It’s not to be taken literally, but the Brother Martin wrestling team has an unwritten philosophy when it begins every dual meet.
“Punch them in the mouth.”
So, coach Robert Dauterive’s Crusaders heeded the advice.
Their defending state runner-up Taylor Gambill pinned Thompson’s Austin Akins in 1:08. Three-time state champion Paul Klein followed suit, needing just 1:10 to dispatch Jhovanie Yanez, giving the Crusaders a 27-3 lead in the final of the Deep South Bayou Duals against the Alabama high school.
“Don’t let up,” Dauterive implored to his team seated behind him after Klein’s pin. “Knock them out.”
“They were teetering,” he said after the match. “And we knocked them out.”
The unbeaten, three-time Division I state champion Crusaders rode an overtime victory from defending state champion Steven Shields and the back-to-back pins from Gambil and Klein to dispatch the Alabama visitors 51-15 at the Baton Rouge River Center on Tuesday afternoon.
The win stretched the Crusaders’ unbeaten dual meet streak, which dates to a 2012 loss to MacArthur (Oklahoma) at the Deep South Bayou Duals.
“That’s still a bitter moment,” Dauterive said after the match. “Shouldn’t have lost that one. To be honest, I thought we would win this tournament. I was confident. But I didn’t expect to win by this much.”
Klein, an Arizona State signee and three-time state champion, remained unbeaten in the tournament, his only close call a 7-5 decision over Brusly’s Kendon Lee on Monday.
His exploits are compounded by a large brace consuming his left knee, a reminder that the senior has wrestled the entire season with a torn ACL he suffered this summer.
“I think my adrenaline is rushing so much of the time, I don’t even feel it,” Klein said. “Nah, just keep icing it. Thank God it’s keeping me going strong.”
Shields, who won a Division I state title last season at 106 pounds, is at 113 this season and held off a furious rally from Thompson’s Cody Mealer, who tied the match late to force a one-minute overtime period in the meet’s third match.
The Brother Martin sophomore needed just 13 seconds to shoot in on a leg and wiggle around for a takedown, giving the Crusaders momentum and a 15-0 lead.
“He still hasn’t begun to work,” Dauterive said. “A kid with immense talent. When Steven really cranks up the work ethic, he can be really tough to beat.”
It was a common theme for not just Shields, but all of Dauterive’s wrestlers, who changed their coach’s view.
“Coming into today I didn’t think they were very tough,” Dauterive said. “They proved to their coach that they’re pretty tough.”
Thompson, who won the Bayou Duals in 2011, defeated Holy Cross in a 38-30 semifinal to reach the final. The Tigers rallied to defeat Altus (Oklahoma) in the consolation final to claim third place.
“No competitive coach ever comes into a tournament saying ‘Man, I hope we get third place,’” Holy Cross coach T.J. Miller said. “We earned it. This is what we earned. We could have maybe turned a few things around in that semis match, but Brother Martin was by far the best school here.”
Rounding out the New Orleans flair in the final was Jesuit, which dropped a 50-16 decision to Catholic-Baton Rouge to claim sixth place in the 32-team field.
Blue Jays coach Spencer Harris said his team was banged up and unable to wrestle its full lineup against the Bears but lauded the tournament for the national presence it had and the measuring stick it provided for his group.
“I saw some really good things, some guys wrestling with intensity and guys wrestling to finish their matches,” Harris said.
“You’re seeing all the top teams that are always there at the end and it gives you as a coach, and your wrestlers, the ability to see where they measure up at the midpoint of a season.”