The annual trip to northwest Louisiana brings plenty incentive for the Brusly wrestling squad to make its best showing of the year in the season’s apex event.
The state championship may seem like enough to bring out the best for the Panthers when they head to Bossier City for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Wrestling Championship Friday and Saturday at the CenturyLink Arena.
But this year, a few other incentives could go a long way for the Panthers. Brusly goes into the 2019 event hoping to be the first Panther squad to win the state championship in another city besides Kenner, where they’ve won all 14 state titles.
BHS won championships in 1995, 1996 in 2000 at the Pontchartrain Center. The Panthers ended that dry spell in 2004 and claimed the championship seven consecutive years, only ending when the meet made its first move to Bossier City.
The meet returned to Kenner in 2011 after one year in north Louisiana, and the Panthers resumed the streak until 2015. The return to Bossier City also marked the end to the state titles, something this year’s squad hopes to change.
“It would be nice for this team to go down as the first to win a championship outside of Kenner, head coach Jimmy Bible said. “We’re still a young team, but I think we have a fighting chance.”
Three grapplers earned top-seeding in brackets for this year’s event – Kaden Gillikin (126 lb.), Calep Balcuns (138) and Brian Amiss (220). Two wrestlers qualified as No. 2 seeds – Andrew Trahan (132) and Kaul Kayser (220) – and Mark Martinez landed a spot at a No 3 seed in the 126-lb weight class.
While the roster is sophomore-laden, the experience is far beyond what the Panthers brought to the event last year, in which they came up short of any qualifiers for the finals.
“I knew that day would come, and it happened last year,” Bible said. “But that’s all part of it, and these now know what it feels like to be in that competition.”
The Panthers finished fifth place in Division at the 2018 meet, behind state champion St. Louis, De La Salle, Ouachita Christian and Basile.
The top four teams last year will be every bit as tough in this year’s competition, Bible said, but he believes the experience on the 2019 Panther roster should improve the chances.
“This is a far better team than last year, and I think we’re going to have a much better shot at the championship,” he said. “If we put forth our best showing of the season this weekend, anything can happen.”