size of the Pontchartrain Center and Hunter’s arrival at his first ever AllState/LHSAA State Wrestling tournament was harrowing.
“I was terrified,” Hunter said. “I almost threw up before I even came to the stadium. I kept it in.”
As the tournament went on, though, Hunter adjusted, culminating with an 11-5 decision against Kaplan’s Trae Case in his first ever appearance in the state finals.
Hunter was one of six individual champions as Brusly held off a formidable charge from De La Salle to capture its fourth straight Division III state championship and 14th title in school history at the AllState/LHSAA State Wrestling tournament Saturday night.
It was the end of a season Hunter termed “scary” as he adjusted to the rigors of being a full-time varsity wrestler. He was one of seven Panthers who wrestled the state tournament for the first time, making the title all the more special for coach Jimmy Bible.
“This is going to be one I will probably never forget,” Bible said. “We took 14 kids. The 15th one had a broken collarbone. I had 14 kids, we moved the lineup around and it worked. They wrestled and came through.”
Kendon Lee notched his second straight individual title, pinning Ouachita Christian’s Matthew Matherne in 3:22 to take the title at 132. Classmate Austin Franklin sprawled to fend off a late takedown attempt from North Vermillion’s No. 1 seed Gavin Becker to pull the upset and capture his second state title.
Koby Mancuso (160) and Blayze Olano (170) followed with victories and the night was capped off with 220-pounder Donald Johnson’s 16-4 major decision against Dunham’s Mason Rabel.
Pre-tournament favorite Brother Martin nabbed its fourth straight Division I title, distancing itself from cross-town rival Jesuit, while a young Catholic team settled for a fourth-place finish.
Eight Bears placed in the top six, though the lone finalist was senior 152-pounder and defending state champion Matthew Mire, who dropped his finals match against Holy Cross’ George Benoit.
North Carolina State football signee and heavyweight Aaron Wiltz took fourth place, as did junior 220-pounder K.J. Wilson, to headline the Bears’ second day placers.
“I thought the upper weights did a great job … especially K.J. going from heavyweight to 220,” Prochaska said. “I thought today was pretty good. I honestly believe as a team we wrestled the best we did all year. It’s something to build on.”
A year removed from a state runner-up finish in Division II, its highest finish in school history, Live Oak settled for a third-place finish behind three individual champions.
Colt Olinde earned his second title in three tries, this time at 113 pounds, when he beat Teurlings’ Josh Hebert by technical fall, scoring a reversal near the end of the second period to make it 16-1. Brody Bonura (195) won by decision and Nick Simeneaux (220) capped the Eagles’ night with a fall.
“It still feels great to win it as a senior, it’s my last year so it felt great,” Olinde said. “I wasn’t nervous at all. It was my third time being here, I had already lost once (so) I had nothing to lose.”
Dunham eighth-grader Grant Rabel captured a Division III title at 182 in his second appearance in the state tournament. He went 0-2 in the tournament last season, but credited his work with fellow state champion, heavyweight Kirk Wilson, to push him to the title.