Let the competition — and perhaps a little gamesmanship — begin with the 43rd annual Louisiana Classic.
One of the state’s most prestigious wrestling tournaments starts at 3 p.m. Friday with 43 teams at Baton Rouge Community College’s Bonne Sante Wellness Center.
“You’ll have all the top teams here, and it’ll be the first time some of them have faced each other this season,” Catholic High coach Tommy Prochaska said. “It will be the first time most teams have been at or close to full strength when they see each other.
“Every weight class is going to be competitive. There are a few, like 120, that have several guys who are very close competitively speaking. I think 220 is going to be good, with a bunch of those big guys rolling around battling for a title.”
The two-day tournament concludes Saturday at BRCC with semifinals set for 10:30 a.m. and finals at 4 p.m. In addition to being a showcase for the state’s top teams and individuals, the tourney also serves as a gauge for teams looking toward the LHSAA State Wrestling tournament set for Bossier City on Feb. 12-13.
“The tournament is Brother Martin’s to win or lose,” Prochaska said. “That’s pretty much the way the Division I tournament will be next month. They have so much talent and depth.”
Prochaska rates Brother Martin, Holy Cross, St. Paul’s, Jesuit and St. Amant as top teams to watch.
Even though the tourney features most of the state’s top wrestling schools, Prochaska said only four to five teams will have a full 15-wrestler lineup.
“The teams who have a full lineup have an advantage,” Prochaska said. “You’ve got most of the top guys, but there are teams like us who have guys nicked up and those guys can’t compete this week.
“We’ll have 12 in the lineup. There are some schools who hold guys out because the competition is so strong. They figure it would be a negative more than a positive to have some guys compete.”
Some wrestlers have also made late season moves from one weight class to the other complicated the seeding process, Prochaska said.
Two competitors — Rummel’s Josh Ramirez (38-0 at 182) and Lafayette’s Rodrigo Diaz (30-0 at 200) — enter the tournament unbeaten.
Prochaska said Rummel’s Blake Mateu (24-1) at 106 is among the competitors to watch. Another competitive weight class is 152, where St. Amant’s Clint Brownell (34-1) is the top seed. Brownell is the only local wrestler to garner a top seed.