For only the second time in the past nine seasons, the Teurlings Catholic Rebels aren’t the Division II state wrestling champions.
Sure, there’s a level of disappointment that goes along with that reality for coach Kent Masson.
On the other hand, finishing in the top two in the state for nine straight years and in the top three for the past 13 seasons is pretty special in its own right.
“Parkway did what we usually do,” Masson said of his Rebels finished with 242 team points compared to Parkway with 288. “They got kids to win matches that they weren’t supposed to win and we lost some matches that we were supposed to win. Give them credit. They were prepared. They outwrestled us. They were much better than we were.
“The way I look it, we know everybody is gearing up to beat you. We’ve always known that. There’s a target on our back. We go into every tournament with that knowledge. Division II is very competitive and we want it to remain that way. The coaches really want the sport to grow.”
That team finish, however, did nothing to diminish the individual accomplishments of Masson’s two individual state champions — junior David Bernard at 195 pounds and senior heavyweight Miles Santiago with his second consecutive state crown.
He can’t help but wonder what would it would be like if his Carencro Golden Bears’ wrestling squad was just a little bit bigger.
“David was just so consistent this year,” Masson said. “He beat everybody he wrestled this year. It was a little nerve-wracking for him to face somebody in the final that he hadn’t wrestled all year, because you don’t really know what to expect. But David didn’t miss a beat.”
Bernard finished the season 52-2, but later avenged those two losses. In Bernard’s case, redemption went back into last season as well.
Belle Chasse’s Sherod Manuel defeated Bernard 11-8 in the third-place match last season and Bernard flipped the script on Manuel in 2019 with a 10-4 decision in the final.
“That was a big motivating drive going into state,” Bernard said.
The state title certainly capped a tremendous junior season for Bernard, who transferred to Teurlings from E.D. White in Thibodaux, which didn’t even offer wrestling.
Bernard can’t help but laugh these days at how his wrestling career even began.
It was during a junior varsity game at Carencro shortly after arriving at Teurlings. He was listening in on a fun conversation between Masson and future wrestling teammate Charles Travasos on which one would win if they actually wrestled.
“I said, ‘There’s a sand pit over there. Go settle it right now,’ ” Bernard chimed in.
Masson’s first reaction was to rebuke Bernard for eavesdropping on their conversation.
Then his second reaction was to encourage Bernard to come out for wrestling.
Initially he was reluctant to dive into this strange new sports. These days, Bernard and his teammates joke about how far he’s come in two years.
“At the time, I didn’t really know anything about wrestling,” Bernard said. “(Masson) said he would teach me how to wrestle.”
Did he ever, but Masson will tell you he only played a part in Bernard’s successful climb.
As it turned out, the culture of the Rebels’ squad was a perfect fit with Bernard’s work ethic.
“My dad always taught him to go the extra mile,” Bernard said. “Don’t wait for the coach to push you. Do the right things before you’re told.”
For instance, Bernard noticed over the years how “you always have someone who is messing around and not fully committed.”
Bernard quickly discovered that’s not the case in Teurlings wrestling.
“To be on a team where everyone on the team was totally dedicated to the team, just like I am has just been a great experience,” Bernard said.
“Technically, I got better on feet and on top. But the thing that really made the difference this year was my love for the sport and just getting focused on working hard and doing everything I could to reach my full potential.
“Coach Masson told me I was going to be great and that gave me so much confidence and motivation to be totally dedicated to achieving everything I was able to achieve this year.”
Santiago had a similar story. Initially, he only joined the wrestling team because his older brother Travis won a state title at Teurlings.
But after his sophomore season, Santiago noticed he had beaten the guy who won state in his weight division that year four times that season.
A little more dedication, he thought, and who knows what might happen.
His notion was accurate. What transpired was back-to-back state titles, including a pin of Parkway’s Dezrel Eloph in 2:23 in the finals this past weekend.
“Once I started really giving my all and working hard, things started going my way,” Santiago said.
So much so that Santiago basically cruised to this year’s state championship.
“Ironically, my first match ended up being the toughest one,” Santiago said. “He was from Shaw and he had a lot of weight. Plus, it was the first match, so I guess I needed to get some nerves out as well. I had a few butterflies.
“It was a great way to cap off four years. I definitely got way more than I thought I would out of my four years.”