Yehia Riles was into football, not wrestling.
So he wasn’t so sure what to think when Brother Martin coach Robert Dauterive suggested he try wrestling as an eighth-grader.
“I had never heard of the sport at all,” Riles recalled.
Fast forward to now and Riles, a senior at Brother Martin, is glad he gave it a shot.
“I miss football some because I love the game,” Riles said. “But I love wrestling. I took a gamble and wrestling won my heart. It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
The numbers would agree.
Riles will bring a 43-1 record to the Pontchartrain Center on Friday when the LHSAA state wrestling championships begin. He will be looking for his second straight Division I title in the 182-pound weight class as perennial juggernaut and prohibitive favorite Brother Martin goes for its fourth consecutive title.
Riles’ only loss came against one of the nation’s top wrestlers in the class from a powerhouse in Pennsylvania.
Riles is one of three Brother Martin wrestlers who enter as a top seed looking to repeat as champions. He will be joined by Steven Shields, the No. 1 seed in the 113-pound weight class, and Paul Klein, the No. 1 seed in the 132-pound weight class.
Klein, considered the state’s top wrestler, is going for his fourth consecutive title. He also won the 132-pound class last season after winning the 106 as a freshman and 120 as a sophomore.
The Arizona State signee is 40-0 this season and could become the first wrestler in LHSAA history to win four individual championships.
“Yehia would be the most dominant and most talked about wrestler in the state if it wasn’t for his teammate Paul,” Dauterive said. “I can’t tell you enough what a pleasure this kid is.”
Riles doesn’t mind being in Klein’s shadow.
“We’re one big old team,” he says. “Everyone sees Paul as the face of our team. But we see each other as a family. We are all brothers.”
Those brothers have put together one of the best seasons in school history.
The Crusaders are 24-0 this year in dual meets and have won 12 varsity tournaments.
“The regular season is done,” Dauterive said. “They have proven to be one of Brother Martin’s most dominant teams. But that means nothing now.”
Brother Martin is going for its 16th state championship and seventh under Dauterive.
“Based on where my guys are seeded, we feel we have a good chance to put a bunch of kids in the finals,” Dauterive said. “There is always pressure. We know everybody is gunning for us. Our goal is always the state championship. I think they will all be ready.”
Expect Riles to be one of them, especially after winning it all as a No. 2 seed last season.
“It would feel pretty amazing,” he said. “Our senior class has been here since coach Dauterive has come back. We have a really special bond and we worked hard to be where we are right now. “
Riles and Klein won’t be the only local wrestlers favored to win individual titles.
The Division I bracket has a strong New Orleans flavor, with the No. 1 seed in all 14 weight classes being wrestlers from the local area.
Five of the top seeds are from Brother Martin. The Crusaders No. 1 seeds are: Shields (113), Taylor Gambil (126), Klein (132), Mason Williams (145) and Riles.
Holy Cross and Jesuit have three top seeded wrestlers.
Jake Rando (138), George Benoit (152) and Brice Duhe (170) are No. 1 seeds for Holy Cross, while Brody Martin (106), Ben D’Antonio (120) and Dominic Carmello are from Jesuit.
Rummel’s Josh Ramirez (160), Hahnville’s Kendrick Jones (195) and Fontainblea’s Ethan Eisenhardt are also top seeds.
In Division II, Shaw has the area’s two No. 1 seeds in Mason Mauro (126) and Cameron Bertot (182).
In Division III, De La Salle has two top seeds in Glenn Gebo (132) and Joe Clark (182). Fisher also has a No. 1 seed in Matt Adams (195).