NEW ORLEANS — Brother Martin sophomore wrestler Paul Klein snuck in a win over defending Division I 122-pound state champion Jacob Dale of Comeaux-Lafayette earlier this season. Klein knows it won’t be easy to duplicate the feat, especially when the two could square off for a rematch this weekend at the prestigious Louisiana Classic scheduled for Baton Rouge’s ExerFit.
“He’s tough, and it’ll be tougher this time,” Klein said. “I’ll have to wrestle my best match of the season.”
Klein, who won the Division I 106-pound state title last year as a freshman, moved to 120 pounds this season, placing him square in Dale’s path toa second straight Division I title.
Late last month at the Deep South Bayou Duals held in Baton Rouge’s River Center, Klein upset Dale winning a tense, 4-3 decision.
This weekend’s Louisiana Classic, which will attract more than 50 mostly in-state schools, could result in a Klein vs. Dale showdown in the 122-pound title match. Klein is seeded first at that weight, with Dale second.
Klein said he’ll have to overcome Dale’s superior conditioning by keeping his hips low and sticking to his wrestling style. But Klein guarantees Dale will be out for blood.
However, Brother Martin coach Robert Dauterive said Klein makes up for any weaknesses he has with his intellect.
“He’s a student of wrestling,” Dauterive said. “He doesn’t have to be told what the situation is. You don’t have to break stuff down for him. When we look at tape of matches, he sees his weaknesses, and he sees the good things he did.”
In addition, Dauterive said, Klein is fleet and rarely gets caught behind the action. What’s more, Dauterive said Klein hasn’t even matured physically.
“He hasn’t even grown into his body yet,” Dauterive said. “He’s a great technical wrestler, but he hasn’t quite hit the point where he’ll have his full strength. I look forward to that.”
Klein’s gradual physical development is reflected in his move to a higher weight class. However, Klein said he also tried to put on weight this year to become more physical.
But what’s perhaps benefitted the sophomore most this year is the tutelage of Brother Martin alum and former three-time state champ Nick Shields, who spent the summer helping the coaching staff while he was home from college.
“He helped me a lot,” Klein said of Shields. “He had a big role in helping me become more successful this year.”
And for a kid who jumped up two weight classes, Klein has been pretty successful, going 31-5.
The Brother Martin sophomore said in general, he’s pleased with how this season has gone, and that he expects to compete for a state title in 2013, but even he and his coach were a little shocked by his decision over Dale last month.
“Jacob Dale has to be the favorite (this weekend and at the state tournament),” Dauterive said. “He’s a senior, he’s the defending state champion. We probably caught him off guard the first time, so we’ll expect nothing but his best (in the future).”
As he prepares for the Louisiana Classic this weekend and beyond, Klein diagnoses his biggest weakness simply.
“I need to improve on my strength,” he said. “Jacob Dale is a lot stronger than me. I’ll just have to keep fighting and work on my conditioning.”
Dauterive said Klein also needs to branch out and try new styles of wrestling to give himself a better arsenal to attack Dale, who is 27-3 this year, and other foes.
But even though Klein still has some improving to do, and even though he’s just a sophomore, Klein has already been a huge benefit to his teammates.
“He’s fantastic,” said Dauterive, whose squad will have five top seeds in Baton Rouge today and Saturday. “He’s only a sophomore, and his teammates already turn to him to ask him about their opponents.
“He’s helping everyone this year because he makes the guys around him better.”