KENNER — Seldom does every detail fall into place at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Wrestling Tournament.
But pre-tournament favorites Brother Martin, Holy Cross and Brusly High did more than enough to claim the early edge in their respective divisions as the two-day meet opened Friday at the Pontchartrain Center.
Paul Klein, a year older and a few pounds heavier, helped lead Brother Martin’s charge in Division I. Klein, a defending state champion, moved from 103 pounds — his freshman weight class — to 120 pounds. He made quick work of opponents during Friday’s opening day of competition, pinning Zachary’s William Burns (3:53) and in the quarterfinals, earning a 11-1 decision over Matthew Ashford of East Ascension.
“You know what you’ve seen already, what types of mistakes you can make,” Klein said. “Each match, anything can happen because it’s just one match.”
Klein advanced to Saturday’s 10 a.m. semifinals where he will face Chris Meraux of St. Paul’s. Brother Martin has 12 wrestlers in the semifinals, setting up another showdown with Catholic-Baton Rouge and Jesuit. The list of qualifiers told a key story in all three divisions.
Catholic qualified seven wrestlers for the semifinals. Catholic’s qualifiers include three top seeds — 138-pounder James Calitor, Brandon Luckett (160) and Myles Nash (220).
“We took a hit in the quarters,” Catholic coach Tommy Prochaska said. “Hopefully we have a good day tomorrow and get some help.”
Last season, Catholic finished four points behind Brother Martin.
In one of the closest matches of the quarterfinals, Jesuit’s Jimmy Brown, ranked second at 170 pounds, mounted a comeback in the final seconds to earn a 10-9 decision over John Ehret’s Blaze d’Aquin. Watching nearby was Mitch Capella (113 pounds), his Jesuit teammate, who had already advanced to the semifinals with two pins.
Second was nice, but not good enough for Holy Cross’ George Benoit last year.
Nor was it for Holy Cross as a team.
This time, Benoit and the Tigers are determined to do something about it. And they’re off to a good start, with a sizable lead over defending champion Teurlings Catholic and 11 wrestlers in the semifinals in Division II.
“We call it the snowball effect,” said Benoit, a sophomore who won both of his matches in the 138-pound division by pin fall after getting a first-round bye. “You win your match, somebody else wins theirs and pretty soon we’re just rolling along. “Our goal is to dominate.”
Benoit also was a top seed last year as a freshman, but he fell in his title match.
Holy Cross’ other No. 1 seed, 120-pounder Alex Nicoscia, advanced to the semis without having to wrestle. Nicoscia, a two-time champion, had a first-round bye won by forfeit in the second. However, the Tigers did lose 113-pound top seed Dylan Solieau, when he failed to make weight.
“That was disappointing, but otherwise it was a good day for us,” said Holy Cross coach Eric DesOrmeaux, whose 2009 and 2011 teams also won state titles.
“We had some tough matches with kids having to come from behind. It shows what they’re all about.”
Among the Baton Rouge area teams, Live Oak did the best, sending five individuals to the semifinals, topped by 126-pound top seed Cody Hill.
“I think we pretty much held our own,” said the Eagles’ Seth Bosarge, the No. 2 seed at 138 pounds. “We’re going to make some noise tomorrow, too.”
Brusly wrestling credits its winning tradition on the concept of “family.”
For the Panthers; Trevor Schermer, it has double meaning.
Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Austin, a four-time state champion, the younger Schermer took the first steps towards a third title Friday with two decisive victories in the 132-pound division of the Division III State Tournament at the Pontchartrain Center.
“We’re a brotherhood,” said Trevor Schermer, a junior whose previous titles came at 112 and 120 pounds. “That means we love and respect each other. “But because we’re a brotherhood, none of us feel the pressure that we have to do it all. You just go out and do the best you can.”
Brusly advanced 10 to Saturday’s semifinals and has a commanding points lead over North Vermilion with Evangel in third place. A championship would be Brusly’s ninth in the past 10 years.
“The tradition has been there for a long time,” Panthers coach Jimmy Bible said. “We have a good feeder program and the kids grow up wanting to keep it going. And then we stress having your brothers’ back. You do your best so all of your brothers can benefit.”
Brusly has only one other top seed, 120-pounder Wyatt LeJeune. But the Panthers depth showed up with their strong showing throughout the lineup.
Among the New Orleans-area schools, John Curtis advanced five to the semifinals. Including senior 220-pounder Mason Pembo. It the first time for Pembo in the semis since he was a freshman. He competed at 285 pounds in 2011 and at 195 last year.
“I was trying to help my team the last two years,” Pembo said. “But now I’m back at my natural weight and right where I am supposed to be.”
Pembo will meet top-seeded Brennan McKnight of Rayne in the semis.