High school wrestling: State tournament starts Friday at CenturyLink Center

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Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Wrestling State Tournament 

At the CenturyLink Center

Session I — Friday, 9 a.m.

Session II — Saturday, 10 a.m.

Session III — Saturday, 5 p.m.

Admission — $15 per person for Session I, and $20 on Saturday for admission into both sessions; the center will not be cleared between the sessions.

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After winning back-to-back Division II state wrestling titles, the Parkway Panthers have moved up to Division I.

But Parkway coach Emmett Beggs said that doesn’t change the expectations for his team at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Wrestling State Tournament to be held Friday and Saturday at the CenturyLink Center.

“We did lose one of our starters late in the year so it’s going to provide more of a challenge,” he said. “We put a freshman in there and we’ll see what he can do. But we expect to compete like we did in Division II. And hopefully come out with some state champs.”

Parkway isn’t the favorite in Division I, but that doesn’t mean the Panthers can’t do some damage.

Nine Parkway wrestlers are seeded among the top 10 in their respective weight classes.

That includes No. 1 Joshua Keeler in the 126-pound class and No. 2 Kaleb Garcia in the 182-pound class.

Division I has been dominated by New Orleans-area powers Brother Martin, Holy Cross, Jesuit and St. Paul’s.

Brother Martin has won the championship seven of the past eight years and is favored to do so again. Holy Cross finished second last year. Jesuit was third and St. Paul’s fifth.

Catholic of Baton Rouge was fourth. The top public school was sixth-place St. Amant.

Parkway’s strength is depth and that should give the Panthers a good chance for a high finish.

Keeler (36-5) was the runner-up in the Division II 106-pound division last year.

“Ever since we went to Tennessee (for a tournament) he’s been a different wrestler,” Beggs said. “He’s been very difficult to beat. His mentality has been overall outstanding. He’s focused. He’s ready to go.”

Garcia (49-8) was the runner-up in the 160-pound class last year. Dezrel Eloph (35-11) was the runner-up in the 285-pound class. Eloph is the No. 8 seed in the tough Division I 285-pound class.

The only other top seed from a Bossier Parish school is Airline freshman Ernie Perry III (27-1) in the Division I 106-pound class.

Airline coach Chase Cox has high praise for Perry.

“Definitely the best wrestler I’ve ever been around,” he said. “That’s really saying a lot because we’ve had some really outstanding wrestlers come out of Airline. 

“No knock on them, but Ernie’s on a different level. His technique is on a different level. And his work ethic. He is nonstop trying to get better.”

Perry said he’s just excited and ready to compete.

“I’m feeling pretty excited, really grateful to be here and having this opportunity,” he said. 

Haughton has five wrestlers seeded among the top six in their respective weight classes in Division II, including No. 2 Louis Lindsey (120) and No. 3 Justin Nixon (195).

Joshua O’Nishea said the program has come a long way since his first year as head coach.

“We’re still in the process of trying to build a team,” he said. “I took over about three years ago and we entered six kids in the state tournament. This year we’re entering all but one (weight class). We’ve got 13 kids. Of those 13 six of them come in seeded. We’re hoping to have a pretty good showing on Saturday as long as the kids take care of business on Friday as well.”

This is the fifth straight year the state tournament has been held at the CenturyLink Center with Airline as the host team.

“Just awesome to sleep in your own bed and have the kids at home and mom and dad’s cooking for them,” Cox said. “It makes a big difference. On the budget side, it saves us a lot of money, traveling to New Orleans, spending over $2,000.

“Not to mention the venue. The venue is the best venue in the state.”

North DeSoto will one of the favorites in Division II. The Griffins finished third last season behind Parkway and Teurlings Catholic.

Basile is the defending Division III champion.

— Featured photo by Robert Summerlin