How significant is the Louisiana Classic wrestling tournament?
The fact that three defending state champions will be featured in one weight class speaks volumes for the two-day tourney that begins at 3 p.m. Friday at Baton Rouge Community College. The 44-team tourney includes competitors from across Louisiana and runs through Saturday with semifinals set for 10:30 a.m. and finals at 4 p.m.
“The 132s is just a fantastic weight class,” Catholic High coach and tournament director Tommy Prochaska said. “Paul Klein is very good. Kendon Lee won a Louisiana Classic title last year as a freshman. It should be competitive.”
Brother Martin’s Klein, considered by many to be Louisiana’s top wrestler, is a three-time defending Division I state champion, is 28-0 and is the top seed in the 132-pound class.
Rio Zamora (15-1) of Oklahoma’s Madill High is the second seed. Zamora was a state runner-up in 2014. Meanwhile, Teurlings Catholic’s Brock Bonin (15-2), the Division II champ in 2014 at 120 pounds, is the third seed. Brusly sophomore Kendon Lee (26-3), the Division III champion a year ago at 113 pounds, is the fourth seed.
The list of top contenders for the team title remains much the same and is led by defending Division I state champion Brother Martin. Holy Cross and Louisiana’s other defending state champions, Division II Teurlings Catholic and Brusly, along with Oklahoma’s Madill also are expected to make their mark as the tourney moves to the spacious BRCC facility that features six mats and 1,500-fan seating at the Bonne Sante Wellness Center.
“This is our first time at BRCC, and we feel like this a great facility for this,” Prochaska said. “Brother Martin is so talented,” Prochaska said. “They just keep plugging kids in and keep winning.”
Catholic’s Matthew Mire (36-3), the defending state and Louisiana Classic champion, is the third seed in 154s. George Benoit of Holy Cross and Dutchtown’s Brandon Cowell (30-2) are the top two seeds.
Brother Martin’s Yehia Riles (27-1), Live Oak’s Brody Bonura (43-1) and St. Amant’s Jordan Averett (30-5) are the top three seeds in the 184s.
Brother Martin’s Steven Shields (32-1), Rummel’s Robert Fairchild (31-5), Live Oak’s Colt Olinde (39-7) and Brusly’s Austin Franklin (26-6) are the top four seeds in the 115s. Brother Martin’s Mason Williams (22-4) and Zachary’s Sam Johnson (28-1) are the top two seeds in the 147s.
Several athletes dropped in weight class for this meet. Included in that group is Brusly’s Franklin, Mandeville’s Nicholas desBordes (7-1, third seed in 122s) and John Ehret’s Jack Fontenot (fourth seed in 154s).
Those lineup changes made seeding the individual wrestlers more challenging. Each wrestler and team seeks improvement leading up to the LHSAA State tournament set for Feb. 20-21 at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center.
“This is the first time we’ll have a full lineup, so we want to see how we stack up,” Prochaska said. “Some of the best competitors in the state will be here. We want to rise to the level of the competition.”
Prochaska said he hopes the larger venue attracts more fans, noting that wrestling is an exciting spectator sport.
“I think the first-time spectators will be amazed at the athleticism and work ethic of the kids,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter your size, you can still be out there and compete. It’s truly a great sport.”